What is it to be a feminist? I have heard feminists described as hairy-legged, unattractive, communistic, and unfeminine women. To some, feminism is beyond unnecessary; it’s a waste of time, a selfish attempt to hone in on what men are entitled to.

The Reverend Pat Robertson believes that “feminism is a socialist, anti-family, political movement that encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism, and become lesbians.” There is no shortage of hate out there, but nor is there a shortage of ignorance of the facts.

Last semester I was selling tickets for the “Vagina Monologues.” One young man was unfamiliar with the show and asked me about it. I replied that the show is a celebration of women and a statement against male violence toward women. He responded that he doesn’t believe that there is violence against women, and that there’s truly no point in saying that there is.

This hurt more than the combined beliefs of Rush Limbaugh and Pat Robertson; this was a young man, a peer of mine who believes that violence against women is a myth. As a survivor of rape, let me tell you in no uncertain terms, that there is violence against women, and it is everybody’s issue. According to a 1988 study, one in four college women will be victims of rape or attempted rape. This number has increased; some studies say that one in three women will be raped in their lifetime.

Feminism is not confined to women who refuse to shave their legs (although more power to you if you don’t!). Feminism is not only for the women who spurn make-up or even vocal crusaders who are willing to march on Washington. Indeed, feminism is not even confined to women. Feminism is a belief that belongs to everyone. My boyfriend identifies as a feminist and he also very much loves football, base-ball, and drinking beer like the best of them.

I have always identified as a feminist, yet I enjoy shopping, I wear make-up, and when I’m not too lazy I even shave my legs. Feminism is about choice, the choice to shave your legs, the choice to have an abortion, and the choice to live your life freely. Feminism is about the right not to be raped, the right to say no if you don’t want to have sex, it’s about the right to walk freely in the streets at night and not fear rape or attack.

When I first learned the statistics, I realized that there was more than a good chance either my mother, my sister, or I would be raped. Despite my best efforts, I was the one who was unlucky. Yet, to be born female means that you are automatically unlucky in this world. It’s my goal, and I hope that most of you share it, to make this world a place where a female child is not unlucky; rather, a world where she has as many opportunities as a male.