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Richson: Feminism doesn’t have to be gender exclusive

BY BRIANNE RICHSON | SEPTEMBER 23, 2014 5:00 AM

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I think of myself as a feminist, but I’m tired of feeling like a bad one. When four male students from North Carolina State University concocted a nail polish specifically designed to detect date-rape drugs in drinks, the idea struck me as fantastic. “We need more men like this,” I thought.

Many fellow feminists, who viewed the nail polish as a perpetuation of rape culture, quickly shut me down. And while I understood the point being made, I became discouraged. Rape is never, ever, the victim’s fault … but I don’t think the invention of this nail polish suggests that any woman who didn’t wear the nail polish while out at local bars was doing something wrong. The invention of this nail polish signifies something bigger: Males are trying to become a part of the dialogue about sexual assault.

I am a feminist. I believe in gender equality, and I believe that I have the right to decide what happens to my body. I also have a neurotic personality, the kind of person who plans for the worst. I’ve thought about purchasing pepper spray to put my nerves at ease when I find myself alone in my stale, dimly lit parking garage. I live alone, and I always lock my door the second I enter my apartment. I am a feminist, so does this mean I am not permitted to fear?

Maybe it’s because I study psychology or that I’ve watched one too many episodes of “Criminal Minds” while sitting in the dark. I’m a thinker, and too much thinking can be counterproductive. It’s not male power I fear, as feminism might imply … it might sound cliché, but I fear evil. And evil knows no gender.

This weekend, a University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee fraternity came under fire for allegedly deciding which females attending their party would be given drinks that had been drugged. The notion of this being true is, to be quite blunt, disgusting, as I think all feminists would agree. In fact, I think most feminists agree on what defines mistreatment and degradation of women … but it seems that we can’t find a common ground on what, if anything, males should do to help incite change.

Coincidentally, something also happened this weekend on the international female-rights stage that I think will prove to be very good for feminism. On Sept. 20, actress Emma Watson stood before the United Nations and delivered a compelling case for inviting males to enter the feminist dialogue, which, she adds, is also often misinterpreted as “man-hating.” How, she argues, can the cause advance if everyone does not see that they, too, can call for change?

I couldn’t agree with Watson more. Men shouldn’t have to walk on eggshells to engage in conversations on how to better the lives of women internationally. Perhaps I’m just being ignorant in suggesting that males have never felt invited to the feminist conversation in the first place, or maybe by suggesting that they need to be invited I’m somehow perpetuating male dominance.

Regardless, I think we all need to get on the same page … the human page, not the gender page.


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