5 Misconceptions About What Feminism Means

I had the pleasure of attending the annual Women’s March in Pensacola last weekend. The event was small, which got me wondering why so few people showed up. I grew up near Pensacola, and I remember arguing with friends and family members over what feminism means. Misconceptions in feminism are common, especially in Pensacola. So, here are five feminist myths a lot of people still believe. 

1. Feminism evokes a war of the sexes

Feminism is neither a group of women who want to be valued above men nor a competition of which is the better sex. The definition of feminism is a person who believes in the social, political, and economic equality of the sexes. In short, feminists just want the same rights and opportunities as men.

2. Feminists hate men.

Feminists do not hate men. This misconception can stem from men who are afraid of women becoming their competition. People often try to devalue feminism by summarizing feminist’s factual complaints into just a group of women who hate men.

3. Only women can be feminists.

Feminism is not limited to women. Men can be feminists, too. Every man has some kind of relationship with a woman and it is only reasonable for them to want the best opportunities for the women closest to them.

4. Feminists are against the stereotypical “feminine.”

Feminists are not against feminine stereotypes, such as wearing pink or being a housewife. Feminists are against society telling women how a woman should behave. For instance, a housewife can be a feminist as long as it was her decision to be a housewife, but if she were to decide to be the breadwinner of her family, society shouldn't constrain her.  

5. Feminists are radical and unreasonably angry.

This notion most likely arises from the Miss America Pageant protest in 1968 in Atlantic City, New Jersey. The media described the protest negatively and reduced the protesters to “bra burners.” In actuality, no bras were burned. The protesters gathered at this event with their bras, various forms of pornography and other items that symbolized the male dominated standard of beauty for women. The protestors collectively threw the items away into a trashcan. This protest focused on eradicating the rigid standard of beauty that forbids women from having body hair, tattoos or wearing masculine clothes. The misrepresentation of this protest by the media is what led to the radical stereotypes associated with feminism today.

Final thoughts:

Feminism is often misconstrued because it's breaking boundaries and redefining the social norms of the world. Without feminists of the past who engaged in organized protests, held marches all over their cities or wrote to their members of congress, women today wouldn’t be able to vote or pursue a higher education. The past generation’s feminists have gotten us this far, but the battle for equal rights has yet to be won. 

All photos by Gina Castro.