Five Popular Myths of Feminism Debunk'd

It's funny how when you ask someone if they believe in equal rights for women, they will immediately say yes. But when you ask someone if they consider themselves a feminist, they will hesitate or say no just because they don’t want people to think they are an “angry lesbian who never shaves her armpits and hates men.” (yes this actually does happen)

According to a poll in 2016 distributed by Vox media, 85% of people say that they support equality for women but only 18% of those same people consider themselves feminists. 52% of those people said they were NOT feminists, 26% were not quite sure, and 4% refused to answer.

This negative stereotype of feminism stems from the lack of education we are provided about women’s history and how the media spins feminism into something unflattering. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, feminism is defined as “the belief that women and men should have equal rights and opportunities”. That’s all. And it is kind of sad to see people I know reject the term ‘feminism’ just because they think it has negative connotations. So I decided to debunk the top five myths that people associate with feminism according to the textbook “Women’s Voices, Feminists Visions” by Susan Shaw and Janet Lee.

1. “Feminists are angry, whiny women who have an axe to grind, who have no sense of humor, and who exaggerate discrimination against women”

Although there have been instances in the media where feminists have responded angrily or irrationally to social injustices, those cases should not define all feminists. The label of the angry/violent feminist has GOT to go. Feminism has fought no wars and has killed zero people. So how can you say it’s violent? If anything it’s about ending violence. Between 2001 and 2012 the number of American troops killed in Afghanistan and Iraq was 6,488 while the number of American women who were murdered by current or ex male partners during that time was 11,766.  Overall women are much more vulnerable to being victims of violence like sexual harassment, severe physical violence by an intimate partner, human trafficking, stalking, and sexual assault. Feminists work to decrease these numbers. In the wise words of Michelle Obama, if a woman has something important to say, that does not mean she is bossy or loud.

 

2. “Feminists hate men or want to be like men and selfishly want to create new systems of power over men”

In no way does feminism mean that you hate men. The term to define someone who hates men would be a misandrist, not feminist. Feminism DOES challenge men to understand how gender privilege works for them in society, but it does NOT strive for women to be more powerful or successful. Feminists just want women to be able to be treated as equally as men. CEO of Facebook Sheryl Sandberg spoke on Ted Talk on why men are more likely to reach the top of their profession than women. "Success and likeability are positively correlated for men and negatively for women." said Sandberg. "When a man is successful, he is liked by both men and women. When a woman is successful, people of both genders like her less." This should not be the case. Feminism works for gender equality, so in a way, feminism is beneficial for men too. There is so much pressure on young boys to be successful growing up than on young girls. So no, feminism does not want to push women above men, it wants to equal the opportunities for both genders. Remember, just because you are pro-women, that does not mean you have to be anti-male.

 

3. “All feminists are said to be lesbians, women who choose romantic relationships with other women”

Yes, you can be a lesbian and a feminist. Just like you can also be heterosexual, bisexual, asexual (you name it) and also support the equality of all genders. Feminism supports a women’s choice to be whoever they want and love whoever they want. Although some lesbians are feminists, some lesbians are not. The same can be said for heterosexual women. And if you are “afraid” of being labeled as a lesbian, then maybe you should work on being confident in your own sexuality and who you are. Empowering and uplifting other women does not define your sexuality.

 

4. “Feminists are said to reject motherhood, to consider children a burden, and to have rejected all things feminine” This one makes the least amount of sense to me. Feminists do not reject motherhood, they work hard to try and improve the conditions that women mother under. Some people choose to not have children for their own personal reasons and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. But, with that being said there are still a lot of mothers out there who want their daughters to be able to grow up and have the same opportunities that their brother may have. I know personally, I can’t wait to hopefully one day raise a fierce little hardworking feminist of my own. But in order for that to happen, we need to support women now and challenge our friends to passionately treat everyone equally. In regards to rejecting femininity, there are some feminists that reject hazardous beauty products and practices associated with femininity. But not all feminists do. Mainly, feminism strives to reclaim femininity as something that is valued and respected.

 

5. “Feminism is dismissed as a white, middle-class movement”

Although there is still a lot of work to be done, our society has finally started to come together and be the change we need in this world. More and more social justice movements arise each year that challenge people to hear their call for change. To realize that we are all humans and that everyone just wants to be treated equally. Feminism strives to celebrate diversity and works towards transforming all systems of oppressions in society. On college campuses today, women’s departments and programs are among the most diverse. Some of the most influential feminists are women of color. For example Malala Yousafzai, a Pakistani activist for female education. Tarana Burke, African American activist who founded the #MeToo movement. And yes, our queen Beyoncé, who has had ground-breaking records in the music industry and has inspired young girls all over the world to live fiercely and be proud of who they are. Feminism is and should be for EVERYONE.

 

There are so many reasons why this world still needs feminism. We need it for all the young girls who don’t feel pretty, thin, or loved enough. We need it for the women who are successful and proud, but will never reach the top just because they are female. We need it for all the women who are too afraid to stand up for themselves after being physically or sexually abused. And we need it for the young girls who are the future of our world, to be able to continue to empower and encourage all genders to be equal and kind to each other. So to the people out there, most importantly the women who say they are not feminists… doesn’t it seem kind of stupid not to be on your own side?

Mia Riddell is a 20-year-old journalism major at Illinois State University who is passionate about writing and telling people's stories. When not in class, Mia enjoys reading romance novels, going dancing with friends, and laughing until her stomach hurts. She loves making people happy and tries to spread a little love everywhere she goes. Follow along Mia’s college journey and stay tuned for more articles! Twitter: @miasofiaa

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