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‘I am not a feminist’

| Monday, March 21, 2016

“I’m not a feminist,” she flippantly stated as she took a bite of her sandwich. My friend who was sitting to her right immediately concurred with a fervent nod of her head. Before making any rash statements that I would surely soon regret, I worked to confirm the statement I had just heard.

“Did you just say you are not a feminist?” I asked in complete disbelief. Her response was simple; she had meant exactly what she had said. She stated that she “just doesn’t care that much.” Realizing my disgust was less than effective in changing opinions or keeping this topic of conversation afloat, I made a joke and changed the subject. I could not, however, completely erase my friend’s statement from my mind. This was not because it was particularly shocking or obscure; it was because it is a claim that I have heard time and time again from men and women alike.

Stereotypes regarding the pushy, imposing demeanor of the women who so proudly deem themselves feminists have rendered bouts of disapproval and irritated eye rolls for generations; a hasty Google search of the phrase “Feminists are annoying” renders a shocking 421,000 results. To establish this perspective in more objective terms, Merriam Webster defines the term “to annoy” as “to disturb or irritate, especially by repeated acts.” And it is true— most influential feminists adhered to this definition, relentlessly demanding change until someone finally made their requests a reality. These feminists have been, by definition, annoying—and that was exactly the intention.

In the wake of so many events regarding women’s rights in the past few years, it is important, even crucial, that every woman—and man, for that matter—understand why feminism is so important. It is crucial that every educated person does begin to care, because feminism is not simply about girl power or uniting as females or denouncing the importance of men. It is about an acknowledgement and implementation of equal rights for all people.

Let’s begin with a topic familiar to the vast majority of those reading this article: Notre Dame. The University of Notre Dame allowed women to first join an undergraduate class in the fall of 1972. Thanks to the strong voice and conviction of Father Ted and so many others who knew that women had the same right to a Notre Dame education as men, even those who now attend the University and claim they are not feminists are benefiting from the work and determination of these people. Today, female graduates from Notre Dame go on to change the world for the better, contributing to science, medicine, law, business, politics, the arts and countless other fields.

In contrast to the thousands of females who graduate from the University of Notre Dame each year, Malala Yousafzai, a Pakistani girl who is now an internationally recognized human rights activist, was shot by the Taliban for defying her country’s law prohibiting girls’ education. While there are so many people in America chiding the loud and unrelenting women who demand that the voices of the feminist movement be heard, girls such as Malala are generations behind us, still fighting for the right to learn. To deny feminism and all its causes and petitions today is to deny the legitimacy of Malala and the girls of Pakistan, Afghanistan and a number of other countries who are still simply asking to be recognized for their ability to learn and contribute.

To sit in the classrooms of DeBartolo, Mendoza and Jordan every day and claim we are not feminists is to claim that we are not grateful for the privilege of education that so many girls are denied. Because of those who repeatedly, unabashedly demanded more, who insisted that their voices be heard, asserting that the minds of women were worth developing and cultivating, the world has begun to embrace a deeper sense of equality. So today, as a proud feminist, I thank Notre Dame, I thank Father Ted and I ask all women to consider the privileges granted due to the relentless actions of past feminists. I ask everyone to consider how advocating for the many causes feminism supports could allow other girls and women across the world to truly reap the benefits we as Notre Dame students so often take for granted.

The fight for feminism is far from finished. Malala cannot return to Pakistan due to her insistence upon the right to education. Today in America, equally qualified women still make less money than their male counterparts. There are countless grievances that keep feminists asking for more. To claim one is not a feminist is to claim that these problems are not worth fighting for. Every person, man or woman, should embrace the ideals that feminism represents, because they have no easy solutions; these issues require people with strong minds and voices, those who can continue to face being deemed frustrating nuisances, but who will, like the inspiring feminists of the past, see anything less than change as inadequate.


Ellie Welch


March 4

The views expressed in this Letter to the Editor are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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