Women’s Health: A feminist issue

Do you believe that people of all sex and gender identities deserve equal rights? If you answered yes, then congratulations, you are a feminist!

As a twenty-something woman, I often meet peers who are hesitant to label themselves as feminists. They express their aversion to the label in myriad ways: “I’m not a man-hater.” “I believe in equal rights but I don’t want to give up my femininity.” “We don’t need feminism any more.” These statements demonstrate some of the misconceptions surrounding the term feminist and what’s still at stake for women and gender minorities—misconceptions I believe hinder the progress of equal rights for all genders.

First of all, “feminine” and “feminist” are not opposing terms. Feminists support equal rights for all women, no matter where they fall on the gender expression spectrum. Personally, I embrace things stereotypically ultra-feminine: high heels and make-up, dresses and skirts, long hair, glitter, and girly smelling lotions. But guess what? Being a feminine feminist doesn’t make me any less of an advocate for equal rights.

As for the “man-hater” cop-out, think about it for a minute. How can you advocate for equal rights for all genders and have a personal vendetta against one? You need not worry friends, labeling yourself a feminist doesn’t mean you can’t hang with the guys. Or, if you are a guy, it doesn’t mean that you have to hate yourself in order to be a feminist. Some of my best feminist friends are men.

It really worries me when my peers think feminism went out with polyester suits and disco. Yes, great advances have been made for women over the years; and it’s true that I have more opportunity than my grandmother who had it better than my great-grandmother. But we still live in a world with a persistent gender wage gap, among other disparities.

When it comes to healthcare, women continue to face barriers to adequate care. Women’s Health USA 2011, issued by HRSA (Health Resources and Services Administration), reports that women experience more days of poor physical health per year, are more likely to have an unmet mental heath need, and lack in preconception health and preventive care. And for women of color, whose life expectancies continue to “lag about 5 years behind white women,” those barriers are especially great.

Healthy women of all sexual and gender identities is a feminist issue.

There is one more misconception about feminism I want to address. I’ve heard open-minded, educated, self-proclaimed LGBT-supportive young women who have uttered these words “everyone will think I’m a lesbian.” To which I say, if you really, truly are a supporter and advocate for the LGBT community, then it shouldn’t bother you if someone assumes you are a lesbian, no matter how unfounded their assumptions may be.

In 1973, Fenway was home to three health collectives: a gay men’s collective, an elder care collective, and a women’s health collective. Those ideals aren’t irrelevant, and they’re nothing to be shy about. Let’s not only be proud to call ourselves feminists, but let’s work to make the feminist fight even stronger by making it more inclusive to women of all sexual and gender identities.