In today's society, feminism is a popular topic of conversation. You may have heard some people referring to themselves as feminists and you may have seen some people bashing those who identify with the term. And at some point in everybody's life, they will hear countless different definitions of what it actually means to be a feminist. I'd like to break down the actual meaning of the word "feminism".
I know that for some people, even just talking about feminism might get them a little fired up. So before I really get into things, I want to explore why that is. Why do some people hear this word and cringe? Why do so many people refuse to identify as feminists? I think most people when they imagine the typical feminist, imagine an angry millennial woman holding up a sign saying how awful men are and how she deserves to be lifted on a pedestal and celebrated 365 days a year. And I won't lie to you, there are people like that. Some so-called feminists have much more extreme views and choose to be much more politically active than others.
But in reality, anybody who hates men and claims that women are the superior gender is not a feminist. They are what is known as a misandrist and they have very different views from true feminists. Merriam Webster Dictionary defines feminism as "the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes". Notice the word equality. Feminism doesn't mean fighting for women to be held in higher respect than men, it doesn't mean completely changing women's role in society. It just means that we are aiming towards a world where men and women can have an equal playing field and be respected equally.
So then why, you might ask, is it called feminism? If feminists are all about equality then why would they name their belief after only one gender? Allow me to explain. The term "Feminism" was coined in 1837 by radical French philosopher Charles Fourier in his writings about the permanent link between women's status and social progress. "Liberty, unless enjoyed by all, is unreal and illusory. . ." he wrote. In 1837 France, women could not vote, own property, or receive a quality public education. As far as the fight for equality goes, women were the ones in dire need of advancement. It makes sense why the movement then, would be named after them.
Unfortunately, even today women do not have all of the same advantages than men do. In 2017, women's median weekly earnings for full-time work were $770 compared with $941 for men. This is just one example of the unfair treatment women receive on a daily basis. So it still makes sense that the movement would be named after women.
Of course, we can hope that someday we will reach a point where men and women are equal politically, economically, and socially. Where we no longer have a need for such a term as feminism. We can do everything in our power to create a society where all people can call themselves egalitarians because the rights of both genders are equally advanced.
But until then, I don't think we should let ourselves fear the word feminism. I think we should consider the place of feminism in our own lives. How can we integrate this fight for equality into our own beliefs? So today I challenge you to try breaking some of the stigma surrounding the word feminism. Sometimes one of the best ways to inspire change is simply by educating those around you.