The F Word: Misconceptions About Feminism

By Kelsey D’Auben

Let’s talk about the F-word. You know it; the one that make people cringe and shift uncomfortably in their seats when brought up in social conversation. That’s right, I’m talking about feminism. From suffragettes to bra burners to the third wave feminists of today, feminism and those who preach it seem to not only make people go quiet and uncomfortable, they also seem scare people. But why is that? A women, or anyone, pushing for equal rights and treatment amongst all genders doesn’t seem so absurd, especially in today’s modern and progressive society. Unfortunately, it is not the idea of total gender equality that makes people shy and cautious of the word, but the modern misconceptions of what the word actually means.

So what exactly is feminism? The truest definition of the word was famously said in a speech by modern African-American novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (or perhaps more commonly known as the bridge speech of Beyoncé’s hit single “Flawless”) “Feminist: A person who believes in the social, political, and economic equality of the sexes.” A feminist is a person who desires complete equality among all genders, both traditional binaries and not.

“I wouldn’t go so far as to say I am a feminist, that can come off as a negative connotation. But I am a strong female.”

– Carrie Underwood

However, this is not the definition that comes to mind for many people. It is fairly common when people are asked if they are feminist for their response to be “No, I’m not. I believe in equality, not feminism.” These people are contradicting themselves. When this happens they are not saying they are against equality of all genders, but they refuse to identify as a Feminist. This is because they are mistaking feminism for misandry, which is defined by the Oxford online dictionary as “dislike of, contempt, or ingrained prejudice against men.” By definition, misandry is the female equivalent of misogyny.

Feminism isn’t strictly about women. It is about improving societal conditions so all genders may be treated with equality. Although the name does imply that it’s concerns are only “feminine” ones, which is untrue. Feminism was given it’s name because when Feminism first began, and it is still true today, the conditions within society that needed to improve for genders to become equal were those of women, hence the “feminine” in feminism. But there are many aspects of feminism that deal with issues of all different genders. Feminists are not only concerned with issues like equal pay, but also issues such as men and women receiving equal prison sentences, having equal chance of receiving alimony or custody of children in court, and being equals in government and military jobs. Yes, this even means Feminists are okay with being on the front lines and in the draft. Equality means equality, and Feminism isn’t just about women only getting the good stuff.

One of the more recent examples of this occurring in social media comes from vlogger Lauren Southern, who went viral after posting a photo online of herself holding a sign which read “I don’t need feminism because I believe in equality not entitlements and supremacy” She later went on to post a video called “Why I’m not a feminist” that received over 700,000 views on YouTube, and over 19,000,00 when the video was shared Facebook page called “Men’s Right Wing News.” In the video Southern claims that she isn’t a Feminist because Feminism refuses talk about men’s issues, such as domestic abuse and sexual assault of men, because Feminism only focuses on women. When, in reality, a huge part of Feminism is ensuring cases of rape, domestic abuse, and sexual assault being taken seriously and that no victim ever feels afraid to report them, be it a man or a woman. Every argument Southern makes against Feminism is actually an issue feminism talks about and fights for every day. Feminism isn’t about “entitlement” or “supremacy” of women, it is about equality for everyone.

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And Southern isn’t the only “celebrity” who has made this mistake. Several, very prominent, strong, and successful female celebrities have publicly stated that they are not feminists, even though they aren’t necessarily against equality. Country singer Carrie Underwood once said “I wouldn’t go so far as to say I am a feminist, that can come off as a negative connotation. But I am a strong female.” And Icelandic musician and songwriter Björk has said “[I don’t identify as a feminist] because I think it would isolate me… It’s more important to be asking than complaining.” These women believe in feminism and what it stands for, but are too afraid to actually call themselves feminists because they fear the negative identity incorrectly associated with the word.

Being a feminist isn’t a bad thing. It means having the same respect for everyone, regardless of gender or how they identify. It’s about standing up and saying something when prejudices are made based on gender. It is about being feeling confident, comfortable, and safe no matter what your gender is. Feminist isn’t a bad word. So never be afraid to call yourself one.

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