Column: Confessions of a modern-day woman

The real meaning behind the dreaded “F-word.”

As I grip my keys with my thumb hovering over the panic button, I feel my heart thumping against my chest. Subconsciously, my mind recites my parents’ habitual reminders to never wander alone and to always observe my surroundings. My car appears close, yet I unconsciously quicken my pace and weave between the few cars left in the ominous mall parking lot. Every few seconds, I anxiously glance over my shoulder and shift my eyes from side to side, praying no one lurks among the shadows. Growing up, I was never afraid of the dark, but of who potentially waited for me in it.

You may be thinking to yourself, “Is she serious?” Yes, walking to my car alone sounds like a simple task instead of something to feel tense about. Yet the reality is this is only one of the many things that my parents have constantly warned me about.

Ever since I can remember, my parents gave me the same cautious guidelines over and over again. I envied how much easier it was for my brother to go out with friends, walk down the street or stay out late. I never understood why I had to be so much more careful. I can still remember my too-cool, teenage self rolling her eyes, crossing her arms and thinking in her head, “Thanks, guys, but I know you tell me this every time before I go out.”

Now that I’m in college, their advice plays in the back of my mind consistently as I’m walking around campus, through parking lots or home from a night out. I can still hear my dad in the front seat of the car preaching to me about how to stay safe and the importance of always keeping my guard up.

“If you put your drink down, always get a new one.”

“Always stay in a group or go to the bathroom in twos.”

“Never walk alone.”

“Kick, scream, run, do absolutely anything you have to do to get away.”

“Follow your instincts.”

My naive, optimistic mind refused to believe the terrible people they described actually existed in this world. Back then I didn’t understand, but now I’m thankful to have parents who prepared me for the reality we live in.

This is not just my parents being overprotective. In fact, one in five women and one in 16 men are sexually assaulted in college, according to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center. I’m not sharing this to create fear or make it seem like there are predators lurking in the shadows of every parking garage, because obviously that is far from the truth. However, I am trying to make people aware of the fact that this frames the mindsets of modern-day women everywhere.

This reality of a modern-day woman is one of the reasons I consider myself a feminist.

It deeply concerns me that other women find it appalling to identify themselves as feminists. As soon as the dreaded “F-word” is brought up, many tune out in horror. It is completely mind-boggling that the idea of equal opportunities is something too taboo for a person, especially a woman, to want to support it.

It is painful to read Facebook posts where women argue back and forth about whether or not they identify as a feminist, someone who believes in equality for all genders. Women are pinning themselves against each other instead of supporting each other. They should be working together, as there are multiple reasons to be a feminist.

For example, modern-day society often tries to find faults in a woman's appearance, actions and characteristics to justify sexual assault. But “no” means “absolutely not,” and a short skirt is not an open invitation. We shouldn’t be afraid to put our drinks down or wear a low-cut shirt that could potentially become justification for another person’s actions. If it’s not a resounding “yes,” then it’s a “no.”

The image of what a woman should look like and be treated like is created for us through social media, the music industry, celebrities and pop culture in general. Young girls see these unrealistic lifestyles and hate themselves for not living up to those standards of life, while boys see how women are portrayed in modern-day music videos and assume objectification is normal. Women are taught at an early age that there is always someone better than us instead of introducing the importance of self-love.

Everyone is entitled to their own beliefs; I just cannot comprehend why a woman would not believe in equality for all genders.

Now you may be thinking, “Equality for all genders? What is this crazy feminist talking about?”

The goal of feminism is not about feeling superior to men or dominating them. Feminism is about breaking down the walls of society that believe certain characteristics, qualities, goals, opportunities, et cetera, only pertain to certain genders. Feminism is not just about fighting for women, but supporting gender equality for everyone.

For example, throughout history, men have been criticized for showing their emotions. If a man becomes emotional, it shows a lack of masculinity because emotions are only supposed to be reserved for “hormonal women.” This is the kind of thinking feminists aim to change.

The changes that feminists strive for will create a safer environment for all. In the meantime, the modern-day woman will refuse to be silent and continue to fight for the future she hopes for.

The modern-day woman is not afraid, but she is told to always keep her guard up. The modern-day woman is not weak, but she must always carry mace. The modern-day woman is told her skirt was too short, when in reality a man overstepped his boundaries. The modern-day woman is not a victim, but an everyday hero.

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