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A few years ago, USA Today named the star of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”, Sarah Michelle Gellar, the epitome of the modern feminist. Declaring “with her take-no-prisoners attitude…vampire-slaying Buffy Summers has become… a feminist hero who’s smart, tough and self-reliant,” the beautiful blonde was apotheosized by younger girls. When asked about feminism, she explained, “Feminism sort of has a negative connotation. It makes you think of women that don’t shave their legs.” Does Gellar consider herself a feminist? “I hate the word,” she replied. Why is the public so uncomfortable with the word “feminism?” Society implores women to strive to be smart and strong, but to be too smart or too strong is discouraged. Instead, too many settle for being a “Buffy,” a female with incredible potential kept in check by contemporary culture’s definition of “woman.”
Last year, one of my teachers cracked a sexist joke and I commented that I found it inappropriate. He informed me the class was “mature enough” for such content. After class ended, a male student rudely inquired, “Are you a feminist?” as if it were a disease. I immediately reverted to a defensive mode, feeling the burden to justify not only my opinions, but also the entire platform of feminism; for a moment, like Gellar, I did not want to associate myself with a term so disgraceful. Looking back on the incident, I wish I would have had the courage I now possess to defend my beliefs. I am willing to take the risk of standing up against a popular opinion if I do not believe it to be right.
Perhaps I illuminate the paradox many modern women face. On one hand, I embody the prototypical, devoted female, assuaging the plight of Romanian orphans and donating countless hours to the Second Harvest Food Bank of the Inland Northwest. Numerous local and national accolades verify my role as a nurturer and “do-gooder.” But when I step into a cross-examination debate round where the object is to establish your case and tear apart the opposing side, I risk being considered too assertive, too aggressive, and too competitive, while all of these traits are seen as desirable qualities in my male opponents. Sadly, many believe that to be “feminine” one must remain passive, a role I refuse to accept.
Am I a feminist? If that means I take risks to make my convictions known and strive to be smart and strong, then people can call me that if society must label me. But feminism does not define who I am, it’s merely a term to describe some of my principles. I do not advocate every issue grounded in the feminist agenda. Feminism neglects my passion for competition, my desire to enact change, and my love of history. Feminism fails to capture my compelling feelings on Weapons of Mass Destruction or on the high levels of poverty in my hometown of Spokane. No one term elucidates my fear of failure, nor my aspiration to transform others through journalism. Instead, feminism is just one of the many terms I use to express myself, and to differentiate myself from Buffy.
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