I was raised in a household with 7 other females (my mother and 6 sisters) so I was always surrounded by inspiring and loving women. So naturally the rights and interests of women in general have always been of the utmost importance to me. I whole-heartedly consider myself a feminist. But I often encounter negative, sometimes hostile, reactions to this identification.
Negative responses range from eye-rolling and laughing to heated arguments about the necessity and grounds of feminism. And, frustratingly, these reactions often come from people who are usually very intelligent and articulate. I find it difficult to comprehend that a movement that has benefited our world so greatly, and continues to do so, could be so incredibly misunderstood and under-appreciated. So I want to just clarify some of the misconceptions surrounding the ‘crazy-bra-burning-agro-violent-ball-busting’ world of feminism.
First of all, here is the DICTIONARY DEFINITION of feminism (you’re welcome) :
The advocacy of women’s rights on the ground of the equality of the sexes.
If everyone fully understood this definition, the majority of the world would consider themselves feminists. But over time the term has developed negative connotations preventing people from identifying with or appreciating the amazing work done by feminists. And I fear that this attitude is growing more and more.
A survey done in the US in the 1990s found that “more people believed that aliens had visited America, than believed being called a feminist was a positive description”. Um, what?? This may seem ridiculous to some (like me) but this type of thinking is still alive and well today.
In 2013, an online phenomenon called “Women Against Feminism” appeared on Tumblr. On this page women would share photos of themselves holding signs with their reasons for opposing feminism. Most of these reasons stemmed from a severe lack of understanding for the term or were based on a few radical feminist extremists whose views are not shared by the majority of feminists. Below are some statements made by people against feminism, and the myths that they are based on – and we’re gonna bust ’em one by one.
Myth No.1: Feminists are all career-driven and are against those who are not.
“I don’t need feminism because I want to have a choice to stay at home and not work. But I don’t want to be judged.”
The intention of feminism is not to force or shame all women into work – it is to ensure that they have the choice and the opportunity to do so, if they wish. It is not attempting to belittle or judge stay at home mothers, it is merely arguing that it is not a woman’s only option, and that they should be offered the same career opportunities as men.
Myth No.2: Feminists hate all men.
“I don’t need feminism because I am not a delusional, disgusting, hypocritical man-hater!”
Feminists do not hate men. It is, in general, a hate-free movement. Feminism seeks to celebrate and empower women, not to demonize or discriminate against men. Feminism does not blame all men for gender inequalities. Attempting to eradicate gender privileges and injustices is not a hateful idea. Having said that, what we do hate are the actions of SOME men and the social privileges granted to them.
Myth No. 3: Feminists want superiority, not equality.
“I don’t need feminism because I believe in respect and equal rights.”
THE ENTIRE GOAL OF FEMINISM IS TO ACHIEVE EQUALITY. I cannot stress this enough. Feminists are not power-thirsty women fighting for matriarchy. We just want equality between men and women in all respects. This should not be a threatening concept. The reason it is called feminism and not humanism is because in order to achieve equality, it is the rights of women – the underprivileged gender – that must be advocated for.
Myth No. 4: We no longer need feminism.
“I don’t need feminism because I am not oppressed – I am freeeeee!”
This argument frustrates me more than all others. Yes, we have come a long way in terms of women’s rights, but to say that inequalities no longer exist is simply incorrect. I’m glad that this particular woman feels as though she is not oppressed (oh and by the way, she has past feminists to thank for her freedom and opportunities – right to vote? Thank feminists! Right to divorce? Thank feminists! Right to a safe abortion? Thank the feminists! The list goes on…). But not everyone is as lucky as her. Women’s rights are still being abused all over the world, including here in Australia, and feminism is essential in stopping this. Feminism is not trying to label women as ‘victims’ but rather empower them to the same extent that men are empowered.
For people who view feminism as an unnecessary, out-dated practice here is a list of not-so-fun facts involving gender discrimination today:
- The national gender pay gap is 15.3%, with women earning on average, $253.70 a week less than men.
- Women are two and a half times more likely to retire in poverty than men.
- 49% of mothers report experiencing discrimination in the workplace at some point during pregnancy, parental leave or their return to work.
- Women make up less than one third (30.1%) of all federal, state and territory parliamentarians in Australia. Women are under-represented in national parliaments in most countries.
- Only 7% of the top 200 Australian company CEO’s are women, and over half of those companies have no women in the key roles that might lead to the top job.
- More men named Andrew run big companies than ALL women.
- 1 in 3 workers in Australia have been sexually harassed at work in the past 5 years.
- Domestic and family violence is the leading preventable contributor to death and illness in women aged 15-44.
- 62 million girls around the world are denied an education. Girls are four times more likely to be out of school than boys from the same background.
- 18 million girls aged 15 to 19 are victims of sexual violence – often leading to school dropout and reinforcing cultural practices such as early marriage.
- About 16 million girls aged 15 to 19 and some one million girls under 15 give birth every year—most in low- and middle-income countries.
- It is estimated that every year 15 million girls are married before they turn 18.
- Human trafficking is the world’s fastest growing crime, with 71% of victims being women and girls.
- On average, one woman a week is murdered by her current or former partner.
- 1 in 3 Australian women have experienced physical violence since the age of 15.
- 1 in 5 Australian women has experienced sexual violence.
Feminism is working towards changing these figures, for a better, safer future for everyone.
So whatever your reason is for being against feminism, make sure first that you fully understand the term. Do not assume that all feminists are the same, or have an ulterior motive.
And if you are not opposed to the idea of feminism but would not personally label yourself as a feminist, ask yourself why? Because if you believe that everyone should have equal opportunities, you are a feminist. If you believe everyone should be paid the same for equal work – guess what – you are a feminist. And if you believe everyone deserves the same level of respect, YOU are a feminist. Welcome to the squad.
Maddy regularly writes for Rosie, and is passionate about music, history, art and gender equality