As someone who has been called a “fake feminist” by an ignorant person with assumptions about what being feminist means, I have always wanted to write a post that takes the Feminist label out of the box and deconstructs what it really means. However, before doing that, the myths about feminism have to be targeted and exposed.
Many men and women shy away from the identifying tag of being a “feminist.” Some prefer to call themselves “humanists” instead, so not as to imply the exclusion of men. Others hate the stigma attached to being a feminist – humorously (and insultingly) depicted as a hairy, bra-burning, man-hating woman who has an agenda other than equality–that of being somehow superior to men. The new generation has introduced a more modern feminism, typically involving some form of sexual liberalism that society loves to denigrate. Over the years I’ve encountered the stereotypes about feminists and am still questioning whether or not there is actual truth to some of them. Below are what I think are the main assumptions about feminists still made today–how harmful they may be to the cause, or how accurate they really are in representing modern feminists of today, is up for discussion…some of them, I am just sick to death of hearing and I want to refute them, damnit! All thoughts are welcome…
1. Feminists are man-haters. There are people in the world who hate men, that is true. And there are also people in the world who hate women. But since when does feminism–a movement towards equality between men AND women, imply anything about hating men or destroying them? If anything, men are NECESSARY for the feminist movement. Men and women both need to engage in dialogue and cooperate in order for true change to occur. Successful feminism means a movement for both men and women to fight on behalf of women’s rights, and that also means deconstructing gender roles which oppress BOTH men and women. However, to play devil’s advocate, maybe the label “feminist” does connote a sense of exclusion that scares men away from participating in feminism. After all, don’t men ALSO have to deal with gender roles, gender oppression and fulfillment of ideal “masculine” standards? Just something to think about.
2. Feminism is the reason chivalry is dead. A girl I once met at college told me that she hated feminism because she wanted the guy to open the door for her, take care of her, and she thought feminism was ruining all that. First of all, feminism is about CHOICE. It’s about understanding that you have the ability to control your own life and fight for your rights. If you want a guy who does all that, that is your CHOICE–nobody can stop you from your choice, no matter what they think of it–and the fact that you can exercise that choice freely without having to give a shit, is a result of the feminist movement. Feminism just means recognizing that both men and women can take care of EACH OTHER rather than one partner exclusively doing everything. There’s nothing wrong with feeling like you want to be taken care of–that is a basic human need, and it’s not exclusive to either men or women.
3. Feminism is just a polite way of sanctioning promiscuity for women. Is it? Even though I agree the younger generation is beginning to equate feminism with more sexual freedom (a movement I see no problem with), I guess it all depends on how you use it. Every feminist is different. For one feminist, having control over her sexuality could be the pinnacle of her empowerment. For another, sexual purity might be the way she feels she wants to live her life. Neither is right or wrong. The important thing is, the decision comes from her and what she perceives to be empowering and healthy in her life.
4. All feminists are just independent women who want to be spinsters when they grow up and never want to raise kids or have a husband. Absolutely untrue. Feminists come in all different shapes and sizes, and have different desires. Being a feminist does NOT mean that you cannot get married, enjoy married life, raise children or be a housewife if that is what you desire. What feels right for one woman’s future is not right for another. Again, it is all about choice–before when women were limited to ONE choice, it was not really up to them as to what they did. Now, however, at least in America (unfortunately not true for all countries), they have so many more opportunities on what they can achieve in life. It’s simply about the ability to recognize all the opportunities that are available.
5. If you’re a TRUE feminist, you can never ever, depend on a man or let him affect your emotions in ANY WAY!!! If you do, you’re a FAKE FEMINIST OMG!!!
Seriously. Would you expect the same of a man? To never be influenced by a woman because he’s strong and independent? To NEVER depend upon her for emotional support or cry over heartbreak? No? Then why do you expect the same of women who are independent and strong? Feminism doesn’t mean we become desensitized, asexual, or emotionless or ANY LESS HUMAN. It does not mean that you can’t seek a romantic partner or depend on them (in a HEALTHY way) for support, or make them an important part of your life. Being a strong person also means having fulfilling relationships, communicating your needs, and understanding what you want from the other person. Why would feminism discourage healthy relationships, and why would it promote indifference towards someone you care about? Just think about it.
6. If you care about your appearance, you’re not a feminist because feminists don’t care about their looks!! If I remember correctly, taking care of yourself would not only be a part of feminism but of just good self esteem in general.It goes both ways for men and women. It does not degrade a feminist to care about how she looks and presents herself to the world.
7. Feminism is only about ensuring the rights of women. Feminism can be about a lot of different groups, not just women. Whether you’re gay, transgendered, a racial minority, a religious minority, your identity can all be represented in feminist activism. Why? Because the intersectionality of all of these different groups are all evident…you are not just a sex or a gender. You have MULTIPLE aspects and facets of your identity, including your nationality, native tongue, sexual orientation, your ethnicity. It is important for different minority groups to recognize that they are not alone in their oppression, and support each other as a RESULT of understanding how oppression feels. That is what good, inclusive feminism strives to do.