“You’re such a feminist!” is the statement she makes toward me, about me.

“What?! No…” is the next thing I hear as a friend of mine comes to my defense.

I simply reply, “I’m not offended…” to which the statement-maker replies, “It wasn’t meant as an insult.”

This is just one instance where I have been categorized as feminist publicly, to which someone else has gotten offended on my behalf.

Let me remind you, I’m not offended. To be a feminist is to be caring, independent, strong, educated and concerned with the future of not only your position in society, but the position of all those who do and don’t surround you on a daily basis.

I’m proud to be a feminist. I’m proud to stand up for myself and for those who need allies alongside them. My close friends do not label themselves as feminists out of fear of what they have been taught the word ‘feminist’ means.

Growing up, we are taught to believe that feminists are those women standing out in the streets with signs shouting, “What do we want?! Equality! When do we want it?! NOW!”

Well, those women are feminists and that could very well be someone’s favourite slogan, but we have been taught to see these women not as a representation of ourselves, but as a representation of a different kind of human.

When I asked a friend of mine to describe what being a feminist meant to her, she replied, “Well, I guess believing women are better than men?” And when I asked her what a feminist looked like, she replied, “Um, kind of like a lesbian, or a hippie, a girl who’s really into all-natural stuff.”

Not only did she describe her ideal feminist as looking like a sexual orientation, she described her ideal feminist as someone who thinks she’s better than someone else.
And she most definitely did not describe me.

For someone who is “such a feminist,” I certainly don’t fall into many people’s very boxed-in and closed-off definitions of what a feminist represents or looks like.

So, let me set this straight. I love men, just love ‘em. I’m a 21-year-old university student with big family values and a wide range of friends. I want to get married and have babies, maybe three. I’m incredibly good with directions and I like baseball.

I wear makeup just about every day to class and I enjoy it, but my hair rarely gets any extra treatment.

I’ve been called “one of the guys” and I’ve been made fun of by my other female friends for liking a good rom-com every now and again because, well, that’s just “too typical” of me. So what if my favourite movie is Titanic? And maybe I do enjoy a good wake-up call to Rage Against The Machine, what’s it to ya?

While this may seem like I’m typing out a personal ad, I’m just trying to share with the rest of the world (or the greater Peterborough area) that being a feminist does not equate to being a male-hating, anti-shaving lesbian lover with dreadlocks and an “I heart my vagina” button on a backpack (though these feminists do exist – and I do “heart” my vagina).

To be a feminist means you look like me, or her, or him, or even that guy over there. To be a feminist means that you care about the varying inequalities each person faces every single day—sometimes five times a day—and you want change. To be a feminist means you have a lot of love to give, love for others and love for yourself.

So, if someone labels you or someone else a feminist, don’t get offended; appreciate it. This person is just one individual who has taken note of your caring, yet won’t-take-shit-from-no-one, personality.

And if they mean it as an insult, give them this article and say, “Welcome to 2014, my friend. Please join us and leave your shoes of cynicism at the door.”