Prefer not to be associated with the word feminist? Amy Buckle explores the key issues and explains why, regardless of your gender, the movement shouldn’t just be seen as another 2016 ‘fad’ craze.
In 2016, “feminism” has become the new “F” word. Used on social media more often to insult than empower, mainstream media would have us all believe that feminism is a bad, scary thing. That feminists hate men, despise makeup and are outraged by EVERYTHING. And in truth, these depictions are really misleading. There are both active and passive advocates of feminism, but it is always the most extreme views that are given media attention, which only fuels the idea that it is an extreme, hateful and unrelatable movement. And having a public conversation about what being a feminist actually means is difficult and uncomfortable. I have often found that mentioning the “F” word in public is like breaking the first rule of Fight Club; it can feel like you’re just not supposed to talk about it. But it’s time to start setting the record straight about what it actually is; a movement that EVERYONE should be able to identify with. So here are 5 common myths about feminism that need to be busted.
“Feminism is just so EXTREME. I just think men and women should be equal.”
Feminism is all too often associated with extremity, aggression and hatred, and it really shouldn’t be, especially as its core concept is a belief in equality. Put simply, if you believe that women should be treated equally to men, then you’re already a feminist! The full Merriam Webster dictionary definition of feminism is ‘the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes.’ And that’s something that everyone should be able to get behind.
“Then why is it called feminism, not “equalism” or “humanism”?”
Many take issue with the word feminism because it doesn’t sound like it promotes equality. But if we called it something different, such as “equalism” or “humanism”, we would be ignoring the fact that there is more work that needs to be done for women than there is to be done for men to make everyone equal in society, which would be ignoring the key issue. That doesn’t mean that feminism only cares about the welfare of women, or that feminists don’t recognise that men don’t have problems too. But in the majority of cases it is women that need to work harder to be seen as equal to men, and that shouldn’t be ignored just because it isn’t always the case 100% of the time. For comparison, think about the “Black Lives Matter” movement that some people argued should be called “All Lives Matter”. The movement has never been about claiming that black lives matter more than any others, but changing the name of the movement would be ignoring the fact that institutionalised racism against black lives is the main reason why there is still inequality in our society. Calling feminism a different name wouldn’t make it any more about equality. It would simply overlook the main issue.
“But what about men? They suffer injustices in society too and feminism ignores that.”
Actually, feminism benefits men in more ways than people think, as it can be used to open a whole other debate about gender that isn’t just about women. In challenging what society thinks women should or shouldn’t do, a woman’s role is in society or what it means to be “feminine”, it follows that masculinity is questioned too. And that’s really important for tackling many of the issues we face today. For example, the idea that emotion is a feminine trait has meant that it’s a lot harder for men to discuss their mental wellbeing, which is undeniably a contributing factor to the stigmatisation of male mental health in our society. By challenging our expectation of women, feminism also questions what we expect of men too. It’s about breaking down gender misconceptions and stereotypes, which is, without a doubt, beneficial to both men and women, and to society as a whole.
“You can’t be a feminist and wear makeup/ care about your appearance/ have a boyfriend…”
Wrong, wrong and wrong! Feminism is about enabling and empowering women to be whatever they want, to do whatever they want and to have whatever career they choose, without being disadvantaged because of their gender. So whether you want to own your own company or be a stay at home mother, whether you prefer to rock a red lippy or wear no makeup at all, nobody should EVER tell you that your career or lifestyle choices aren’t feminist. Feminism is about giving all women the freedom to choose how they live their lives, and continuing to use the movement to expand the options available to girls worldwide that may otherwise be restricted in their choices.
“I don’t need feminism. I already feel equal!”
Another common misconception about modern feminism is that it doesn’t acknowledge how much progress has been made for women. And while it is true that we have it a lot better now than we did a century ago, and we’ve certainly come a long way since the bra burning of the nineteenth century (I’ll hold on to my Victoria’s Secret, thanks!), that doesn’t mean that feminism is any less relevant today. Just because we are living in a better world than we were two hundred years ago, that doesn’t mean that we should just accept the way things are today; in many parts of the world feminism is needed more than ever before. As wrote in her article for the Huffington Post “Why We Still Need Feminism”, being a feminist “does not mean you think women can’t speak for themselves, it means you realise that, even though some may be lucky enough to, there’s still many who can’t.” And that is precisely why every woman should be able to proudly call themselves a feminist, whether they already feel equal or not.
Of course, opening up the debate about feminism will not solve the issue at hand straight away. There are many new issues that the feminism needs to address, such as the idea of “white feminism”. This is making sure that the movement recognises that not all women have the same experiences, and that sexual orientation, class, and race among other things impact a woman’s experiences of being a female. But opening up the debate about feminism, debunking some of the most detrimental myths surrounding it and making it easier for people to identify with the movement will get us one step closer to becoming an all-encompassing and mutually supportive society that is proud to call itself feminist.
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Words by: Amy Buckle