The majority of today's youth is grossly uninformed and misinformed regarding the subject of feminism. Issues surrounding the gender gap are lost somewhere between college applications and countless hours of Netflix. Sadly, too many teenage girls are convinced that feminism is repulsive to prospective boyfriends, while too many teenage boys are convinced that feminists are launching personal attacks on every male alive. Not to say that I'm above this age of not-so-correct information. In fact, up until very recently, I was completely in the dark myself.
My sophomore year, I had no idea what feminism was. To be quite honest, in my mind, the word was vaguely associated with armpit hair and bra burning. As I did not want to be a bra-burning, man-hating, armpit-hair-growing feminist, I denied any association with the movement while simultaneously (and unknowingly) supporting everything feminism stands for.
This led to a stand off between my parents and I. Homecoming was around the corner, and I just didn't understand why my date was expected to pay for my dinner, ticket and bus ride to the dance. Despite my lack of understanding of the modern feminist movement, the fact that he was paying still just didn't seem right. It didn't make sense that he had to pay simply because he was of a different gender. I knew that this particular double standard was in my favor, but it felt somehow unequal.
So, I began to argue my case, telling my parents that I would be taking a stand -- paying for my own ticket, my own meal and my own bus ride. Both of them laughed, and informed me that somewhere along the way, I had become a feminist. Taking this extremely offensively (as I believed that feminists were man-hating hippies who had some unexplained vendetta against razors), I launched into a full-on rant, eventually ending in me writing an angry (and slightly embarrassing) letter to my parents.
This letter explained very matter-of-factly that I was not a feminist. I open the letter with the statement "I am not a feminist." In the body of the letter, I express my distaste for double standards, explain that women and men are equal and argue against women being treated as the lesser sex. I proceed to end the letter with the horribly misguided statement "I am not a feminist."
I've come a long way since then. Junior year, after reading up on true feminism, I finally embraced my status as a feminist and began openly and unabashedly speaking out against misogyny. I've found that many teenagers are fooled into thinking that the feminist movement means throwing away femininity or hating men. Many people openly support feminist ideals (like equal pay and the end of derogatory language towards women), but refuse to identify as feminists because they don't understand the word or its definition.
Feminism as defined by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (or as most of us likely know her -- the lady giving a monologue about women in Beyonce's "***Flawless") is the social, political and economic equality of the sexes. As far as I'm concerned, that doesn't include a clause requiring all self-respecting women to boycott bras, razors, men or even high heels.
This generation is the future. It's necessary that we educate ourselves. And, whether we talk to our peers, try to make changes in schools or even publish some moving tweets, it's necessary that we banish the stigma from the word 'feminist' for our future. The first step towards equality is understanding. And, if the next generation doesn't understand feminism, how will the movement make any progress?