In light of the Women’s Marches and the new administration, I have been seeing a lot of articles floating around social media about feminism. Most of these articles seem to miss the point of what feminism actually is, only skimming the surface of the movement by judging protestors based on their hats shaped like vaginas, or just by making fun of them and calling them snowflakes. As a feminist, who thinks of herself as educated on and passionate about the topic, I’d like to break down what feminism means to me.
1. Feminism is about intersectional equality.
Feminism is the theory of the political, economic and social equality of the sexes. Intersectionality, first defined in 1989 by Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw, is the study of overlapping or intersecting social identities and related systems of oppression, domination or discrimination. Not in either of these definitions do we find feminism as making women more important than men. The goal of feminism is not to belittle or degrade anyone but to recognize that there is a demand for equality for many groups of people. The notion that feminists as a whole are trying to make women significantly better than men is unreasonable. For years, women, people of color, members of LGBTQ+, immigrants, etc. haven’t been equal and that’s why we need feminism.
2. Feminism is about removing the patriarchy.
Patriarchies are social organizations marked by the supremacy or importance of men which allows for the significant control of society by men. Feminism recognizes that men, specifically those men who are white, are often the ones in power (just look at the picture below showing the United States House of Representatives). Men get hired for more jobs than women. Men make more money than women, allowing for some women to have no other choice other than to rely on men. Men, in general, are more respected than women. The goal of feminism is to dismantle this structure that gives men significantly more power and replace it with something that gives people the same level of respect as human beings and allows everyone to be more equal. This seems like a daunting task but big dreams can often lead to big results.
3. Feminism is a celebration.
Feminism means a celebration of identity, culture, life, love, past, present and future. We celebrate our bodies and our autonomy, even if it’s threatened at times. We celebrate our right to choose whatever path in life we are able to choose. We celebrate life by celebrating people of all backgrounds. In my view of feminism, anyone of any political, religious, social or economic background is welcome. So what if someone wants to wear a hat shaped like vagina? So what if they don’t want to shave? So what if another person doesn’t identify as male or female and they want to dress however they feel comfortable? It’s not our place to say what someone can and cannot do with their choices and feminism creates an environment where you can choose to do whatever feels right to you. Feminism is a celebration of our ability to be whoever we want.
4. Feminism won’t be going away anytime soon.
Believe it or not, we still need feminism. Many will claim that women don’t have it that bad. In the United States, we can vote, wear pants, work, drive cars and the list goes on. However, that doesn’t mean the patriarchy has gone away to some distant land. I understand that some women might not feel the effects of patriarchy. Some women are more privileged than others and no one faults you for that. Even though some of us do have more rights and privileges, we must recognize that there are many who do not share in these rights and privileges, and then we fight for them. We cannot ignore the women that are still extremely affected by the patriarchy. For example, we cannot ignore the people in cities and towns without access to the healthcare they need because it isn’t considered “traditional healthcare.” We cannot forget that there are women and children around the world who are not allowed to receive education or fair wages. We must look beyond our own small bubbles of existence and expand our view to the world community. We must recognize that the fight for equality of all people is not over and we must accept that feminism can help achieve that equality.
I ask you to keep these four points in mind the next time your best friend from middle school shares an article on some social media platform about why feminists are evil. I ask you to remember those who might not experience the same privileges you have. I ask you to educate yourselves. Find your local radical feminist and start asking questions before you start calling people snowflakes with stupid vagina hats and signs. I ask you to remember that a woman’s place is in the resistance.