What does feminism mean to you?

By: Ellen Siefke ~Head Copy Editor~

Confession time: I normally avoid talking about feminism altogether. Not because I think it’s bullsh*t, not because I don’t believe it has its merits, not because I think it’s unimportant. Rather, I avoid discussing feminism because I am a coward.

I am a coward because I avoid controversy and confrontation. I am a coward because I tend to let things go instead of speaking out when I think something is wrong. I am a coward because I let people walk all over me, even when it hurts me deeply in the process.

I like to think of myself as a strong independent woman who don’t need no man, but am I really? That’s hard to say. In some ways, I embody the “strong woman” type. I take pride in being independent and resilient, in being rational and level-headed, in being quick-thinking and decisive. I like to think of myself as someone who is able to look life straight in the face, accept whatever punches may come, take them and not let them deter me from my goals.

But see what I just did there? I used the words “accept” and “take.” When life throws a mean left hook at me, I take it. I let life punch me straight in the face, brass knuckles and all, and I get back up, wipe the blood off my cheek, pick up any remnants of broken teeth and keep marching onward.

When I’m at a concert, I accept that at some point, a sleazy, single guy is going to feel me up. Not because I want it to happen, but because I see the reality of the situation. I cannot, realistically, prevent someone from attempting to feel me up not without causing a small ruckus. That’s going to happen. At least, that’s what I tell myself, and it’s better just to deal with it quietly so as not to disrupt others’ enjoyment of the music or let it ruin my own experience.

Ellen Siefke is a sophomore Spanish major and the head copy editor for the Newswire from Mount Prospect, Ill.

As I said, I’m a coward. I’m not an activist, nor am I a confronter. I don’t take preventative measures; I look at what happens and accept things as they are. You might say that I am the worst kind of bystander, that I might as well be no better than the asshole who thinks it’s OK to feel up girls in a crowd. Personally, I prefer the term “coward,” but take your pick.

But what if I didn’t have to take those punches? What if those punches could be prevented in the first place? What if I could go to a concert and not think about being felt up? What if I could go to a concert and not feel suspicious about every lone wolf in the crowd?

So perhaps the reason that I don’t talk about feminism is less about my being a coward and more about my sense of what feminism is. Because to me, feminism is about basic human decency. Feminism is about being a good person, about showing respect toward others. Feminism is about following those lessons you learned in kindergarten — listen when someone else talks, be nice to everyone, share — all those basic necessities that we somehow never seem to fully grasp.

So maybe I don’t talk about feminism a lot. Maybe I’m just another straight White chick from the suburbs who doesn’t know jack about life and has no right to even pen this column. Maybe I’m a coward who hides behind a piece of paper and a pencil and writes instead of acting. Maybe that’s all true. But what I can tell you is that I am a human being, and as a human being, I deserve a certain level of respect and decency, and I have the responsibility to show that same level of decency and respect to everyone else. And that is what is so important about feminism to me — it’s not just for women, it’s for everyone.