We are equals

Infographic by Maya Murthy

Infographic by Maya Murthy

Maya Murthy

Sometime over this summer, the word feminist at our school became a slur. In between the Facebook posts, the angry comments, the articles sent back and forth, a woman looking for equal pay and some representation in her governing body became something ridiculous, ludicrous, obscene.

So, I’m just going to come out and say it right now.

I am a feminist.

Cue angry comments. Cue lights, cameras and the self-righteous fury of people who have never been handed a can of pepper spray, or taught in 9th grade defense how to piss on a rapist in order to create the amount of shock needed to try and escape.

Feminism (noun): the advocacy of women’s rights on the grounds of political, social, and economic equality to men.

That’s it. Nothing more, and more importantly nothing less than equality. And yet, say the word, identify yourself as a feminist and risk the shock and outrage of 42 percent, of men who see feminism as something negative. 42 percent of men who see you as a man-hater. Say the word, and watch as a group of rational boys erupt in a cacophony of “male rights” and incidents where a man is taken advantage of by a system they say is geared against them.

In short, when they are treated, for once, like a woman.

Feminism is not about bringing men down, but rather boosting women to the point where men who have been raped won’t feel ashamed, won’t feel “girly” when they try and report their sexual assault. According to the Florida Council Against Sexual Violence, one in 10 of reported rape victims are men, but talk to a guy and the only victim he’ll admit to possibly being is of a girl who “regrets” having sex with him and accuses him of rape.

Infographic by Maya Murthy
Infographic by Maya Murthy

The mistake many people make is assuming that the entirety of human rights was parceled out at the beginning of creation, and that for me to gain equal pay or more jobs in STEM fields is for you to lose them.

I am a feminist.

Today, right at this moment, there’s a girl at Columbia University carrying a dorm mattress everywhere she goes. It’s standard issue — blue and cheaply made, one that probably doesn’t keep the sheets on very well. It’s also where she was raped by a fellow student, and its a tangible symbol for the crushing burden carried by girls three, four years older than me who are violated and then treated like yesterday’s trash by the system that was supposed to be on their side. I was at Columbia a few months ago and I walked past a couple of the landmarks in the background of the pictures being circulated. I have a friend who applied there, another friend who would give anything to go there. I have a friend who goes there now.

And each of us four girls could have been her. Each one of us is her. Because living in a country where according to the One in Four organization 25 percent of college aged women are survivors, the odds of all of us making it to 30 without a story of sexual assault is lower than my chance at acceptance at any of these schools where we are so liable to violated.

I am a feminist because I have the radical view that when I leave high school, I should be able to go to a party and not have to bring my own lemonade because any drink that’s handed to me could be drugged with something used to coerce consent. I shouldn’t have to break the fingers of a man who touches me without permission in order to prove to the courts that I wasn’t simply playing coy.
I am a feminist because I have been taught each of those things by adults over the course of my life.

For some reason I think that I am myself before I am a woman, and that maybe I should be treated accordingly with the respect I deserve.

It’s a funny thing when you realize the cards are stacked against you. When you look at the news and see stories where people of color are gunned down in the streets, and girls raped in between their sheets. It’s like a light switches on, and the stories that run across the bottom of the television screen become more than simple words, more than the lives of someone else, anyone else but you.

I am someone’s elder sister, someone’s daughter. I am someone’s friend, an acquaintance, a lab partner to call at two in the morning to confirm that the solution was indeed yellow-orange rather than orange-red.

I am someone, and that is why I am a feminist.