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What's your definition of feminism? Is it a bunch of butch women holding protests that claim men are responsible for the oppression of women? Is it a woman who won't allow a man to hold open her door, pay for her dinner or walk her home? Is it a woman who only dates other women so she won't have to deal with men?
A classmate in my media ethics class recently posed this question. I was surprised by not only how many people gave a startling definition of feminism but also how many people don't call themselves feminists.
I have always been brought up to believe a feminist is a person, meaning either a woman or a man, who believes that women and men should have equal opportunities. In this case, I believe everyone should be a feminist. Why then, did more than half my class laugh when my classmate pointed out that my male teacher is a feminist?
I grew up with the knowledge that every woman in my family had been physically abused by a man at some point in her life. I even had the unfortunate opportunity to see this abuse firsthand as my cousins and I hid underneath the kitchen table while my uncle repeatedly slammed my aunt's wrist in the door.
So I guess you could say I was a little afraid of men growing up. My family was ruled by a matriarchy and I was told to never fall in love because men would never love women the way we loved them.
When I became an adult, however, I decided to throw away the bitterness and realize that not all men are bad.
At the same time, I am still very much a supporter of women's rights, and it baffles me that so many women would not label themselves feminists.
The most common excuse I heard for not wearing the label was that people do not want to be associated with the extremes of feminism, which is completely understandable. They don't want people to think they see all women as victims to male oppression just because they are feminists. Again, I understand. I call myself pro-choice, but I once had a professor who thought that pro-abortion and pro-choice were interchangeable, which hurt and offended me.
My question for the people who don't want to be associated with the extremes: Aren't there extremes of almost anything you do? If you were brought up Methodist or Baptist, do you still call yourself a Christian? Probably. But do people associate you with the man who stands outside Brickstreet Café telling students they're all sinners and are going to burn in hell? Probably not.
I don't believe women are victims because I don't believe any woman, unless she is being physically forced, can be a victim. We can be set back, yes, but no one is going to tell me I can't have something if I want it.
My point is not to offend people who don't want to be labeled feminists. I respect that choice. I just don't understand why.
And it's not just other women who baffle me -- it's men too. Shouldn't men want women to have the same opportunities they have?
With any belief you hold, there's probably someone who agrees with the same basic foundation but has different versions of the way things operate.
You don't have to believe that men are evil and the root of all women's problems (I know I don't), but at least respect that women deserve everything men are entitled to and call yourself a feminist.
It's not man-hating, and it's not emasculating.
The column above is from The Towerlight, the student-run campus newspaper at Towson University in Towson, Md. Tai Shadrick is the Towerlight's arts editor. The Fox News Channel is available to Towson University students through their campus cable system.