As a young college woman, I’ve had many conversations about feminism both inside and outside of the classroom. In a liberal college setting, I expected to find myself surrounded by fellow feminists; instead, I discovered during my first year that so many young adults have rejected feminism, and for so many different reasons, too. While feminism itself is a complex ideology, and not all feminists think the same, I encountered many convictions about feminism that were simply incorrect. I’ve found that students nowadays are afraid to call themselves feminists, as they only associate the word with man-hating or “cancelling” male stars under #MeToo. Countless misconceptions about feminism make young adults reluctant to join the movement, and it’s about time someone debunked the myths clouding feminism’s good name. Here are five of the most common misconceptions concerning feminism - and what they imply for the movement itself.
Feminists believe women are better than men.
Possibly the biggest myth about feminists is that they put women above men. Because feminists have to fight for women’s rights in order to tip the scale towards equality, they’re often seen as activists who push only for themselves. We have to fight for equal pay, proper representation, and so many other opportunities that men are often bestowed without question. However, all of these campaigns are for rights that we have been denied, or against restrictions put on us for simply being women (the Pink Tax, for example). We uplift women because there are so many cases in which women are suppressed.The idea that women are “better” than men actually completely goes against the actual definition of feminism, which advocates equality.
Sure, there might be a lot of people who call themselves feminists and claim that women are superior to men, but this kind of activism is not true feminism. True feminists endorse human rights for all gender identities on the basis that everyone deserves to be treated equally. Social justice movement are not based on putting one group of people above others- it’s based on breaking down the systems that do.
All feminists are pro-choice.
As I stated earlier, feminism is a complex topic, and one aspect of the movement doesn’t always resonate with every feminist the same way. In an age of intersectionality, people’s political views are often intertwined, leading to much more sophisticated viewpoints and fewer cut-and-dry perspectives. It’s therefore impossible to assume that one person believes a certain set of ideas simply because of their political party. The question of abortion is an example of a divisive issue between feminists: we can’t always assume that every feminist is pro-choice.
Many pro-life women consider themselves feminists, and for some pro-lifers this means advocating life for all, meaning life for mothers and their children. It would be simply incorrect to state that pro-lifers “can’t” be feminists - after all, the whole point of feminism is to enforce that women can do anything. Given that many of the original women’s rights leaders - such as Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony - were pro-life, it would be ignorant of us to claim that no feminists can follow their line of thought, eve
Feminists don’t or can’t care about how they look.
This myth comes from the misconception that women only ever use makeup in order to cover up insecurities. While this is a large reason why some women get into beauty, it is not the only one, and a lot of the time it’s not the one that really matters. Women wear makeup and choose their clothes in order to express themselves, the same way a man chooses a haircut or even the way a child wears their favorite color every day. Feminist or not, no woman needs to justify their reasons for wanting to look the way they do.
In the past, it might have been seen as a “feminist thing” to refuse to wear makeup, much as a little girl growing up categorizes herself as a “tomboy” hates the color pink, or a teenager claims she’s “not like the other girls.” But this type of thinking actually limits women. The way someone presents themselves often has nothing to do with their political values, and it certainly doesn’t serve as some sort of determining factor for their personality.
Only women can be feminists.
In one of my first college classes, we spent an hour discussing feminism. When my professor asked the feminists in the room to raise their hands, only one male student didn’t move.e explained that he simply didn’t think feminism was “his arena.” It wasn’t an area of interest to him, and he thought the scene only women fighting for women’s rights. He eventually came to the conclusion that feminism simply wasn’t a place for him to make any impact.
It’s undeniable that many men feel excluded from the feminist community. And it’s our undeniable responsibility to work to close the breach between all genders so that we can achieve equality. No one should believe that equality is a fight to be left to someone else, or that they don’t have a right to voice their opinions on the battle. Trans women, for instance, make up another community that feminism often overlooks, and it is our task to ensure that their voices and their opinions are heard. Concerning a man’s right to be a feminist, there are some issues I believe men should not touch, such as a woman’s specific jurisdiction over her own body; however, when it comes to problems such as toxic masculinity, or sexism against men, men have just as much of a right to join the conversation as women do.
Feminists think all masculinity is toxic.
This last one is a little tricky, but it’s an important point to make in an era in which we’re just starting to understand toxic masculinity. Feminism isn’t about attacking masculine men, and we should make it clear that there’s nothing wrong with a man who likes appearing “manly” (just as there’s nothing wrong with a woman who enjoys feminine things).
There’s a huge difference between masculinity and toxic masculinity, and the feminist movement hasn’t always made it a priority to clarify this difference. Toxic masculinity puts down any man who doesn’t fit into a macho, strong, emotionless mold; masculinity is simply vocabulary that embraces features that have been traditionally associated with men. These features can be anything from being a family’s breadwinner to opening car doors for women. Enjoying and performing these actions does not make any man inherently toxic or sexist.
I believe it’s high time that we clarify the truths - and debunk the myths - concerning feminism. Though it’s a complicated movement, some assumptions about it are just plain wrong and incompatible with feminism’s message of equality. If any of these clarifications resonated with you, or made you realize you agree with the movement more than you thought you did, it may be high time to realize that you are a feminist, and that you’ve been one all along.