The word “feminism” stirs up a war of emotion based on one’s understanding (or misunderstanding) of the word. Kathy Frankovic, a public opinion polling expert, conducted a large-scale survey to examine how men and women define “feminism.” Many of the participants in her poll called feminism “liberal,” “stupid,” “radical,” and “extreme.”
Few of the participants claimed to support feminism beliefs – before they heard a dictionary definition of the word. Frankovic said, “Most people don’t want to call themselves feminists – but many people change their minds when feminism is associated with equality.”
Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines feminism as “the belief that women and men should have equal rights and opportunities.”
In an Economist/YouGov.com poll, Frankovic asked participants, “Do you consider yourself a feminist or not?” Seventy-five percent of the poll participants said they were not feminists. She shared with the participants a definition of feminism as “someone who believes in the social, political, and economic equality of the sexes.” Given that definition, she repeated the question. Upon hearing a definition of feminism, 60% of the poll participants agree they were feminists, 40% said they were not.
“Today, gender bias continues to create huge barriers for many women,” contends the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). “Ongoing struggles include ensuring equal economic opportunities, educational equity, and an end to gender-based violence.” Though there has been remarkable progress in gender equality throughout the last 150 years, women continue to face discrimination, violence, and institutional obstacles that block educational, employment, and leadership opportunities.
“The story of women’s struggle for equality belongs to no single feminist nor to any one organization but to the collective efforts of all who care about human rights,” says political activist Gloria Steinem. She adds, “The art of acting morally is behaving as if everything we do matters.” Equality strengthens the relationships between all of us.
Contributions of women across professions – including engineering, mathematics, literature, science, and government – inspire men, women, and most importantly, our children. These words of inspiration from strong men and women offer universal encouragement and support full equality of our entire citizenry:
The earth is the mother of all people and all people should have equal rights upon it. – Chief Joseph
You must be the change you wish to see in the world. – Mahatma Gandhi
Gender equality is not a woman’s issue. It is a human issue. It affects all of us. – Elizabeth Nyamayaro
I’m a feminist. I’ve been a female for a long time now. It’d be stupid not to be on my own side. – Maya Angelou
It is time that we all see gender as a spectrum instead of two sets of opposing ideals. We should stop defining each other by what we are not and start defining ourselves by who we are. –Emma Watson
No country can ever truly flourish if it stifles the potential of its women and deprives itself of the contributions of half its citizens. – Michelle Obama
The education and empowerment of women throughout the world cannot fail to result in a more caring, tolerant, just and peaceful life for all. – Aung San Suu Kyi
No struggle can ever succeed without women participating side by side with men. – Muhammad Ali Jinnah
One of the most sincere forms of respect is actually listening to what another has to say. – Bryant H. McGill
Equality is the soul of liberty; there is, in fact, no liberty without it. – Francis Wright
We are not created equal. We are are not carbon copies of one another. Each one of us possesses a unique set of gifts and talents. We also have individual challenges and personal hardships.
Every new day provides us with opportunities to share our strengths and face challenges – together. When we support and encourage each other, we have opportunities to celebrate greater equality and mutual respect.
What can you do to think and act in ways that reflect a vision of equality?
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