By Rachel Doose, Columnist

As a member Illinois Wesleyan’s Feminism: Equality Matters club, I have encountered many different reactions to the fact that there is an organized feminist group on campus. Some are freaked out by the word “feminist,” some are distantly supportive, and a few are even genuinely excited by the prospect. I think the first two are due to many of us lacking education on what feminism actually is.

Feminists are advocates of equality among all people. We believe that men and women of all races should be respected and recognized equally and be given the same opportunities in every aspect of life.

Feminista are not women who hate men and want to get even with society for the mistreatment of their gender. Most feminists don’t come close to fitting this stereotype. We are not a group of man-haters.
In fact, men can be feminists too. I’ll never forget the day in high school when we had a male substitute teacher who was wearing a t-shirt that proudly stated that he was a feminist.

Of course, we have to talk about the differences in the way men and women are treated in this world, but that’s because they’re facts of life that can’t continue to be ignored.  We talk about how non-equal pay and the discrepancies between the expectations of men and women, but we also talk about how to create a healthy environment on campus when it comes to sex and consent. We talk about how to become more confident and happy individuals. Half of a meeting can just involve talking about our lives and fostering a supportive, comfortable environment.

I think it’s important that we begin to talk about what feminism is in an open, honest campus-wide conversation. Why should a person have to inwardly cringe when they “admit” to being a feminist, fearing that they’ve completely changed a person’s perception of them?

Feminism is a positive thing. Do you believe that your mother and father, if they had the same job, should both be paid equally? Guess what? That’s what feminists believe. Do you think men and women should be held equally responsible when making the same mistakes? So do we. Do you think both men and women should be able to talk openly and honestly about sex? It may be a shocker, but feminists happen to share your opinion.

The bottom line is, it’s likely that you share the feminist view, or at least parts of it, but never realized it because feminism was never presented to you as a legitimate option.

If you’re curious about these questions at all, be open to learning more about feminism. Stop by a F:EM meeting or talk to one of our members. Pick up a book. At least take a few minutes to evaluate what you think about your gender and how it affects your life. Even if you find that you’re still uncomfortable with labeling yourself as a feminist, at least support your fellow students who do choose to make feminism a part of their lives.