If I asked five different people to define what the word “feminism” meant, I’m almost certain that I would hear back five very different answers. The reason for this isn’t because feminism has many different meanings, depending on who you ask. It is simply because many people do not understand fully the meaning of the word. In today’s society, feminism is a touchy subject – or at least that’s what people seem to believe. However, the complexity of the feminist movement is, surprisingly, not that complex. The basis behind feminism is simple. However, ironically, the exact mentality feminism is trying to change is the exact reasoning behind why people have such a hard time discussing it. Why is that?
There are plenty of misconceptions surrounding feminism nowadays. In almost every article I read, or every discussion I have, I always come across the same arguments.
Feminism is about hating men. Hmm, no. Actually, not even close. Imagine if you will, a spectrum. At one end is the mentality that men are better than women. This is called misogyny. At the other end, is the opposite. The mentality that women are better than men. This is called misandry. And bang smack right in the middle is the mentality that women and men are of equal standing – neither gender is better than the other. Both are equal. This is called feminism. By definition, feminism is the
political, economic, and social equality of the sexes.
So, where did this idea that all feminists hate men come from? Well, honestly, because some individual “feminists” really do hate men. I think it’s safe to say that no one is going to admit that they hate men or women. No one is going to be proud to be called a misogynist or a misandrist. So, the many misandrists of the world find comfort in the feminist movement. They share similar enough ideas. They both strive for the advocacy of women’s rights. They both want society to recognize the importance of women. However, the misandrist movement wants women’s rights to be advocated at the expense of men’s rights. This is where the two diverge greatly. Society, and more importantly, the media cannot seem to distinguish between the two. Oftentimes, remarks made by misandrists who align with the movement become the basis for the arguments against feminism. What we need to understand here is that feminism is about equality, and misandry is about inequality. The end, in this case, does not justify the means. You do not have to be anti-men to be pro-women. And you certainly cannot reach equality by means of inequality.
Feminists only want women to rule the world. Again, no. This idea dates back as far as feminism itself. The 1700’s to be exact, however, it did not become widespread until the late 1800’s. When the first feminists began emerging, they did not want to take over the world. Surprise surprise, what they actually wanted was to be treated equally. Women back then were lobbying for the rights to vote, to own property and to even attend college. And what do you think happened? They were labeled as anti-God, anti-family, and, you guessed it, anti-men. And throughout the ages, this labeling continued. Those in the position of power, who were men, did everything they could to maintain that power. Even if it meant dismissing equal rights. Today, feminists are still fighting for equal rights, but history has taught society that any change to the status quo is dangerous. Change is not dangerous, however, growing up in an unequal society is.
If it’s about equality, then why is it called feminism? Why not just equality? This one is tricky. On one hand, it probably should be called equality. We’re all fighting for equal rights here. But on the other, we are trying to give women the rights that men already have. Historically, men have always had more rights than women. It’s a fact. Women only got the right to vote in Ireland in 1922 – not even 100 years ago. That’s slightly terrifying when you think about it. The word feminism derives from the French word “feminisme”, coined by the French philosopher Charles Fournier. Imagine men and women on two podiums. For this example, men are on a higher podium than women. (You probably can tell where this is going). The goal of feminism is not to lower men down to an equal level with women. The goal is to raise women to the level that men are already at. Feminism resembles the words femininity, and female – because it should. It is trying to show that femininity is just as valuable to society as masculinity. In today’s society, boys are taught to like blue because it’s a masculine color, and girls are taught to like pink for the opposite reason. Boys grow up being told that throwing like a girl is a bad thing, and crying is “for girls”. Before we can even come up with our own opinions of the world, we are spoon-fed these ridiculous ideas regarding gender and the place of women in society. We grow up believing it’s better to be masculine, and that femininity is a sign of weakness. (I’m not going to get too deep into this, because I want to discuss the topic of gender and sexuality at a different time, but you get the idea.) The fact that so many people get angry at the fact it is called “feminism” is the exact reason why we need feminism. Why does it anger you that the fight for the equality of the sexes derives from the word feminine? Why is it so hard for men to call themselves feminists? Is your masculinity that fragile?
What about meninism? You’ve probably seen this word float around the internet at one point or another. It is not only difficult to pronounce, it is difficult to understand. Urban Dictionary defines it as a
mockery of feminism and proves that we can’t request equality without white
men making everything about themselves.
You have to admit, they have a point. Meninism is supposedly about the advocacy of men’s rights? I have no problem with a movement that tries to advocate issues such as domestic violence towards men, or even sexual abuse towards men, which is what I originally thought meninism was about. However, I could not be more wrong. Meninism is a joke, plain and simple. It is a ludicrous movement, created by those who do not understand feminism. It is a childish opportunity for men to confirm yet again, that they are indeed masculine. If you’re a man who wants equal rights for men and women, you are a feminist – and even though it may not seem like it sometimes, there is nothing wrong with that.
Society has come a long way since the 1800’s. Yet, there is a still a very long way to go until we can say that men and women are truly “equal”. In the equality race, I think there’s a choice. You can either stand up and fight for a equitable society for all humans, of all genders. Or you can sit there and complain about how feminists hate men and ignore the inequality issues in society.
It’s your decision.
Image courtesy of: http://aaihs.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/gloria-steinem-with-dorothy-pitman-hughes-1971.jpg