Every International Women’s Day, we see posts about female empowerment— scenes from movies, song lyrics, quotes from famous women, and so much more. Celebrating women is something that I personally think is necessary, especially in a world that not so long ago still considered women as second class citizens.
Regrettably, that sentiment is still very much around, which is why the feminist movement has grown, and continues to grow. While I would like to consider myself a feminist, it’s still a complex topic that I feel I can’t completely grasp (which is why I feel unqualified to write this.)
Now, I might not know exactly what feminism is, but based off my own experience, I do have some idea of what it’s not.
Feminism is not misandry
Somehow, the term ‘feminist’ gets twisted to mean ‘man-hater’ too often. And these days, a more callous term that is gaining popularity is “Feminazi”. When women call for equality, men have the tendency to feel threatened— as if equality means we are trying to oppress men as men have oppressed women for centuries.
No, women are simply asking to break free of the patriarchy, and demanding accountability from those who perpetuate it. Particularly, men who exploit and harass women, question women’s credibility, and base women’s worth on men’s standards.
Honestly, as a woman, it can be tempting to propagate the idea that women are or should be superior to men, especially when we are constantly bombarded with misogyny. Even more when the misogynists are so clearly misguided and ill-informed. But resorting to misandry would only damage the already distorted image of feminism, and only work to discourage people from wanting to support it.
Feminism is not dictating what being a woman means
Societal expectations of women are so ingrained in our culture that we might feel like being a feminist just means completely breaking free of them. Yes, women can be more than wives or caretakers or mothers, but that does not mean being one is a step back for feminism.
Having power over ourselves as women doesn’t mean that we can belittle other women’s choices that contradict our beliefs. Some women find fulfillment in a high-powered career. Others find their happiness by raising a family. Women might devote their life to their religion, or their business, or whatever they have passion for. Plenty of women make lifestyle choices that we might never understand or make for ourselves, but it does not make them any less of a woman. (In that same vein: trans women are women.)
Trying to dictate what womanhood entails only creates a new oppressive system that is just as harmful as the patriarchy.
Feminism is not a free pass to mistreat women (or anyone else!)
“So you think women are equal to men? Does that mean I can hit you?” As insane as this might sound, it’s no secret that some people have that exact mindset. When women attempt to subvert patriarchal gender roles, men jump at the chance to degrade them. In their minds, any chivalry, consideration, or even basic human decency towards a woman is undeserved if she is a feminist.
I’ve also seen too many men coming to the defense of women online, only to be met with responses like “she won’t sleep with you bro”, or calling them simps or cucks. All from other men.
Some might pass these statements off as edgy jokes, but it’s no doubt that the sentiments are harmful. Our society wants to keep women in their place, so feminists are made an example to others: “Oh, you want equal rights? Well, this is how men and women who want gender equality are treated. You sure you still want to be a feminist?”
Does feminism still even mean anything anymore?
Yes, with the never-ending discourse around gender equality and women’s rights, it can feel like feminism is just another thing “woke SJWs” like to harp on and on about, or use for clout or political issues. But it is a movement that affects everyone, because it is challenging how our society views and values women.
It’s time to fight against these misconceptions of what feminism is, and show that all feminists really want is for the power to live life the way we want— free of gender norms and societal pressure, earning equal pay for equal work, and without discrimination and harassment.