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To be a feminist is to be part of an ever-changing revolutionary movement started by women for women’s liberation from a system that oppresses everyone, especially women. It is to be a part of a long history of people who have fought for women’s right to participate equally to men in the society, for women’s right to be in charge of themselves and their bodies and not owned by a man, and for women to have a voice in the world that is heard and valued. It’s not about hating men but about changing the patriarchal system that has institutionalized inequality.

There are many reasons I’m a feminist. Right now, the main one is this:

The fewer rights we have to make decisions for ourselves and for our bodies, the more we lose our rights as human beings. The more women are seen as nonhuman, the more women are hurt and killed.

There is a really strong push right now to take away women’s right to birth control and legal abortion. Since the beginning of time, women have taken measures to end unwanted pregnancies. When it’s illegal, it becomes more dangerous. But it’s not about whether you believe abortion is or isn’t okay or not a choice you would make, it’s about women being able to decide for themselves what they need and want. When women can’t make decisions about their own bodies and selves, they become less than human.

All kinds of skewed beliefs have been put forth into the public political world in the past year, like women who advocate for access to birth control are sluts and women who are raped can’t get pregnant. Both of these instances, Rush Limbaugh calling women sluts and Todd Akin saying women can’t get pregnant, seem to be just mean or ignorant statements, but in fact are bold political moves that shape the nation’s conversation and views of women and violence.

Just to remind us: When Sandra Fluke was advocating for women having access to contraception she was speaking about a friend who, for medical reasons, needed to take contraception which was not covered by insurance. Limbaugh called her a slut. It didn’t matter if there were apologies or people disagreeing, the nation had it ingrained inside each person that for women to speak up about wanting birth control or any control over their bodies makes them sluts, bad women.

When Todd Akin said women’s bodies have a way of shutting things down when a woman is raped, he was not just putting forth an ignorant statement, he was setting an agenda for abortion to be something absolutely wrong, no matter whether a woman was raped.

Statements such as these, among the many others, are tactics to make women who speak out against them seem hysterical and to make women’s rights seem trivial. They are meant to make women shut up and they are dangerous.

Women have a history of both using their bodies as the only means of control they have, as well as a history of others trying to control their bodies through many means, including but not limited to: rape, sexual assault, physical violence, forced sterilization, genital mutilation, child marriages, refusal of legal and safe abortions, lack of birth control, acid burning, sex (abuse) slavery and trafficking.

To be a feminist is to understand that women must be able to make decisions for their bodies, which includes: whether we have sex with someone else, who we decide to have sex with, when we decide to have sex, whether we want to be sterilized, whether we want our genitals mutilated, whether we want to prevent a pregnancy, whether we want an abortion, how we want to dress. To take away a woman’s right to choose what she needs and wants for her body in any given situation is to take away her humanity and return her to an age when she was property and legally unable to make decisions for herself.

The Republican Party has launched a very real war against women. They call themselves the Conservative party, but this war is by no means conservative. It is radically against women. Women are at risk of further violence and for losing all rights.

For all of our sakes, please help encourage women you know to make the connection between women’s rights being taken away to women being dehumanized to women being at greater risk for violence.