My Thoughts on Feminism and the Freedom of Sexuality

Feminism is a term that holds a different meaning to everyone. It also seems to be a point of contention due to the stigmas surrounding the term and the internalized sexism that plagues women from birth. In Roxanne Gay’s Bad Feminist, she compiles a collection of essays that examine the female experience in all capacities and the internal conflict women face in trying to understand themselves and the implications of womanhood. Gay also addresses issues ranging from benevolent sexism in the workforce to the complexities of female friendships to the desire and attraction to men, juxtaposed with the stereotype that feminists are man-haters.

The thing about labeling oneself as a feminist is that people often automatically assume that the person harbors resentment and anger towards men and solely wants to push the “feminist agenda,” which is considered to be illogical and emotionally driven. Obviously, this is not the reality of feminism. The issue is not just with the male perception of feminism, but also with the female herself.

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Women are also guilty of stereotyping themselves and others, which reflects the pervasiveness of internalized sexism. Internalized sexism is a subconscious mindset of misogyny women have towards themselves and other women. It can manifest itself in very subtle ways, one being slut-shaming. The idea that women who actively pursue men are “boy-crazy” or “too reliant on men,” when in reality they are purely acting on their desires, is a patronizing belief and one that further perpetuates a harmful stereotype about women. This brings up the issue of how someone can balance being an empowered, independent woman or person while simultaneously wanting to pursue relationships, of any kind, with men. This may seem like it has a simple, clear answer, as it should be, but what makes this a point of discussion is the internalized sexism that drives the debate. If a young woman has a crush on a guy or hooks up with multiple people, they are labeled as “boy crazy” by other women and are perceived to be not independent or empowered enough on their own. But, if a woman keeps to herself and considers herself a feminist, men view it as a threat and the woman is once again labeled with a negative title. There is truly no winning in the game for either party. 

The idea that supporting women and being interested in men must be mutually exclusive is an antiquated and ignorant ideal because it ignores the most important aspect of female independence: freedom. Freedom to not only pursue their passions and speak their mind but also the freedom to do what they want with their body, which includes owning their sexuality without shame.

It’s ironic— the way that female sexuality can either be a source of power or a mechanism to belittle. By owning your sexuality and becoming comfortable with who you are, the power of beauty and sexuality is taken back from the hands of a society that objectifies and shames women for those very things. And isn't that the entire point of feminism? To take back the narrative that society has set for us and their expectations of women? If someone, of any gender or sexuality, is able to own who they are and live their life freely, without societal norms hindering their self-image, that seems to be the most authentic representation of feminism and its intentions. 

Now, I don’t want to present myself as being the perfect representation of feminism by any stretch; I’ve definitely been guilty of doing the very things I warn against in this article and I certainly am not immune to internalized misogyny but I’ve tried to become aware of those qualities and fight against them. Truthfully, some of the most harmful stereotypes of feminists and women are perpetuated by women themselves. The internalized sexist lens that women may view themselves and others through is what ultimately tears down the powerful, independent narrative that feminism tries to establish. Through slut-shaming or labeling other women based upon what they choose to do with their bodies and freedom, the basic purpose of the feminist movement is negated.

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Women need to support and empower one another in order for any real progress or change to be made as a society and respecting one another’s decisions regarding dating and sexuality is an important step. 

 

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