When you hear about “women’s issues,” what comes to mind? Abortions? Domestic violence? Childcare? Do you picture Susan B. Anthony, Rosie the Riveter or Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton?The problem with classifying any issue as belonging to one group is that hardly any issue differentiates like that. Just as affirmative action is of interest to everyone, not just minorities, everything traditionally associated with women affects us all.Let’s start with the basics. The “women’s” issue that perhaps has generated the most interest – and controversy – in America in recent years is reproductive rights, or abortion, or pro-life or pro-choice or anything you choose to call it. Although the issue may, in some ways, be more personal to women – we are, after all, the ones who may one day be pregnant – anyone who suggested this in a crowded room, that decisions related to this issue only affect women, would quickly be shouted down. Certainly some of the leading advocates on both sides are men.Childcare is another traditional women’s area. But again, for anyone to suggest that men – and, consequently, fathers – had no interest in affordable, quality childcare would be ridiculous.The point of this all is that while grouping issues into gender, ethnic or economic groups may be convenient, it’s not accurate. There’s no such thing as an issue that only concerns women, or a right only women care about. There are only human issues and human rights.So when you see the friendly face of a feminist smiling out at you from the opinions section, don’t jump to conclusions. We will call attention to many issues that might traditionally be lumped together as women’s. But anything that affects humans, men or women, anywhere in the world, affects us all. With that in mind, it’s time to tackle another common misconception – the word feminism. Ridiculous terms like “feminazi” are tossed around, turning a group of educated and open-minded men and women into single-minded, man-hating lesbians.Chances are, if you’re at UR, you’re a feminist. If you’re a woman at UR, you definitely are. Likewise if you want to go to graduate school, medical school or law school. If you have respect for your female classmates or professors or friends, you’re a feminist. If you think anyone with equal training and skills and experience should receive the same pay for the same job, regardless of gender, you’re a feminist. To say “I believe women and men are equal, but I’m not a feminist,” is a contradiction in terms. Feminism is about equality, not superiority.There’s a famous phrase – “feminism is the radical notion that women are people too.” With all the negative connotations associated with feminism, that may seem hard to believe. Feminist doesn’t mean feminine, in the traditional sense, nor does it mean man-hating. I believe the majority of men and women on this campus are feminists because we’re educated, and we have the evidence of the equality of men and women all around us – in our professors, our suitemates, our friends and our family.Gender equality, like racial equality, is here to stay. All around us are men and women conquering the mistakes in history. We cannot blame the past, but must look to the future. In a home of education and free-thinking, it shouldn’t be hard. Stoll can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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