Feminism. That taboo word, the controversial concept that inspires disgust and resentment in so many people, men and women alike. This movement is oh-so-simple to define, yet incredibly complex to pin down ideologically. I believe that difficulty arises historically from social issues and remnant stigmas and beliefs similar to those that keep racism alive today. But more importantly, it’s perpetuated by the rise of the age of the Internet, internet communities and the plethora of information and misinformation that is at our fingertips. I mean, everything you read on the Internet is true, right??
Feminism is the desire for gender equality. Period. To delve a bit deeper, it wishes to free men and women alike to live the lives they desire, away from societal pressures to be traditionally ‘masculine’ or ‘feminine,’ or having your worth automatically determined by your biological body parts. Of course, this means dismantling patriarchy, which is simply a society led by men, and where historical and modern-day gender issues spring from. Admitting this is not an insult to or an attack on men. Admitting that patriarchy is oppressive is simply one way of explaining how our gender roles developed and evolved. That admission is also the beginning of a solution to free everyone from those restrictions. Hey, if you want to be a manly man or a girly girl, as far as stereotypes go, you can still feel free to make those choices. Feminism is all about choices and the freedom to be or not to be what society expects of you.
For some who grew up in the age of the internet and depend less on real world experience and history to understand the world, it is as if “3rd wave feminism” has come to represent feminism as a whole. It gives credit to what the women of our past achieved, but gives a false impression that equality has been achieved and feminism has blown past its goals to encompass rage against men, female superiority and privilege and extremism.
Sure, there are extremists in every group, just like there are exceptions to every rule. But I don’t see widespread rejection of Christianity because of the insanity of the Westboro Baptist Church. In fact, automatically separating those zealots from the religion altogether is generally accepted. Ask yourself, of all the outspoken feminists you know, how many are actually extreme, man-hating misandrists, which is becoming the commonly accepted image that haunts feminism today? I’m always up for a chat, my friends, and I can refer you to a plethora of welcoming, intelligent, lovable feminists who would be happy to discuss your concerns as well.
Women who say they don’t need feminism most likely need it the most, along with a better understanding of how they are shooting themselves in the foot. Feminism isn’t forcing you to play victim or ask for special privilege, or blame men for all your troubles. It is acknowledging the history of women’s suffrage and the effects of patriarchy, and that sexism that still exists today. If you, as a woman, don’t feel you have experienced any sort of sexism or objectification, or don’t mind living in a man’s world or even see your world that way, then that is your choice. But to say you are anti-feminist is to say you don’t want gender equality – that you are okay with women being second-class human beings. Think of your fellow women, the 1 in 5(ish) who will experience sexual assault in their lifetimes, the ones who have to work twice as hard in male-dominated careers, the ones who are undervalued and underpaid for having a vagina and ‘emotions,’ and stand up for them. Feminism isn’t just an American pursuit, either. Think of female oppression worldwide. Get outside of your own perspective, get educated, and use that voice that feminism gave you in the first place to stand up for equality.
Not all women agree with my ideas on feminism. And they don’t have to. Feminism is about equality, but if your experience with men and your opinions on the female body are different than mine, that is okay. I’ve had large breasts since elementary school, and I might have a very different take on how I’ve been treated and slut-shamed than other women. I do ask, though, that you respect my experience when I say I face almost daily harassment because of my body type and maybe what outfit I chose to wear that day, instead of claiming I hate all men or should conceal the body I was born in. I’m not demanding that anyone see the world as I see it. I am asking everyone to listen to my stories and those of other women and understand that there is a problem. You’d think the internet would be the perfect place to share these relevant anecdotes. But, it can be the worst.
In the age of the internet, you can access all the information in the world, but that includes misinformation. Vicious misinformation and hate. Look at the “I don’t need feminism because…” women. I don’t need feminism because I can empower myself? You know why you can do that? FEMINISM. I don’t need feminism because I respect men and their issues? Welcome to the club! One could simply tell them to look into what feminism has done for women and men throughout history, but this new mythical straw man (woman?) that is “3rd wave feminism” is the internet-born antithesis to feminism. It’s not real. Feminism is and always has been about the same thing: gender equality. We just have louder voices now, and we have feminism to thank for that.
But, as is shown by some of today’s most popular misperceptions of feminism in this country, we still have a ways to go. Worldwide, we have even farther.