Destigmatizing Feminism

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While most of our Spring Breaks were filled with a much-needed combination of sleeping, traveling and Netflix, I believe that our time away from campus led Andover to neglect Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day. Thousands of people worldwide observe the holiday on March 8. Although the international event is an important step in promoting feminism, the observance is only recognized in 27 countries, not including the United States. It is upsetting that the holiday and month were so neglected on a campus that still struggles to accept the one universal definition of feminism: the philosophy that women are equal to men.

Sexism manifests itself in various ways on campus. The misogyny on campus is easy to ignore if one chooses to, but micro-aggressions such as “you ‘insert verb’ like a girl” and other generalizations about women seem to be prevalently used in classroom settings and on athletic fields. The flippant use of such phrases inherently shames girls and is a serious social injustice that should never be tolerated at Andover or off-campus.

Telling girls to show “self-respect” by dressing modestly erroneously places the burden of soliciting unwanted sexual attention on girls. These often-ignored forms of sexism are the cracks in Andover’s foundation, which can make campus an uncomfortable place for girls. Sexism exhibited by students and faculty creates a culture in which girls’ opinions, freedoms and modes of expression are not respected in the same way that those of boys are.

One way we can work to combat this sexist mentality is to attempt to eliminate the stigma surrounding feminists and feminism on campus. Feminism is not an “anti-men” movement, nor is it a threat to men. Feminists are women and men who see one another as equal members of society, not the stereotypical “femi-nazis” that misogynistic propaganda have popularized. There should be no shame or contempt associated with the term “feminism.”

We can attempt to eradicate the use of micro-aggressions inside and outside of the classroom by providing educational seminars for faculty members and for new students at orientation to demonstrate that Andover does not tolerate misogynistic behavior. Let it be known from the very start of an Andover student’s career that gender equality is an ideology for which Andover stands and one that promotes a more healthy and comfortable community for all of its students. The understanding of Andover’s stance on gender equality could allow for a number of students to share the same important ideology to others around the world.

While Andover is a progressive school in the efforts it has already taken to combat sexism, much can still be done to improve the gender dynamics on our campus. The campus-wide stigma associated with feminism and feminists reduces a noble movement that is simply working toward gender equality. It is only once we understand and accept the true meaning of feminism and we learn to take the hurtful phrases we say in passing seriously that we can finally begin to take more concrete steps in challenging sexism.