Hey, everybody! It’s your friendly neighborhood feminist here! I’m writing today to talk to you guys about something very important that I don’t think we’re talking about enough: feminism. What a shocker, right?
As someone who has been proudly wearing her feminism on her sleeves for several years now, I hear a lot of reasons why other people aren’t feminists. They always tell me not to worry, because they know I’m “one of the good feminists,” but here’s the thing—there aren’t good and bad feminists. There are feminists and people who wrongly call themselves feminists. I want to clear up a few of the things that really aren’t feminist ideals for you.
1. Feminists don’t hate men.
And, quite frankly, it’s pretty telling that one would assume someone trying to advance the status of one gender must therefore hate another. In fact, feminists only want equality. I’ve said this in an article before, but anyone who tells you that they’re a feminist and that they also hate men has been taught incorrectly on two counts. First of all, we shouldn’t hate men in general, but secondly, hating men is called misandry, not feminism. No part of me will deny that there are people out there who hate men, and what’s more, I know that there are people who hate men and call themselves feminists...but they’re wrong. It’s important that we learn to recognize when someone is misinformed and not let it ruin the image we have of an entire group. In addition, I’ve heard from a lot of people that calling it “feminism,” a word deriving from the same Latin root word as “female” and “feminine,” is confusing. I’m not mad about it, but it’s really not that confusing. When it began, feminism was a movement specifically for women. First-wave feminism helped women to gain basic rights as humans who were just as deserving of those rights as any man. But as the world has grown and changed and new problems have come to light, feminism, too, has grown and changed. The problems feminism was meant to solve then are not the same problems feminism is trying to solve today, but the name and all of its proud history endures. I’m not the same person today as I was when my mom’s OB/GYN pulled me from her womb, but I was named Sophia then, and I’m still Sophia now.
2. Feminists don’t reject traditionally female roles...just the idea that they’re considered traditional.
This one’s for all you ladies who like to cook and clean. It’s for the women who are or want to be or plan to be stay-at-home moms. It’s for those of you who are or want to be or plan to be in a committed relationship to someone who will love you and take care of you and go to work and bring home the bacon. It’s for anyone that thinks of marriage as a goal in their life. Guess what? I love it. I am so happy for you. I genuinely hope you get everything you want, because you deserve it. Feminists aren’t against these things. We’re against the idea that they’re expected. We’re against women feeling pressured to do these things. We’re against any woman having to give up on what she really wants to do so that she can stay home while someone else is out living their dream. All of these things classified as “traditionally female roles” are fine things. There’s no shame in any of them. Being a stay-at-home mom is a job just like any other, and marriage can be a wonderful and fulfilling union. So if these are the things you want, go for it. Live your dream! I support your decision! But know that there’s not a single thing wrong with you if these things aren’t what you want. And if they’re not...don’t do them. Get a job (or a degree and then a job) and live life the way you want to. You can do all, some, or none of these things and still be a feminist.
3. Feminism is not solely for the benefit of women.
My skin crawled a little as I wrote that line. I feel like it’s not something I should have to say to make feminism seem acceptable to anyone reading this. That said, it’s still true. Feminism, let loose on the world to solve the problems it has been working for so long to fix, would benefit everyone. Because I don’t like that I have to explain this, let me be brief. If you think of all of the things that non-cisgender females are ridiculed or considered “less-than” for doing, they all too often are things those doing the ridiculing classify as traditionally female. It can be big things, like who you love or your gender identity, but it also can be seemingly less significant things, like showing emotion or dancing. These things are considered traditionally female, and therefore have an association with weakness or hysteria. The reason they are a problem for everyone else is still because of the perception we have of women, but if feminism succeeds in changing that perception and creating equality, everyone will be better off for it.
4. Feminists don’t burn bras and let their body hair grow wild...usually.
Before I begin, I want to make it clear that I am so very supportive of both of these things. But here's some history for you. In the ‘60s, there was a wave of feminism that involved a little bra-burning, and that image has really carried into today. (Note the way I said “a little bra-burning,” because it really wasn’t that much—though it would still be awesome if literally every feminist in America at the time had burned every single bra they owned.) The reason that image stuck, of course, is because it seemed like a totally crazy thing to do, and it’s nice to be able to pin that “crazy” image on the whole movement as a way to invalidate women who are fighting for equality. When it comes down to it, though, that’s not really a thing anymore. It was a symbol of independence from men; women who went natural instead of strapping the girls in and propping them up were symbolically claiming their independence, and the bra-burning was a part of that. The point is, not wearing bras and not shaving your legs or your pits is no longer focused so much on independence but on beauty. You don’t need those things to be beautiful. The way your boobs naturally lay is glorious, and there is beauty in every single one of your body hairs. I am in full support of anyone who does these things or other things that redefine beauty. It's definitely part of feminism, but it doesn't really define the movement, and you don’t have to do these things to be a feminist—you just have to be cool with anyone who does.
5. You don’t have to be a woman to be a feminist.
You just don’t. I feel like this one is pretty straightforward. I literally don’t care about your gender. (I mean, I care that you’re happy with it, but it doesn’t really matter to me what it is.) Here’s what I do care about: Do you believe in the social, political, and economic equality of the sexes? Do you know the aforementioned items to be true? Cool. Join the club. You’re a feminist now. We’re happy to have you. That was pretty easy, wasn’t it?