Why Feminism is Misunderstood

Feminism formally began in 1848, when a group of 300 men and women gathered in the Seneca Falls Convention to rally for women’s rights to vote. It gained popularity in the 19th and early 20th century, as more women around the world demanded the right to vote. But despite being around for centuries, feminism isn’t commonly taught in schools, so there are bound to be misconceptions from both the current and the previous generations. It’s about time we cleared them up, so here are some of the common misconceptions about feminisms and why they are wrong. 


Feminists hate men

This is perhaps the root cause of why feminism is sometimes frowned upon. When you hear the word feminism without context or definition, it’s easy to assume that it means anti-men. This misconception has snowballed into the idea that all feminists despise men, which is why it’s not uncommon to hear people question why feminists have boyfriends or husbands. However, “man-hating” isn’t part of feminism at all because feminism is defined as the belief in and advocacy of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes. It focuses more on women’s rights and interests, and has nothing to do with taking down men. Discriminating or hating men would make it a form of misandry, which is defined as the hatred, contempt or prejudice against men. The two are completely different concepts and shouldn’t be confused with one another. 


Feminists are too angry or aggressive

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, a renowned feminist writer, was told that she sounded “too angry” in one of her articles, but she believes that she has the right to be angry after facing the injustices of gender inequality. The same goes for feminists who are dealing with issues of their own. They have the right to be angry, and that’s not always a bad thing, as Adichie points out that anger is usually the driving force for change. The main reason why it’s considered as a bad thing is because anger is perceived as an emotion that’s  “unbecoming for a woman,” another gendered stereotype that must be phased out. In addition, women who are self-assertive or vocal about certain issues are often labelled as aggressive, while men who exhibit the same behavior are praised for being great leaders. This alone demonstrates the inherent sexism in the norms and beliefs of our society, so accusing feminists of being too angry or aggressive only hinders the path to gender equality.


Traditionally feminine women can’t be feminists

People assume that feminists always have to be career-oriented. They always have to be hustling. They will never get married or have children. They don’t wear bras. They hate the color pink. And they look down on other women who don’t have the same priorities as them. Again, none of this is true because there’s no fixed criteria that dictates who qualifies as a feminist. You could be a housewife who gave up her career to take care of her kids or you could be a career-woman who loves her job and is still unmarried at forty. You could be a tomboy who is sick of gender norms or you could be someone who loves fashion and make-up. It doesn’t matter which type of woman you are, you can still be a feminist. In addition, feminism is about equality, so feminists shouldn’t be the ones to impose standards or hold themselves above others.


Men can’t be feminists 

Just because it’s called feminism doesn’t automatically mean that men are not welcome. Aside from thinking that feminism is a “man-hating” movement, some men also believe that feminism has nothing to do with them and is therefore none of their business. But as the saying goes: “it takes two to tango,” and women won’t be able to achieve gender equality if the men don’t meet them halfway. Perhaps the most well-known feminist movement that involves men is the HeForShe campaign of the United Nations, which aims to enorurage boys and men to join the fight against gender inequality. However, feminism isn’t only about women, as both Emma Watson, the Goodwill Ambassador for UN Women, and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie both talked about how men are also being stifled by standards of masculinity. They are always expected to be “strong men,”  meaning they are not allowed to express their emotions or show vulnerability. They are always expected to be the one to pay for a meal or provide for the family, which distorts both their ego and their mental health. This proves that gender equality is a man’s fight as much as it is a woman’s, so there’s no reason for men to be excluded from feminism.  


Feminism isn’t necessary anymore  because things are better for women now

It’s true, things are better for women now. They have the right to vote, they have access to more career opportunities, and they are able to hold high positions in society. However, just because they have achieved all this doesn’t mean that the fight for equality is over. They might be able to vote, but they are still underrepresented in executive decision-making roles. They might have access to more career opportunities, but they might not be getting equal pay. They might hold high positions in society, but they’re also the ones who are more likely to be scrutinized or criticized by the public. In Chinoy culture in particular, sons are still regarded as more valuable because they are expected to inherit the family business and pass on the family name, while daughters are constantly sidelined and are sometimes even shamed if their actions or choices don’t adhere to tradition. The system is stacked against women, and there’s still a long way to go before gender equality can be achieved, so saying that feminism is no longer necessary is essentially taking one step forward and two steps back.

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