By Jess O’Connor

Disclaimer: I am not pretending to be an authority on any subject. I am a sixteen-year-old girl. I am barely an authority on matters pertaining to that characteristic. Luckily for me, this is one of them.

Feminism is a bit of a misnomer. The word comes from the Middle English femin, which pertains to womanly qualities. This implies that feminism only applies to women, and it is often treated as such. According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, feminism is “the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes.” Merriam-Webster defines feminism as a theory, a theory that applies to everyone.

And theories must be tested.

The social aspect of feminism is how others treat you, and it is a basic human right to be able to safely educate others on how to treat us. Everyone, especially women, has at some point felt uncomfortable with how they were being treated, and been afraid to speak up.

Girls especially are easy targets. From a young age, society tells women that they are public property. We are told that there are certain ways we should behave in order to get people to like us. Because that’s what every girl should want, right? To be liked by everyone?

The world’s a big place, and all women are different. Some girls don’t like the idea of dressing to please anyone, while others get excited to pick out clothes for a date or for school. Feminism should be both sides of that story.

A lot of women face criticism when they speak out against things that make them uncomfortable, such as cat-calling. Cat-calling might not be inherently bad, but it certainly makes me uncomfortable, and I have a right to say so. Plus, I don’t think cat-calling is a problem; it’s more like a symptom.

I could be dramatic and say it’s a symptom of the patriarchy!!!!!!!! Ahhhhhhhh!!!!!!! But I don’t know what it is. Nobody really does. We just know whether or not we like it. And we know that it’s often not safe to say so. That’s an encroachment on my human rights, of that I’m sure.

Now, I don’t think I understand the problems of all women just because I’m a feminist. To adopt a position like that is naive and counterproductive. Feminism isn’t an umbrella solution for all women, and feminists aren’t heroic saviors, pulling the forlorn and doey-eyed oppressed out of the shadows.

Furthermore, feminism and sexual assault, among other things, are very, very different, and can be mixed together in many ways — or not! The two have little to do with each other.
One is a violation, and the other is a world-view or political standpoint. Whether or not someone believes in gender equality does not add to or detract from their experience with rape.
That being said, feminism is needed in the world. Society is constantly telling us how to be, and this makes us vulnerable. We begin to think that if we are uncomfortable with something that should make us comfortable, then there is something wrong with us.

Women are especially prime targets, because for the longest time, we were told to be docile and sweet. The world is changing, but we’re still recovering from that.

Even in the 21st century, it took me years to realize that if I was uncomfortable, I could actually say something!

Feminism exists to counteract this societal pressure, the pressure for her to be quiet and him to be loud, for her to be sweet, and him to be tough, for her to say nothing, and him to say yes. I should be able to be who I want to be, I should be able to know what makes me uncomfortable. I am an authority on that subject, and I should be seen as such.

That is why I am a feminist.