There was a time, not that long ago, that I'd be reticent to publicly attach the label feminist to myself.
Honestly, it still makes me a bit nervous.
And here's why: The word is loaded with misconception, carrying with it an old-school notion that a feminist is some radical, man-bashing being.
I don't necessarily think I'm alone. People use the word cautiously. Calling yourself a feminist can generate a misguided connotation that you're going to be difficult and argumentative and too opinionated.
A recent poll showed that while the vast majority of Americans believe in women's equality, only a small percentage identify as feminist.
In truth, the definition is relatively simple. A feminist is someone who believes in – and perhaps even fights for – female equality.
As witnessed in some of the coverage of the Rio Olympics, sexism is alive and well.
There was the moment, for example, when, after Hungarian swimmer Katinka Hosszú crushed the 400 I.M. record, an NBC commentator said her husband/coach was "the person responsible" for her achievement.
Or how about the Chicago Tribune, which credited the "wife of Bears' lineman" for winning bronze in trap shooting, instead of using three-time Olympic athlete Corey Cogdell-Unrein's actual name.
There was even a mystifying debate on Fox about whether female athletes should wear makeup. Like. It. Matters.
There were numerous other examples. It was embarrassing, at best. But at least the missteps were acknowledged and the offenders called out for their archaic thinking. Feminism shone bright.
Most people I know are feminists, men included, whether they call themselves that or not. Thankfully, the concept of gender equality is a natural one for the people I'm surrounded by.
If you think women are as important as men, are just as capable, be allowed to express their opinions, have equal rights, work in whatever field they wish, deserve equitable pay, be allowed to compete in the same sports, you just might be a feminist.
And that's not a bad thing.
Sheila Reynolds has a BA in English from UBC and a Journalism degree from Langara College. She is the former assistant editor and reporter at the Surrey Leader newspaper and has won numerous international, national and provincial awards for her writing. She now works as a communicator in education and does freelance work.