Recently in my Latin American history class we had a debate over whether or not Eva Perón—the wife of Argentine president Juan Perón—was a feminist. We were divided into groups and one side listed the things Eva did to help Argentine women while the other refuted the arguments with statements of why she didn’t do enough, or what she didn’t do it correctly.
Eva Perón was beautiful. She was an actress and a model before marrying Juan and becoming politically involved and the Perón regime used her as a propaganda tool. She was admired for her striking blonde hair and slender body. She had a personal dressmaker and wore glamorous gowns. Each of these statements was used to refute the claim that Eva Perón was a feminist.
Eva advocated for women suffrage. She established and directed The Female Perónist Party, the first major female political party in Argentina. She inspired other women to become involved in politics and become the first women actively involved in Argentine politics. Eva’s platinum hair and her extravagant clothes do not revoke the achievements she spearheaded for women in Argentina. Eva Perón was a feminist.
I am the first to admit I don’t know as much as I might like to about women’s issues, gender studies, or activism. Due to the fact that I am not as knowledgeable or as active as the stereotypical feminist and because I wear tall shoes and like skirts that flare when I twirl in circles, I sometimes feel as though I am not viewed as a feminist or as though I do not belong under the feminism umbrella. This is not true.
It is not the feminist community that makes me feel this way, but rather society at large. Just as we have created iconic images and roles for gender, we have done the same for feminists.
I am feminine. I am a feminist. These two terms are not mutually exclusive. Feminism does not mean wanting to be a man, it means knowing I deserve to have the same rights as one whether I am wearing pants or a dress.
Furthermore, anyone who says that men cannot be feminists is missing the point. Gender discrimination and inequality affects men just as it affects women. Men are being instructed by society to be manly, to be strong, to objectify women. Society pressures men to like sports, to never cry, and to view women as sex objects. Men who do not conform to these expectations are accused of being “unmanly” or homosexual with derogatory intents. Men’s mothers, sisters, daughters, friends and wives are being oppressed and denied rights. Men experience sexism and the dangers of gender roles and they too are affected by the inequalities that society creates. Feminism will not prevail without the support of both men and women.
Society is hindering the progression of feminism by closing the feminist umbrella. Society is presenting us with a narrow vision of feminists. This vision does not include men or women in heels. This vision is disregarding the premise of feminism. This vision is wrong. Feminism is about gender equality and putting an end to discrimination against women. This means equality for all people. It does not matter what type of shoes a woman wears or that a man is not a woman. Anybody can be a feminist. The umbrella of feminism needs to be opened, people need to be welcomed under it instead of being told by society that they do not fit. Feminism is about equality, and everybody can understand and support a cause as human as that.