Common misconceptions too many people have about feminism

In her now famous UN speech, Emma Watson said that deciding to be a feminist was “uncomplicated” for her. I had the exact same experience.

I consider myself very lucky that when I was 16, I had an amazing English teacher who introduced me to the concept of feminism. I’m also incredibly lucky that from a very young age, my parents encouraged me to do the things I wanted to do, be those things football, ballet, or anything else! So, like Emma Watson, when I was finally introduced to feminism, it just seemed like the most natural viewpoint to take, there was no question in my mind. It simply made sense.

Unfortunately, not everyone in the world had my English teacher, and there are a great number of people who do not understand the true definition of feminism. In many instances it’s been turned into a dirty word, an unpopular word. (Case in point: Time Magazine’s recent poll suggesting a ban on the word ‘feminist.’) I’m sure anyone who’s had as many heated discussions with friends as I have on the issue, would agree that it can be pretty frustrating! So, this is my run-down of some of the most common misconceptions about feminism that I’ve come across lately . . .

Feminists are all women
Just ask this lovely bunch of famous gentlemen, feminism is 100% not a female exclusive movement. This is probably THE most common misconception about feminism; so often I hear ‘I wouldn’t call myself a feminist, I’m a man!’ But if you believe in equal rights for both men and women, regardless of your gender, you’re a feminist.

Speaking of men, don’t all feminists hate them?
No! This seems pretty self-explanatory after that last paragraph, but just to reiterate, many men are in fact feminists. Also, many feminist women are in happy, loving relationships with men (myself included, with one of those not-so-mythical male feminists I was telling you about!). The feminist movement is not ‘anti-man’ so much as it’s anti the patriarchal society we live in, which has historically favored men. You can be a feminist and still love men as fathers, brothers, partners, sons, friends, and fellow human beings.

But feminists do think women are better than men, right?
Not only do us feminists not hate men, we also don’t believe that women are better than them either. Feminism is about equality between men and women, something that is yet to exist in the world. Some people seem to think, perhaps because of the ‘fem’ prefix, that feminism seeks to bring men down from their positions of power, when in reality it’s about correcting the power imbalance and affording women the same opportunities as their male peers.

Feminism and equality are different things
Actually, feminism and equality are the same thing. Being a feminist means believing that men and women should be treated equally, regardless of gender. Sexism affects half of the entire population of the planet, so naturally the fight for gender equality includes individuals who are also victims of racism, homophobia, classism, and other forms of discrimination.

The feminists of the 1960s burned bras
One of the most famous myths about 1960s feminists is that they burned their bras at a protest, but this is not true! At the 1968 Miss America pageant, a group of feminists gathered to protest the oppressive beauty standards of American society. They threw a whole bunch of items that they deemed oppressive in bins; mops, Playboy magazines, make up, high heels, girdles, and indeed, bras . . . But they never actually set fire to any of them!

And finally, the big one: sexism is no longer an issue
I could write a whole separate story on why feminism is still an important issue and the ways in which sexism still exists, but here’s a summary. Women still earn considerably less than their male peers. Women are underrepresented in politics, media, and business through a lack of females in high positions in these fields. Women’s rights to their own bodies are frequently being questioned. And perhaps worst of all, the statistics for domestic violence against women and girls are deeply disturbing.

Feminism has been misinterpreted and misrepresented in many different ways throughout the history of the movement, but hopefully the increasing amount of exposure it’s getting will spread the word. Feminism isn’t a dirty word, it merely means equality.


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