Hi, I am a feminist.
I don’t know if you’ll still read on after that sentence but I sincerely hope you do. I know this subject is a heavy one, and I promise I am not going to try and convince you of everything I believe or attack your own beliefs. I just want to address a few things that I think the mainstream media and social media outlets have distorted, and, as a result, this distortion has caused division, hatred and, in my opinion, regression.
In writing this, I am not trying to convert non-feminists into feminists. I solely want to explain my beliefs in a candid way and the reasons why I hold these beliefs.
So today, I’d like to clear up three common misconceptions about feminists and feminism.
But first, a little background information:
The feminist movement, since the inception of the word “féminisme” in French in 1837, includes all movements working to obtain women’s rights (even when these movements were not explicitly self-defined as a “feminist movement”). Historians consider modern feminism to have occurred in three waves. The first being comprised of the women’s suffrage movements (women’s right to vote), the second, beginning in the 1960’s, was the women’s liberation movement (social and legal equality), and the third, most recent wave, beginning in the 1990’s and (I would argue) continuing to this very day, is a continuation to the ideas of the women’s liberation movement and a reaction to what was unaddressed and/or dismissed in second wave feminism. It introduced terms and ideas including intersectionality, postmodern feminism, womanism (within black feminism), sex positivity, etc.
Misconception #1: Feminists are misandrists. (Misandrist=Men-hating)
In every instance of its creation and evolution, the feminist movement’s goal has been to advocate for women’s rights so that political, social, legal, financial and personal equality of the sexes may be achieved.
Feminism, in reality, is a working corrector of centuries of social and institutionalized misogyny. It is, in no way, “a gender-swapped version of it”. Yes, I am aware that some women claiming to be feminist’s are outspoken in their hatred for men, in their beliefs that men are inferior, etc. However, as the definition of feminism lies in the basis of gender equality, we know that this is not feminism.
Just as Christians can express that the actions and claims of the Westboro Baptist Church do not represent Christianity; just as Muslims can express that the actions of ISIS do not represent Islam; just as a person who calls themself “pro-life” can express that the actions of an abortion clinic bomber do not represent the Pro-life movement; Feminists can express that these aforementioned claims do not represent the feminist movement.
As a side note: My partner (who is a man) is a feminist. Men can, are and, in my honest opinion, ought to be feminists. Feminism is also about men. This leads me to my second ‘misconception’.
Misconception #2: Feminism is only about women, only women can be feminists, and feminism only benefits women.
Feminists are advocates for gender equality. Feminists are also vocal opponents of many things damaging to boys and men in our society. I believe that it’s extremely important to understand how patriarchy harms men while also giving them benefits simultaneously.
-Societal expectations for men to not have nor show their emotions (“boys don’t cry” / ”don’t be a girl”)
-The fact that male victims of domestic violence and rape are often unheard or not believed by friends, family, judges, jurors, etc.
-Toxic Masculinity (traditional norms imposed on boys and men equating that they must be, aggressive, insensitive, sexually dominant, etc.)
-The societal conception that women are naturally better nurturers of children, can lead to a mother getting child custody even in the case of a great father vs a negligent, and/or abusive mother.
-The expectation for men not to have an interest in dancing, cooking, fashion, art is so intense that it instills a fear in men. (i.e. if they do like an activity society deems feminine they will be called a “girl” or “gay”)
-There are so. many. more.
Feminism as a movement is seeking to change how we as a society function within these contexts of gender roles and sexist norms which limit and harm men and women every single day.
Misconception # 3: Feminists think men and women are the same.
Yes and no.
As a feminist, I wholeheartedly believe that men and women are the same (equals) in terms of value, respect, worth, voice, competency, intelligence, agency, importance, the list goes on.
However, obviously, men and women are not the same in terms of biology nor in terms of experience (i.e. my experience as a woman, is far different from that of a man’s).
Feminism is rooted in the idea of equality, not identicalness.
I hope the ideas I have mentioned, at the least, gave you something to think about and, at the most, helped you to find value in feminism and appreciate what this movement is trying to achieve.
Nevertheless, thank you for reading.
P.S. As a side note, there are obviously many more misconceptions about the feminist movement, and I may write about those in the future. Please feel free to leave a comment or message me if you have any questions.