Why Aren't More Young Women Feminists?

By Guest Blogger Katie E.

I have a cousin who recently graduated from high school. I was talking to her the other day about her Advanced Placement history class, and she told me something surprising: Out of 15 girls in the class, she was the only one who self-identified as a feminist. She found this out after her teacher took a poll following a lesson on the feminist movement of the 1960s and ‘70s. My cousin found this disturbing. She said she has a number of good friends in the class, and if you judged these girls on word and deed, they certainly fit into the “feminist” mold. However, it’s just not a label they are comfortable applying to themselves.

I have to admit, I’m shocked and saddened by this.

Feminist Without the Label
Labels are such a big thing in our society. You’re labeled an addict when you go to addiction rehab centers and you’re labeled irresponsible if you get a traffic violation. But is it really so important to adopt a label for yourself if you live your life according to a credo but don’t necessarily call yourself by that name?
This is the question that I struggle with. I feel like feminist has become a dirty word, and that’s not fair. Some young hetero women worry that by identifying themselves that way they’ll intimidate boys. Some young lesbian women are already fighting against the man-hating stereotype and so they’re equally reluctant to compound their already-confusing-to-the-mainstream identities by adding feminist.

feminist image
A Way of Thinking
But I personally think it’s important to embrace the word “feminist.” After all, isn't feminism all about breaking down barriers, embracing multiple points of view, and saying damn the patriarchy when it comes to societal norms? Being a feminist isn't radical. It’s simply been portrayed that way by the mainstream media.
It is vital that young women continue to not only embrace the movement toward equal rights (no, people, we’re not there yet, sadly) but also embrace the language that will bring us there. There should never be shame or reluctance to being a feminist.

Trying Something New
I’d encourage young women to just try out the label for kicks. No one is saying you have to burn your bra (geez, no one’s done that in 40 years, why did that stereotype have to stick?). You just have to be comfortable in acknowledging that no, we don’t have equal rights yet, and yes, we want them.

So many young women these days are working toward careers and life paths that wouldn't have been possible 40 years ago without the first feminist movement. They’re not post-feminist, though. They are feminist — and a bit of recognition would be appreciated. 


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