Guess what? You're a feminist. If you are a person alive in the world, other people, both men and women, have told you that all feminists are hairy, reactionary, undersexed, man-hating bitches who need to quit cryin' (because we have suffrage now! And Roombas!). HOWEVER. THAT IS OBVIOUSLY STUPID.
Feminism is not a radical movement or a fringe movement or an embarrassment or a fraud. Feminism is simple. The "patriarchy" does "exist." To identify as a feminist is to acknowledge that women are people, and, as such, women deserve the same social, economic, and political rights and opportunities as other styles of people (i.e., men-people). To be a feminist is also to acknowledge that the world is not, currently, a fair and just and safe place for women to exist. Because it is not. Obviously (see: everything ever). To deny these things makes you, at worst, a bad person who hates women, including but not limited to: Sarah Michelle Gellar, Jennifer Garner, Jennifer Aniston, Jennifer Lopez, your mother, Jennifer Lopez's mother, Jennifer Garner's Aunt Marcy, Michelle Obama, Ellen DeGeneres, Cher, Julie Andrews, Kim Kardashian, Khloe Kardashian, Kourtney Kardashian, Kraken Kardashian, Karphone Kardashian, Kickball Kardashian, Kornkob Kardashian, and THE VIRGIN FUCKING MARY. At best, it makes you a complacent idiot.
ONE MORE TIME: If you are not a feminist (or something blamelessly ignorant, like a baby or a ferret or a college freshman), then you are a bad person. Those are the only options. You either believe that women are people, or you don't. To help you pick one, here is some information!
These were the tough old 19th-century bitchez (note: Calling women "bitchez" with an affectionate z is pretty upper-level ironic material—maybe just stick with "women" for now) like Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton who were all, "Heeeeeey bros, we were thinking that maybe if you're not busy we could get the right to vote and stuff please maybe?" Then they proceeded to righteously fuck shit up until the ratification of the 19th amendment in 1920, which gave American women the vote. A lot of the first-wavers were totally racist, plus they were still pretty into the idea that a woman's job is shutting up and scrubbing stuff. But, you know, nobody's perfect.
After World War II, women started to be like, "Oh! Maybe I can get a job and tell my husband to stop raping me!" They began taking on subtler forms of sexism and misogyny—things that might not be legally mandated (like voting rights) but were fucking up women's lives nonetheless. These women would become the second-wavers. In 1963, Betty Friedan made everyone go crazy by suggesting that the nuclear family might be a crock of shit that stifled women's potential and made them unhappy. Then sooooooo many things happened!!! Birth control pills, illegalization of marital rape (in all states, FINALLY, in 1993!), ,Griswold v. Connecticut, affirmative action rights for women, Title IX, Roe v. Wade, and SO MUCH MORE—look it up on Wikipedia, seriously. (Fun fact: Bras were not actually burned.) There was much arguing about pornography (zzzzzz). The Equal Rights Amendment did not pass. Once shit started to get done, shrewd anti-feminists took the opportunity to declare sexism officially over, because women were now allowed to not be raped (sometimes) and also to work for low wages in garment factories and rapey advertising agencies, and therefore any woman who complained about anything from this moment onward was a hairy, braless bitch. Women continued to fight, because women are awesome. Fuck Phyllis Schlafly.
One day, someone had the gall to point out that the term "women" encompasses more than just "upper-middle-class disgruntled white housewives." Immigrant women exist. Trans-women exist. Entirely gruntled upper-middle-class white housewives exist. Sex workers exist. Third-wave feminism is the idea that women can and should define their own womanhood. Because there are one million different kinds of women, the third wave is big, and can get a little confusing and muddy, and maybe doesn't exist at all (history is a continuum, really, not a series of waves). Some of the new feminism—particularly the "I use my sexuality as a weapon!" crowd—can look a lot like the old sexism. But don't worry about it. Just follow your instincts and keep calling people on their shit.
Hhhhhhhhhhhhh. These dicks think that gender inequality is over and we should all have a party because Sex and the City 2 was super empowering. Fuck these dicks. Or, rather, don't.
A lot of heterosexual men get very angry when women don't look the way they think women "should" look. But guess what? "Should" is not a thing. Women's bodies are none of your business. Women's body hair is none of your business. What women weigh is none of your business. What women wear is none of your business. Whether or not women want to fuck you is none of your business, unless they do want to fuck you, in which case you should go for it (high-five!).
Privilege is invisible. If you have no idea what male privilege is, there's a good chance you are currently benefiting from male privilege. That's how privilege works. Essentially, due to the social and political power structures that dominate the entire earth, shit is easier for men. Women make less money, exert less political influence, have their clitorises cut out (actually really truly — Google it), and are widely thought of as property and treated like poop. Privilege is real, and anyone who tells you otherwise is Ann Coulter.
Unless you're a total asshat who thinks people are unequal, you are a feminist. YOU are a feminist. You ARE a feminist. YOU ARE A FEMINIST. Welcome aboard!
This post was reprinted with permission from How to Be a Person, The Stranger's Guide to College by Lindy West, Dan Savage, Christopher Frizzelle, and Bethany Jean Clement (August 2012, Sasquatch Books). It's on pre-sale now. We're biased, but we highly recommend you buy it. Or Lindy will cry.