Column by J1 reporter Shannon Monahan
My mom is a very open person about talking about her beliefs with me. She would always try to educate me and my siblings on various topics like abortion, racism, sexism, politics and more. She repeatedly told us that if we are truly interested in the topic, to do a lot of research on it and get the facts, then determine your own opinion. My mom would never force her beliefs on me, but it just so happens that we have the same view on nearly everything. Even when I was young, I was taught to form my own opinions, and if I believe in something, I should always stand up for those beliefs.
I attended a Catholic grade school from preschool all the way to eighth grade. There were about 60 people in my grade and only about 25 out of the 60 were girls. I was with the same kids all of my life and everyone knew everyone. One day in seventh grade our class was talking about women’s rights and women getting the right to vote.
The class discussion carried on to the hallway after school. We were all waiting for our rides to pick us up while we talked. It was about 10 girls and 15 boys joining in on the discussion. It started off very innocently saying things like “I wonder what would happen if women never got the right to vote.”
My classmates’ comments consisted of “that would be horrible” and “I can’t imagine.” I finally joined in the conversation and said, “I agree, hopefully we gain more rights in the future since we are still fighting for equality.”
Everyone went silent. I saw confused looks on everybody’s faces, so I added, “Well, as a feminist, we are still not treated equally all around the world.” I looked up and everyone looked like they just saw a ghost. After a long awkward silence, a boy said, “don’t say that word.”
I was shocked and startled. Why did people think that “feminism” was as bad as a cuss word? I tried to explain myself by saying that if people want women to be equal with men then that makes them a feminist. This made it 10 times worse. I turned to a girl in my class and said, “If you went to a job and got the same position as a man but got paid less, how would that make you feel?” She answered by saying she would be very upset and demand equal pay. I was very happy with her answer and smiled while saying “then that makes you a feminist.” The girl looked at me with a very straight face and said, “never call me that disgusting word.”
That day I learned how much confusion is around the word “feminism.” I learned how much that word has been twisted around to be a word of hate. It disturbed me to know that some people do not want to be associated with the word, but I was not sure why. Feminism is empowering women to know that they have the same worth as men. After that day in school people, would say things like “oh, here comes the feminist” or “what are you going to do about it, feminist?”
They used the word “feminist” as in insult to me. I never thought of it this way. Even though it still made me upset, I would smile and take it as a compliment, as it should be. I never backed down from my beliefs or even once questioned myself, and I have my mom to thank for that. I am a feminist and never once was that word disgusting.