The feminist movement is alive and breathing, full of voices from both men and women from all around the world. From tackling issues such as public school dress codes, unequal wages and the kidnapping of the 238 Nigerian schoolgirls, activists for women's rights have been working tirelessly to improve conditions for women. However, with such bold action, many people have misconstrued the true definition of a feminist.
Sexism as defined by Webster's Dictionary is "the unfair treatment of people because of their sex." On the contrary, feminism is defined by "the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities." Unlike sexists, feminists are not trying to mistreat men, but rather receive equal compensation, opportunities and treatment.
Originally, I wasn't too keen on being labeled a "feminist." Immediately, my mind flashed to single, bitter and angry women burning bras and holding picket signs in protest of an issue. However, as I grew older, I realized that feminism is a valid and alive movement. Feminism is a movement that does not intend to degrade, but to empower. The mission of feminism is not to mistreat others, but to bring hope to the misrepresented and enact meaningful change.
I'm a feminist because of the millions of girls sold into child marriages. In Ghana alone, over 34,000 girls under 15 will be married. Scared and untrusting, these girls give up their innocence and childhood against their will. I fight for their ability to be a little girl, to grow up playing with Barbie dolls and to be unafraid to laugh with their beautiful, contagious laughs.
I'm a feminist because of the 122 million illiterate teens, in which females compose 60 percent. Their heart will never have the opportunity to be filled by F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby or Victor Hugo's Les Miserables. I fight for their ability to read, learn and grow, to banish ignorance and indifference from their hearts.
I'm a feminist because according to research from Safe Horizon, 1 in every 4 women will experience domestic violence. I fight because neither women or men should have to experience something as scarring and heartbreaking as abuse, especially from someone that they love.
I'm a feminist because 5 percent of women on college campuses experience rape or attempted rape every year. I fight for a positive and safe learning environment, in which human dignity reigns unchallenged.
Yet, I am also a feminist because of the incorrect media portrayal of men. Men are often depicted as unintelligent, abusive and only interested in sex. They're given unrealistic expectations, and portrayed as weak when they fail to comply with these societal standards. I fight for a better reputation for men, for people to know the truth in the midst of the media's propaganda. I fight for the men who experience tragedy, who feel inferior daily.
It's not about which gender is better than the other. The feminist movement is in place to provide equal opportunities for people. It's about taking gender out of the equation, and putting a greater value on what each individual has to bring to the world. Whether it is a young girl denied the right to school or a male tired of hearing the stereotypical phrase "man up," injustice is being done and it is essential to stand up against it. Instead of opposing each other, more change would occur if we'd use our energies to change something about the injustice both sides feel. Let's stop quibbling about what gender is "better" than the other, and let's join hands to provide education, dignity and a better standard of living for all.
Shailene Woodley said it best when she stated, "I think we should all learn to appreciate other humans, without comparing ourselves to them."