Feminism is misunderstood, not a dirty word

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Tomiwa Akintode

Opinion Contributor

Growing up in an African country like Nigeria, being called a feminist is one of the dirtiest words someone could throw at a woman. It is a country where feminists are seen as angry, bitter women. 

Growing up with these kinds of ideologies affected me — I began to see feminists in this same manner, just as others around me did. 

To me, they were just women who wanted attention because they didn’t get it from their loved ones, and it ended up affecting me as I began to grow into an adult. As I grew up, I became more outspoken about the injustices against women I witnessed around me. 

In a literal sense, what I was doing was what feminism was about, but I didn’t want to be called a feminist. I was not unhappy, and I didn’t lack love. I was also not a bitter and angry woman, so “feminism,” at least what I thought it was all about, did not apply to me. 

I was not a feminist and didn’t want to be one. It was a dirty word I didn’t want to identify myself with. 

Even though I was busy protesting against the conditions women around me were treated in, I still didn’t take it as seriously as I should have. It was not until my freshman year when I came to college when I realized that being called a feminist was nothing to be ashamed of. 

My new college environment gave me an opportunity to be among people who were willing to listen. I found that there were actually other women like me who experienced the same things I did because of their gender, but these women couldn’t also speak out because of the negative stereotypes surrounding the feminist movement.  

According to a survey done by the Washington Post in 2016, 30% of women do not identify as feminists and “over four in 10 [women] see the [feminist] movement as angry, and a similar portion say it unfairly blames men for women’s challenges.” 

One of the problems why these kinds of stereotypes remain common is because people have felt the need to dictate how feminism should be practiced. But the truth is, feminism can be anything you want it to be. 

There is no definite meaning of what a feminist should be. As long as the goal is equal opportunities and respect for women, then any kind of feminism is valid. And it is important for everyone, especially college students, to know this. 

Ignorant and negative stereotypes surrounding the movement cannot help women live in respected and safer environment, so there should be more widespread and positive ideas surrounding the feminist movement because when these negative stereotypes are still put in place by a lack of knowledge and prominent assumptions, true change can never happen and the true feminist movement remains invalidated.  

Like one of my favorite feminist icons, Chimamanda Adichie, said “the whole goal of feminism is to become redundant. 

“My dream is for a world where I won’t have to call myself a feminist because there will be gender justice. And to get there, it has to be a mass movement.” 

True change in the world starts with the younger generation, and most young people can be found in colleges. This is why it is important for college students to understand the importance of feminism if this change is to happen. 

If there is to be in an environment where women are given opportunities to be involved in decisions pertaining to them, where women can use their voice to share their opinions without being shut down, and respected for the person they are, not the gender they were born in, then everyone needs to be more in tune with the feminist movement.  

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