Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
Those attending the vigil for vigil for University of Utah student athlete Lauren McCluskey place flowers, cards and candles on the steps of the Park Building at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, Oct. 24. McCluskey was killed Monday October 22.

Feminism. The word itself carries a heavy taboo — one that some men and women alike hesitate to speak in worries that it will portray them poorly. If you’re not a feminist, you’re sexist. If you are a feminist, you hate men. How could you possibly win?

The problem is rooted in the fact that our understanding of feminism varies as the line between definition and connotation blurs and becomes misleading. This results in myriad opinions and beliefs about something seemingly so simple as women’s rights. Additionally, extremist outliers do nothing but add to the confusion. But even debating what “true” feminism is would still cease to shed any definitive light on how we should view this movement or the people that stand behind it.

Even so, the majority of the feminist community defines feminism simply as the idea that equal opportunities and respect should exist for all individuals, regardless of gender or sex. If you’re a man or a woman, we should all be treated with equity and equality.

That being said, let’s talk about feminism as it applies to us — not as it applies to your grandmother, or to President Donald Trump, or to your hippie cousin who lives in Oregon. All connotations aside, let’s talk about feminism as it applies to you.

Don’t worry, we aren’t going to get political. The more pressing issue is the subtle, quiet and poisonous aspects of sexism that integrate themselves into our culture without us even batting an eye. They eat away at our ability to be kind without us even noticing that sexism still is a problem — even now, even in Utah.

Turning a blind eye to sexist issues has been the public’s reaction for decades. It’s easier to deny that sexism exists in modern America than to painfully extract sexist habits out of a society that’s been integrating them since antiquity. But things still happen. And they happen often.

My roommate was stalked by a guy last year, ultimately ending in a restraining order. My best friend was pressured into a physically intimate situation without her consent when she was 13. No charges have resulted — even after eight years. Lauren McCluskey of the University of Utah was shot dead by her ex-boyfriend last week. Lauren and I actually went to high school together, and she was the only person to stay with me throughout the entirety of my track career in high school. Now she’s a headline across the country rather than proof of the bigger issue at hand.

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When we pause to ask ourselves if there’s even anything we can do to dissemble something that’s so subtly ingrained in our culture, I hope we realize that the answer starts simply with awareness. Sexism isn’t going to die overnight, but it’s about time we stopped being afraid to call ourselves a feminist (male or female). Feminism inherently stands for a moral purpose that any Democrat or Republican should be able to comfortably stand behind. To take the poison out of the word, we need to adopt it and change how people view it through our actions and our words. We just need to be a little more kind and a little more fearless.

By doing so, we not only better our communities but we better ourselves. We become better members of our churches, more respectful co-workers and friends, better children to our parents, and parents to our children. Feminism is worth fighting for because it’s for everybody.

It is for you.