Over the last several years since I began actively identifying as a feminist, I’ve noticed hundreds of people who refuse to identify with the movement because of what they think it stands for. There are entire Facebook pages, counter movements (read: MRAs), blogs, and various other media outlets that openly preach against feminism because they don’t agree with what the media has told them feminism is. So today, I want to counter some of those ideas by talking about what feminism isn’t and, on the brighter side, what it actually is.
What Feminism Isn’t
While I’m sure a large portion of people saying this are doing so in an attempt to silence feminists, there are also a lot of people who honestly believe that feminism is just another word for man-hating (if you need an example, take a look at Lady Gaga, Shailene Woodley, and any number of people commenting on Facebook. It’s not even the slightest bit surprising that people would feel this way, given the media’s portrayal of feminists as angry, single, and bitter. But the fact is that while there are absolutely radical feminists who truly hate all men on principle (as there are radicals in any faction. Just take a look at the Tea Party if you don’t believe me), that’s not at all representative of the majority of women and men who identify as feminists.
It’s actually pretty ironic that people would reject a movement based entirely on abolishing discrimination of one of the sexes because they feel it is discriminating agains them, but I know how many people I personally know who believe this (in fact, my best friend once told me she’s not a feminist because she wants to be a stay-at-home-mom). Once and for all, let it be said that feminists aren’t telling anybody what to do. We’re not saying “you have to go to college and get a degree and go have a job because that’s what feminists do.” We’re saying “you should have the option to do more than be a mother and wife if you want to.”
All the time I see people rejecting feminism in favor of humanism because they believe that “all people matter,” as though feminism stood up and said that only women matter. There seems to be this idea that, because feminist focuses primarily on issues impacting women, feminists believe that women are more important than men. More than anything, that seems to me like a lack of critical thinking because, if you look at the way things are right now in America (and much of the world), men for the most part don’t need to be lifted up. That’s not to suggest there aren’t problems facing men almost exclusively, because of course there are, but there are far more problems facing women so it only makes sense that the movement would focus primarily on those problems.
What Feminism Is
At the risk of sounding redundant:
fem-i-nism // ‘fema nizum
1. the advocacy of women’s rights on the grounds of political, social, and economic equality to men
There are no ifs, ands, or buts to that definition. It is exactly and completely what feminism is: the belief that women should be equal tomen and actions on that behalf.
While feminism focuses primarily on the equality of women and men, the movement stands for far more than that. As a whole, feminism advocates and fights for LGBTQA rights, racial equality, the rights of men which are currently unequal to those of women, and so on. It is a human rights movement above all, with a focus on women because within the binary gender system, those are the people who need help the most.
There are days when I sit and think about feminism and why we need it, and am completely baffled that this is even a problem. It is, oftentimes, entirely beyond my understanding that anyone should have to advocate for equal rights (in the same way that it continually evades my understanding why anyone would give a shit who someone else loves and chooses to marry). This is because, to be honest, the idea that men and women are equal seems pretty obvious.