By: Melissa Waters

Have you ever had a conversation turn to the subject of women’s rights? Most of us have, and most of us can attest that it can be a sticky subject that leads to some rather heated conversations.

Perhaps the first thing that comes to mind when discussing women’s rights is the word “feminism.” While the origins of feminism are rooted in gender equality, activism and awareness, the term has come to take on a whole new meaning that, in many ways, is actually counterproductive to the women’s rights movement.

Already I feel the need to add that I don’t believe feminism should take precedence over other important social issues; however, the fact that I have to state this disclaimer should illustrate to some degree the sensitivity people carry regarding this issue.

We are approaching a pivotal time on the long and weathered path to female equality; attitudes are slowly changing and women have made impressive strides in almost every aspect of society. Yet, I still feel I have to add I am not a crazy, man-hating, ultra-feminist whenever I bring up the issue of women’s rights.

If a woman supports the advancement of women or identifies herself as a feminist, she is labeled as being a radical or a “feminazi”(feminazi being a term coined by the conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh, who is of course known for his progressive thinking and reasonability). Women constantly have to justify themselves and their affiliation with feminism because “feminists are too intense” or “hate men.” Believe it or not, not all women who support feminism or women’s rights hate men; in fact, they feel that we simply need to be equal.

I know, how preposterous! You’re right, I should just be happy with earning 78 cents on every dollar a man makes. You’re right, we’ve only had to wait 40 years to close the wage gap.  You’re right, it’s just biology! Men can’t help whistling or staring a little too far south. How silly of me to think otherwise.

But guess what? Men aren’t the enemies society is. We are all socialized from the time we are born to conform to certain norms, which in today’s world involve women having a lower status or capacity for success outside of domestic duties. But we know this ideology is fading and that women are capable of anything they set their minds to. So, let’s change society by not thinking in terms of gender but in terms of a person’s integrity and individual attributes that go far beyond gender labels. Sure, there are a few rotten eggs in the world of feminism, but I hope that we have the mindset, as the educated young adults we are, to not lose sight in the purity of this strive for equality.

There are many misconceptions on what feminism really means at its core. It’s not about proving women are the superior gender, and it’s not about demonizing men. It’s about refusing to cut yourself short. Women and men together have the power to change society and create a better future.

I won’t even apologize for all the clichés, and I think I speak for many generations of women before me when I say I’m done justifying my inherent human desire for equality.

Melissa Waters Is a pre vet major. She can be reached on twitter at @AliSchultzzz or