Feminism: A Misunderstood Definition

Feminism: A Misunderstood Definition

The word is synonymous with gender equality. Here's how.
6612
views

Few words in the English language spark more heated debate than the word feminism, a word with a double meaning and an expansive gap between the word’s actual definition and that by which society has defined it.

The result of the spreading of this misleading word’s inaccurate definition has led to miscommunication and much controversy; society’s warped understanding of feminism has caused prejudice and has unfortunately altered the word’s meaning to represent a movement that seeks female power and the ultimate destruction of male power. The word feminism has, to many, come to be synonymous with misandry. In fact, the word has potential to be quite misleading and has misled much of society’s understanding. In spite of the negative connotation undoubtedly often associated with the word regarding the destruction of the male gender and glorifying of the female gender, the altered definition of feminism is a result of a few radical belief sets defining a movement much grander than just a few. While society’s preconceived notion of feminism has acquired negative connotations over the years, and the word has come to mean the superiority of the female sex, this concept is a far cry from the true definition of the word: the equality of the sexes.

Despite the fact that in America and other Western countries, some of the more significant issues regarding gender roles involve objectification, Middle Eastern countries face a much more violent debate on gender, where even the idea of women learning to read and write is cause enough for deadly riots or even terrorist attacks. It is this type of world view that emphasizes why feminism stands for more than just female empowerment, that it also represents the need for society to understand that females are more than just objects of desire and that males are more than just those who control the females. In other words, rather than “destroying all men,” as society so often perceives the meaning of feminism, one would more accurately describe the term as both empowering women to become more independent and modifying societal expectations of both genders, male and female alike.

Although many understand that feminism does indeed mean the independent nature and empowerment of the female gender, what many may miss is that it also means the removal of masculine societal restrictions including stoic strength, lack of emotion, and the objectification of women that men are expected to uphold. This misled understanding results in the altering of society’s holistic view on the female gender as inherently weaker, as women are contrastingly expected to fit a very different gender role consisting of remaining ladylike, serving their husbands, and generally catering to the male gender with regards to leadership roles. For example, women, unlike men, are often reduced to sexualized icons, at least in Western culture. More specifically, female celebrities are easily criticized according to fashion choices or body type, whereas their male counterparts are less judged on appearance. Modern tabloid covers are riddled with headings akin to “Lose 10 pounds today!” or “Get the summer body you want!” and are heavily advertised with scantily clad women who often are unnaturally thin and free of all natural flaws; the media manipulates society’s interpretation of women through use of computer editing software and clever studio modifications, which creates unrealistic standards for females.

This is not to say that males are not criticized on body type because yet again, media coverage of conventionally attractive males being tall, lean, and muscular also sets unrealistic goals for men to achieve. The difference between the unrealistic goals men face and those faced by women lies in centuries-old societal norms that women are expected to alter their appearance in order to cater the wishes of men, a fact supported by evidence as simple as the terms used to refer to those who live single lives. While a single, middle-aged man may be referred to as “a bachelor” or “independent,” women of the same age who remain single are considered undesirable and are referred to with more negative terms such as “cat lady” or “old maid.”

While the definition of feminism entails the equality of the genders, society’s view of the word has evolved into something quite different, as most would define the word feminism as the superiority of the female gender. Moreover, some “feminists” are misandrists in thinly veiled disguise (misandry meaning the belief that men are inferior to women) and claim that women would be better off without men. Sound familiar? While feminism is truly about more of an equal perspective on genders, the definition many associate with the word feminism is more accurately described as misandry. This false definition is widely accepted and is easily the reason the word feminism has acquired such a negative connotation. This is why, perhaps, the word feminism is such a misleading term, since the root “fem” is reminiscent of the word female, and to the ear sounds as though it literally means the superiority of the female gender.

It is true that society is generally prejudiced against the female gender, not just historically, but even in the modern world, as evidenced by various cultures’ treatment and expectations of women. Issues with gender have shifted over time to issues primarily involving social roles as opposed to civil rights issues in most modernized countries such as the United States, where laws are in place regarding equal pay, the right to vote, and the right to education. However, women in Middle Eastern countries, for instance, lack many of the rights to which males have the privilege. Feminism is by nature opposition to both misogyny (the idea that men are greater than women) and misandry (the concept that women are greater than men), yet the feminist movement is one whose definition has become inadvertently warped in its spreading through society.

The word feminism has evolved from its original meaning of equality of the genders to fit a negatively connoted word whose meaning is not unlike that of the word misandry; although society’s interpretation of the term has shifted its meaning, the word remains subject to debate. Unfortunately, the belief in this misunderstood definition is widely supported and is difficult to debunk, as a growing population may continue to globally perpetuate gender roles and continue to look upon the concept of feminism with disdain, huffing that the concept feminism is equivalent to wishing death upon the male gender. The subjective definition of the word feminism has been a topic of debate for years, perhaps centuries, and with various arguments over what the word means, the true meaning of the term for gender equality is lost in the waves as the ship that is language voyages boldly on.

Cover Image Credit: European Movement International

Popular Right Now

I'm The Girl Without A 'Friend Group'

And here's why I'm OK with it

534619
views

Little things remind me all the time.

For example, I'll be sitting in the lounge with the people on my floor, just talking about how everyone's days went. Someone will turn to someone else and ask something along the lines of, "When are we going to so-and-so's place tonight?" Sometimes it'll even be, "Are you ready to go to so-and-so's place now? Okay, we'll see you later, Taylor!"

It's little things like that, little things that remind me I don't have a "friend group." And it's been like that forever. I don't have the same people to keep me company 24 hours of the day, the same people to do absolutely everything with, and the same people to cling to like glue. I don't have a whole cast of characters to entertain me and care for me and support me. Sometimes, especially when it feels obvious to me, not having a "friend group" makes me feel like a waste of space. If I don't have more friends than I can count, what's the point in trying to make friends at all?

I can tell you that there is a point. As a matter of fact, just because I don't have a close-knit clique doesn't mean I don't have any friends. The friends I have come from all different walks of life, some are from my town back home and some are from across the country. I've known some of my friends for years, and others I've only known for a few months. It doesn't really matter where they come from, though. What matters is that the friends I have all entertain me, care for me, and support me. Just because I'm not in that "friend group" with all of them together doesn't mean that we can't be friends to each other.

Still, I hate avoiding sticking myself in a box, and I'm not afraid to seek out friendships. I've noticed that a lot of the people I see who consider themselves to be in a "friend group" don't really venture outside the pack very often. I've never had a pack to venture outside of, so I don't mind reaching out to new people whenever.

I'm not going to lie, when I hear people talking about all the fun they're going to have with their "friend group" over the weekend, part of me wishes I could be included in something like that. I do sometimes want to have the personality type that allows me to mesh perfectly into a clique. I couldn't tell you what it is about me, but there is some part of me that just happens to function better one-on-one with people.

I hated it all my life up until very recently, and that's because I've finally learned that not having a "friend group" is never going to be the same as not having friends.

SEE ALSO: To The Girls Who Float Between Friend Groups

Cover Image Credit: wordpress.com

Related Content

Connect with a generation
of new voices.

We are students, thinkers, influencers, and communities sharing our ideas with the world. Join our platform to create and discover content that actually matters to you.

Learn more Start Creating

Abortion Bans Are Only A Small Part Of The Republican War On Women

These bans expose the Republican Party for what it truly is.

181
views

This week, several states passed laws that ban abortion after six to eight weeks of pregnancy, before most women even know that they're pregnant. The most egregious of these is Alabama — the state has banned abortion except for in cases of danger to the mother. Exceptions in the cases of rape and incest were actively voted against by the state legislature. Under the new law, any doctor who is caught giving an abortion would be sentenced to 99 years in prison, and the woman would be charged with murder.

Apart from the fact that this explicitly violates the decision of Roe v. Wade (which is the point), this is only a small part of the slow but steady degradation of women's rights by Republicans in the United States. To anyone who believes that this is simply about people being "pro-life" or "saving the children," then tell them to look at what happens after the fetus is carried to term.

Republicans oppose forcing fathers to be involved in the lives of their children that were forcibly carried to term, desires to cut food stamps and make it more difficult to feed said child, cut funding for affordable housing to make it more difficult for them to find homes, cut spending to public education so these children can't move up the social ladder, and refuse to offer the woman or her child health insurance to keep them both healthy. What about efforts to prevent pregnancy? Republicans also oppose funding birth control and contraception, as well as opposing comprehensive sexual education. To them, the only feasible solution is to simply keep your legs shut. They oppose all of these things because it is, in their eyes, a violation of individual rights to force people to do something. The bill also makes women who get abortions felons, and felons can't vote. I'll let you finish putting those two together.

If you view it from this framework, it would seem like Republicans are being extremely hypocritical by violating the personal freedoms of pregnant women, but if you look at it from the view of restricting social mobility for women, then it makes perfect sense. The Republican dogma of "individual rights" and "personal responsibility" is a socially acceptable facade that they use to cover up their true intentions of protecting the status quo and protect those in power. About any Republican policy, ask yourself: does this disperse power or consolidate it? Whether it be education, healthcare, the environment, or the economy, Republicans love to keep power away from the average citizen and give it to the small number of people that they deem "deserving" of it because of their race, gender, wealth, or power. This is the case with abortion as well; Power is being taken from women, and being given back to men in a reversal of the Feminist Movement of the 1970s.

Republicans don't believe in systemic issues. They believe that everyone has the same opportunity to succeed regardless of what point they started. This is why they love capitalism so much. It acts as some sort of great filter in which only those who deserve power can make it to the top. It's also why they hate social policies; they think that helping people who can't help themselves changes the hierarchy in a negative way by giving people who don't "deserve" power, power. Of course, we know that just because you have money and power doesn't mean you earned it fair and square, and even if Republicans believe it, it wouldn't change anything because it wouldn't change how they want to distribute power.

In short, Republican policies, including abortion, leave the average American with less money, less protection, less education, worse health, less opportunity, fewer rights, and less freedom. This is NOT a side effect. This is the point. Regardless of what Republicans will tell you about "inalienable rights" and how everyone is equal, in reality, they believe that some people and groups are more deserving of rights than others, and the group that deserves rights the most are the ones "that will do the best with them." To Republicans, this group consists of the wealthy, the powerful, and the white — the mega-rich, the CEOs of large companies, gun owners and Christians.

So, who do Republicans think deserve power and give it to? People who look and think like them. This, however, begs the question: Who do they want to take it from?

Related Content

Facebook Comments