Fallacies About Feminism

Feminism (feh·muh·ni·zm). Noun. “The theory of the political, economic and social equality of the sexes.”

Well, now that we’ve established that, I’ve got a question: Why is the word “feminist” used as an insult?

Usually, asking someone if they believe women should earn the same pay as men will warrant an answer of yes. They’ll probably have the same answer if you ask them if they believe women should be allowed to pursue a career rather than be a stay-at-home mother. In the U.S., generally most people are receptive to these ideas.

Now, try asking them if they identify as a feminist.

That might change the answer up a little.

Any time “the F word” sneaks into the conversation, suddenly there is a shift in the air. Why? Well, it’s probably because of the many misconceptions pushed by society and pop culture about what feminism is and is not.

The main fallacy appears to be the idea that feminists hate men. I can’t speak for everyone, but feminism as an ideology does not promote the animosity of men. Rather, it aims to encourage the dismantling of the patriarchy and the paradigm of its systemic inequalities.

Stemming off of this, the word "patriarchy" does not mean men, either. The patriarchy is the system that overtly and inadvertently gives men privilege over womxn in the political, economic and social sense.

The patriarchy does not benefit womxn, which is why feminists advocate for equality of the sexes. However, it’s also important to note that the patriarchy serves as a double-edged sword for men, too.

Men, under the patriarchy, are expected to fit this system’s definition of a man. In other words, they must be powerful, callous, strong, aggressive, athletic and dominant.

Not every man fits this mold. That does not make them less of a man.

Feminism fights to get rid of a system that promotes toxic masculinity. It fights to get rid of a system that tells little boys they can’t play with Barbies because they’re “girl toys.” It fights to get rid of a system that tells men that crying and feeling emotions is for the weak and for womxn, which thereby equates them as men’s inferior.

Another misjudgment about feminism’s philosophy involves the stereotypical image about what a feminist looks and acts like. From an uneducated outsider’s perspective, feminists are angry and conventionally unattractive people that fight the establishment because it doesn’t service them. In other words, they resent the system, but “would play the patriarchal game if they could.”

Not only is this mentality insulting, but it reinforces the glorification of women’s value being tied into their beauty.

Gloria Steinem, one of the most famous feminists, helped to change this stereotype. During her time of prominent activism in the early 1970s, she was a young, conventionally beautiful and intelligent woman with radical views and a lot to say. Her fellow feminists did not support her displays of femininity, but she remained strong in her opposing beliefs.

Second-wave feminism rejected the stereotypical fashion of women, scorning upon “girly” things like lipstick, painted nails, mini skirts and high heels as byproducts of the system that oppresses them. However, feminism has changed quite a bit, and those that identify with the third wave of the ideology have a different idea about how to dismantle the system.

Third-wave feminism, rather than focusing on rejection of, focuses on reclamation of tools the patriarchy has used to stifle or hold womxn down.

Pop culture influenced this ideological change to a degree.

The plot of "Legally Blonde" debunks the notion that a young, beautiful woman who enjoys being in touch with her femininity is capable of nothing more than looking good. It reclaims beauty standards and uses them as an instrument of confidence rather than a hindrance, which is what second-wave feminists would have seen them as. By the end of the film, viewers understand it’s a movie about “girl power” and have learned a lesson about not judging a book by its cover. Along with this, third-wave feminists have grown to acknowledge and be proud of “girlyness.”

So, no. Feminists are not foaming at the mouth to talk trash about men and claim superiority over them. Equality is, and always has been, the goal.

There is no “right answer” to what feminists believe, as many waves of feminists coexist today. However, one thing has always been true: Men are not the enemy. The system is.