I hear a lot of misconceptions about feminism from all kinds of people. The more I read about it, the more I learn -- and the more I want to share. Feminism can always improve as new opinions and experiences arise.
First of all, let’s cover the stereotypes and the basics: feminists are not bra-burning, men hating, won’t-take-their-husband’s-last-name, “falsely accusing,” super angry women. We are not saying that men can’t hold the door or buy our dinner. We are not saying women can’t be perpetrators. We aren’t saying all men have it completely easy. We aren’t saying that women MUST get the highest position in her company or that women can’t be stay-at-home moms if they want to.
Women are allowed to be women in the ways that work for them and make them happy. A man being polite, or a man and a woman alternating buying dinner every now and then, is indeed okay. Different variations of feminism exist, and feminism is not what we -- as both men and women -- always think of it.
Feminism is not about equality -- it’s about equity. Equality is treating all people the same, while equity makes sure people have equal opportunities. It levels the playing field when barriers come into play for certain people. Everyone comes from different backgrounds, different experiences, and different levels of privilege that need to be accounted for.
Feminism is supporting other women -- except when it’s not. Feminism is not women blindly supporting all women or using blanket statements. We teach each other because we want the best true support and equity we can provide. We call each other in instead of calling each other out.
For example, some women who are recovering from eating disorders may post before-and-after pictures from their lowest weight to their current, recovered weight. I get why, and I’m proud of their progress, but shining a light on eating disorder recovery can be best served another way. By having that discussion and calling them in, we are being supportive in an effective way.
Before-and-after pictures can imply that people with eating disorders are always skinny. They imply that eating disorder recovery is solely about weight and body image, when it’s a mental disorder with a complex etiology. Before-and-after pictures don't portray recovery in an accurate way: they perpetuate stereotypes and further the idea that if people have eating disorders and need treatment, they must be super thin to get there -- which can be life-threatening, as all eating disorders are serious, regardless of weight.
Many people encounter barriers to treatment, whether that be because of money, insurance problems, or being afraid to go to a doctor because they don’t feel “sick enough.” In this way, feminism means breaking stereotypes and supporting the recovery of women of lower socio-economic status, for example.
I could talk about this for days.
Furthermore, if feminism isn’t intersectional, it’s not true feminism. I’m so over white feminism, and I’m a white woman -- imagine how “over it” people of color feel.
White feminism doesn’t account for transgender women who may have different body parts or can’t live in women’s shelters, and the compounded problems and dangers they encounter because of that. White feminism doesn’t account for the struggles that women who are also of color face. It ignores the fact that Native American women are 250 times more likely to be sexually assaulted.
If I could put numbers in all-capitals, I would.
These problems Native American women face are exacerbated by the stereotype that sexual assault affects only white women. They’re exacerbated by people who wear risque Native American costumes on Halloween that sexualize these women.
White feminism gives credit to white women when it’s supposed to be given to black women. Tarana Burke -- a black woman -- created the #MeToo movement -- and that is hardly ever mentioned.
Intersectional feminism -- the opposite of white feminism -- gives credit where it’s deserved and it looks out for the best interest of all women. It acknowledges the seriousness of not acknowledging feminism when it endangers the lives of people. In addition, intersectional feminism also exists for men.
Intersectional feminism goes against toxic masculinity that says men have to super macho and buff and aren’t “allowed” to cry or enjoy “female sports.” Feminism also supports the whole family as families that include women who are cared for, who carry babies, who contribute to income, and more.
Forms of resistance to feminism fall into a few categories, such as appeals to oneself, to progress, and to authority.
Appeals to oneself -- otherwise known as “Well I don’t assault women!” -- ignores the basic concept that if you aren’t doing something, you aren’t helping, you're hurting. Instead, call in friends who make sexist comments about “a woman’s role” or objectifying comments about a woman’s body. Look out for women at parties who have been drinking -- and don't judge them for doing so.
Appeals to progress -- otherwise known as “But we’ve come so far in history!” -- ignores the fact that we indeed still have problems, such as the safety of women. Yes, we’ve come a long way, but we still have work to do.
Appeals to authority -- otherwise known as “I know better than you!” -- ignores the women who have endured these experiences firsthand. It ignores that each experience is valid.
That’s the point of it all -- feminism welcomes all people. It embraces safety and equity. It calls people in when they could support their passions in a more effective way. It helps create safer situations and benefits all intersections of identities. It’s not white, or ignorant, or angry, or hateful. Feminism is about truly supporting all people in the most effective and validating ways.