There is a whole lot of uncertainty of what exactly feminism is. The exact intentions and meaning of the movement have become distorted by the media, radical feminists/"feminazis," and men who take feminism as an affront to their masculinity.
So let's get this very clear right now: Feminism is about giving ALL* women the same, equal rights and opportunities that men receive.
To give you an exact definition, courtesy of Merriam-Webster Dictionary:
1: the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes
2: organized activity on behalf of women's rights and interest
*ALL meaning women of every race, class, sexuality, and religion, not just straight white middle-class women. More on that later.
Feminism isn't just protesting, marching, and major acts of defiance.
This is apparently what a lot of people seem to think feminism is and honestly, it's frustrating. These are just part of the feminist movement, not the whole thing. Just like with every movement, you need public acts to put a message out there and start the ball rolling.
Feminism is talked down upon because people often don't fully understand what it really is. There's the common misconception that feminism is about being better than men, which is blatantly wrong. That's like saying the Black Lives Matter movement is saying black lives are better than white lives, when it's really saying black lives are just as important as white lives. Feminism is about creating a society where women can be viewed as equal to men, not lesser than. Not objects.
"But we don't need feminism anymore, women are treated much better now than they used to be! They have much more rights now!"
That's so great - but "better" and "more rights" doesn't mean all women are treated better, let alone as they deserve to be treated - as human beings. That doesn't mean women have all the same rights men do. Shit, women are slapped with laws controlling their bodies (*cough abortion cough pro-choice*) and necessary medications to survive (*cough birth control coverage rollback*), but you'd be hard pressed to find such laws on men.
Can we also talk about how most women who say this kind of stuff are women who, dare I say, don't need feminism as much as other women do? I'm very aware of how that sounds, but let's face it: some women need the feminist ideology to be a reality so much more than other women.
These women who claim we're already equal neglect to recall the many women, especially women of color, LGBTQ women, lower-class women, and religious women, who are still disenfranchised and treated in sexist manners. Who are marginalized even within the feminist movement. Modern feminism is primarily white middle-class feminism, and the movement needs to work more on being more intersectional, working towards change and equality for all women.
Speaking of religion: for the love of god (pun intended), please don't go preaching how "God intended man to be the provider and woman to support him."
That is what's called a personal belief, not a fact. If you start saying this and back up your statement with Bible quotes, I'm going to say "Stop there, please." Because in that instant, you're placing religious beliefs over feminist ideology. Think of feminism like how church and state are expected to be separate when it comes to government.
That's not to say feminism and religion can't co-exist. But don't forget, we live in a world where not everyone is religious or observes the same religion. Pulling the religion card is essentially pushing your religious beliefs on others, nothing more.
"We don't need to fight the system anymore, there's women bosses and women in power already! We can be in charge!"
Yes, and that's absolutely amazing. We currently have the most women in Congress ever, just to note how far we've come. BUT. Just because some women are making it doesn't mean it's the same for all women.
Women often have to work twice as hard in business settings to be taken seriously by their male coworkers. Just because more women are entering traditionally male industries doesn't mean it's automatically good for them - there's still sexism, sexual assault, and stereotyping facing women in the workplace.
The system you say we don't need to fight anymore is the same one that blames girls for rape/sexual assault.
The system and its various institutions - federal/local government, education, news and social media, social institutions, parents, etc. - are all responsible for shaping the world we live in.
Thanks to the current system, there are boys and men out there who think they can treat a woman not as a fellow and equal human being, but as an object, less than them. The current system means it's considered socially unacceptable for women to have multiple sexual partners/enjoy sex because they're a "slut," but guys can do the same and no one bats an eye.
The #MeToo movement highlights just how many women out there don't come forward about their horrific experiences, because they saw what happened to others who did and were shut down. The current system will do anything to make it seem like it's a woman's fault for being raped or assaulted. Schools' dress codes systemically shame girls for having natural body parts and sexualize them from young ages, rather than teaching boys to be respectful and keep their hands to themselves.
The same system we don't need to fight will do anything to tear down a woman in a prominent position.
Prominent women are critiqued far more intensely than men. Michelle Obama created the School Lunch initiative, the Reach Higher Initiative, and more to help the next generation of America during her time as First Lady...and the media cared more about her arms than everything she did to give back. Just to give you an example.
That's okay. The one thing I will say in response to that is protesting isn't a requirement for being a feminist. It's your choice what you want to do with your life and you don't have to– nor do you need to–feel obligated to protest just to be considered a feminist. Because news flash, feminism isn't just marches and protests.
You'd rather be a stay-at-home mom and let your man do the typical husband duties? That's also okay.
Different strokes for different folks. If that's what will make you happy, no one is trying to say you can no longer do that - and if anyone is, they're spewing crap. Feminism isn't "you can't be a traditional housewife anymore" or "you can't be a feminist and a housewife." Feminism is acknowledging that women can do whatever they want, whether that's being a businesswoman or a stay-at-home mom.
By the way, there's absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to keep to typical husband and wife duties. If it makes you and your husband happy and your relationship is healthy, GO FOR IT. Don't let the incorrect idea that such traditionalist behavior is "outdated," "not feminist," etc. make you feel guilty or bad for wanting that. It's your life and you're allowed to live it how you want. And you can even still be a feminist while doing it!
Feminism doesn't mean that because you're a woman, you HAVE to do things a man would traditionally do. It means you COULD do those things if you wanted to.
It's understanding that you could, that you should be able to do those things if you wanted to and not be viewed derogatorily for being able to do them. For example, knowing how to change a tire. That's typical for guys, but if you're a girl who can change your own tire, why on earth should you wait for a guy to come along and do it??
And if you'd rather let a guy do those things for you, or feel like it's wrong to do things because they're traditionally a "guy's job to do," that's okay. As I'm going to keep saying, feminism is all about what makes YOU happy.
And guys? Feminism's equality applies to you, too.
Feminism in relation to men means getting rid of gender norms and roles. It means not judging boys for wearing more "feminine" clothing or colors, enjoying "feminine" activities, etc. (Again, gender as a social construct.) Feminism for men means not judging men for doing things women traditionally do. My favorite example is how when a woman stays home with the kids, she's being a mom; but when a dad stays home with the kids, he's "babysitting." This shirt says it all:
I do ask that you please remember that just because you don't agree with a certain part of feminism (or any of it), or don't feel like a part of it applies to you, PLEASE respect others who identify as feminists. PLEASE remember that while you may be fine, many other women are struggling and treated as less than equal.
Empowered women empower women.
Just because you are good, doesn't mean others are. Help other women grow stronger and gain the equality we all deserve.