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Articles > Life April, 09, 2015

The new “f” word – Feminism

Rachael Stanton
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‘You’re not a feminist are you?’ asked with a tinge of disgust is something I have heard countless times, particularly since starting University. The usual response along the lines of ‘no, of course not’ is much more disappointing and surprising.

When feminism is merely advocating rights for women equal to that of men, it is somewhat baffling why anyone, particularly women, would so vehemently deny being a feminist. Feminism is not about the ignorant misconceptions that many people have about it, and the sooner that is realised the better.

Photo by Karyn Christner

Photo by Karyn Christner

The Women Against Feminism trend is made up of (mainly) female users submitting explanations of why they don’t need feminism, with reasons ranging from not hating men to needing help opening jars. Many of the reasons submitted do not conflict with the goals of feminism –it isn’t about who opens jars or lifts things and it certainly isn’t about hating men. Gender stereotypes that feminists fight against negatively affect males too. Gender discrimination affects you, male or female, so there is little reason not to support it.

I’m not naïve enough to think there is no negative perceptions surrounding feminism, I appreciate that there are many unpleasant stereotypes associated with feminists. I’m aware by declaring yourself a feminist, by answering ‘Yes I am’ then you may open yourself up to jokes, disapproval, and perhaps abuse. I have both witnessed and experienced this first hand but is this a really a reason to deny the ideology? I would argue not. Though some may argue that the label you choose to use does not matter, I’m not sure that I agree. Whilst people continue to refuse to label themselves as feminist, I believe it fuels the negative perceptions surrounding feminism.

Some people do not believe in feminism purely because they no longer see it as relevant, believing that all the important battles have already been won. If you feel like you have never experienced any form of even mild sexism in your life then I am glad and this most certainly a victory for feminism. However, this is far from a reason to denounce the movement that has given women the right to be considered people, to vote, to use birth control and that has made rape within marriage illegal. Unless you oppose these advances, I would suggest you reconsider your position. If you feel like you have never experienced any form of sexism, I ask you to consider those that do. Though it may no longer be considered relevant here (which I would contest), it certainly is elsewhere.

The fight for equal rights for both sexes has most definitely not been won universally. While girls elsewhere still struggle to obtain equal opportunities for education, whilst girls are still forcibly married under aged, subject to genital mutilation as children and the rate of sexual assault shows no sign of slowing, it is quite clear that there is still a purpose and a place for feminism in the world today. I ask you to remember these girls and perhaps rethink your answer the next time someone asks are you are a feminist.

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  1. Thomas Rickard

    feminist have a singular goal; a society that treats men and women (and non-binary) equally

    so, if you believe in equality, you are a feminist.

    *You might have to explain what you understand feminism to be for people to understand why you identify as one (you are not necessarily a ‘bra-burner’ or a ‘tumblr feminist’)

  2. Chloe Reeves

    I hate it when people do not understand feminism. Recently a girl I know said to me that she agrees with gender equality but not feminism. What struck me then is the vast amount of people who do not understand what feminism is. It is not about women’s superiority just like it is not about oppressing men. It is about the balance of the genders. Both men and women are being oppressed and what people don’t seem to understand is that feminism is trying to equal it out. Women tend to have sexism upon them more often and so the strong will of bringing up women’s rights is not to over take men but to equal them because women tend to have less rights and more sexism. We need to teach this to young women and men from a very early age. I fully believe it should be apart of education.

  3. Hazel Richards

    I’ve been a feminist since I was a little girl, and it’s something I have always been passionate about. I personally don’t understand why the word ‘feminism’ has bad connotations. I think maybe it might be because the word scares men. They’re so used to being catered to, I don’t think they like not being in the spotlight. I feel like if we’re ever going to make progress, we need to move on from petty stereotypes and look at the bigger picture.

    • Michael Hughes

      While most Feminists aren’t full of hatred and willing stupidly, the loudest ones are. Not to mention 3rd party trolls and cash grabbing leaches who only care about making money.

      Say you have 100 being polite and fighting for feminism sanely, and five nut-jobs with megaphones, the megaphones will represent you if you like it or not.

      Then you have the people who don’t care and just want to make money. Person X realises if they scream sexism at pop culture, real of otherwise, people will flood their wallets with money. And when they get caught people will think all feminists are like that, even though person X is not one. If person X is good they will even keep going doing the same thing, making things worse for every one.

      There are countries in the world where woman can’t say that, not because they aren’t discriminated against, because they are treated like animals. Most modern feminists count me taking up too much space on a train, (I have the balance of a drunk dog), more important than all the horrors against women in the middle east.

    • Maximillion

      Hazel –

      “…we need to move on from petty stereotypes…”

      “[men are] so used to being catered to, I don’t think they like not being in the spotlight.”

      Hypocrisy much? 😛

      To be honest, while I understand the importance of feminism, I don’t see why you should have to identify with it to believe in gender equality. In the west the concept of gender equality is so reinforced it’s become ubiquitous. And yes, I realise that this doesn’t mean all battles are won.

      It’s like, should you have to identify with a neologism to declare that you’re not racist? Like if someone says, “Oh you silly thing, you’re not an egalitarian, you’re a NEGROIST! That’s what negroism is, believing in racial equality! Negroism and egalitarianism are the SAME THING.”

      Can you understand how silly that sounds, to use a partisan term like “negroism” to describe racial equality? It sounds anything but equal. Because, perhaps once upon a time, black people were the only ones discriminated against, but now you get “reverse racism” and people favouring non-whites. Tackling that is just as important as tackling good old-fashioned racism. Ditto for gender.

  4. Nancy Beacham

    Whenever people ask others if they’re a feminist, there always seems to be a tinge of disgust. In reality feminism is equality for all, not just women. There needs to be education in schools for people to full understand what feminism is. Women that say they don’t need feminism don’t seem to realise that in order to make the comment about not needing feminism they needed freedom of speech, oh and guess what?- feminism gave they this freedom. People I talk to seem to think that feminism is ‘man-hating’ yet they need to understand that feminism is equality for all, feminists aren’t radical, they’re not going round shooting down men because they feel that women are more superior than them. People need to understand the role of feminism- equality for all.

  5. Pardeep Kaur

    To those who wonder why a word that claims to fight for equals rights of both men and women is focused on the “female” part thus FEMinism – this is because it is feminine traits that people usually treat in a negative way. No matter what your gender is, it is typically female things are seen as bad.

    Secondly, people that counter the idea of feminism by saying that many women in other countries have it worse and have real problems aren’t entirely correct. Yes they might have it worse than us but that’s something that, no matter where we live in the world, is said to women as a way of making them shut up and not ask for better. For example, I am told that I’m lucky that I can at least have a say in who I marry but at the end of the say, I’m still limited to a certain race, gender and culture. Not everyone will understand this unless you belong to certain cultures. I have actually seen other women told by their own relatives that although their husbands may beat them and abuse them, they married her thus allowing her to move to a first world country and get a job so that she could earn money. “It could always be worse”

    I have to admit though, mainstream can be quite ridiculous especially at this time. For example, Lena Dunham criticized Justin Bieber for his new song/video in which he apparently glorifies “rape” even though the whole point of the song is him clarifying what his partner is saying. This is even evident in the video when he only goes ahead with things when she consents and backs off when she doesn’t seem to. What makes it even more ridiculous is the fact that Dunham herself talked about molesting her own sister when she was younger in a quirky, not at all fucked up way…

  6. Megan Gordon

    I think it is the word “Feminism” that confuses people; it makes it sound as if women advertising it are against men. I don’t think people should be looked down on for saying they support equal rights for all and hate sexism but do not agree with feminism. They just do not understand and people should not be judged or put into a stereotypical group because of that.

  7. Logan

    I repulse any kind of sexism, I see there being no reason whatsoever why it should still be an issue, and why people still believe it’s justified. Females should have the same opportunities and men and simmilarly men should have the samemoportunities than woman.

    I also believe that we cannot ignore the fact that men and woman are different. For instance, woman are vastly better at communication (generally). Where as men, are usually better adapted for physical exertion (generally). By generally I mean in the majority of cases. This is not sexism this is just the way we differ from one another. There fore it would be fair to same that the majority of manual labour jobs are done by men and the majority of jobs that require social interaction are done by woman. This is not unfair or unequal oportunities. This is us doing jobs we are better suited to based on our differences. This is not to say that there are no female labourers because I know quite a few my self, that are better at it than most men. This is just based on the balance of probabilities. However I also believe it should be just as easy for a woman to get a labouring job as it is for a man to get a job based on communication. And it would be unfair for an employer to prejudice based on these differences before meeting the candidate which often happens due to human nature.

    Also I don’t believe jokes can be sexist either, for instance the stereotypical joke on men would be that we can’t multitask, and the steriotypical joke for woman I guess, would be related to a kitchen and a sandwich. As long as they are told in the appropriate context and are taken for as only ‘jokes’, then I see no injustice here. This goes for racist jokes as well, I am white and am best friends with a black lad, we exchange racial banter all the time, and we love it. It doesn’t mean to say we are racist because we take this mic out of each other’s skin colour, it means we are having fun and only fun.

    Back to my first point, I am strongly against racism and sexism (not racist and sexist jokes) and believe every one should have equal opportunities in every walk of life.

  8. Katherine

    It is called, and should remain so, feminism because it is feminine traits that are considered inferior. Also, there should be less of a focus on the ‘it helps men too’ side of the argument. Although it does indeed break down gender stereotypes and the gender binary as well, a movement does not need to benefit males in order to be valid. Yes, it is great; it helps makes in the sense it is the only group of people that acualky acknowledge toxic masculinity and things like male rape- HOWEVER, don’t forget all the problems that revolve around these unfortunate phenomena are still based on the concept that feminine qualities and femininity is inferior.

  9. Becca

    Bobbi Jean Shields, as much as I agree with the idea of being an ‘equalist’, which I am as well, being a feminist in under that branch: if you believe in equal rights for all, you believe in equal rights for women as men: they’re not mutually exclusive, you can be (and are it seems) both. 🙂

  10. Bobbi Jean Shields

    I would not describe my self as a feminist. I would describe myself as an equalist. The connotations of the word Feminism automatically makes people think of people fighting for woman’s rights simply from the fact that the word is derived from the word female. In the western world it’s starting to turn the other way where so called “feminists” who are apparently campaigning for equal right demand that there be a 50/50 ratio between men and women to be equal but true equality in the workplace is never a total 50/50 split. I agree there is a place for feminism in countries less developed or where women are persecuted but in developed western countries we should be campaigning for equalism not feminism

  11. ja ja

    Yea

  12. salma Almansoori

    In my opinion, I think feminist is very important for the girls who are married underage , uneduciated, and they are not allowed to say their opinion about what they need or want and what do they feel , both of female and male have feelings and we have raise the voice of the waman , at the same time we have to listen to the male.

  13. Mae

    Very well said, my thoughts exactly. “I believe in gender equality, I’m an equalist”. No, love, you are actually a feminist. And an “equalist” is a made up term, and egalitarian, the actual term, is exactly the same as a feminist. It’s ridiculous.

    • Abbie

      Well said Mae. Maybe feminism isn’t the best word for it but it’s called that because when the movement was founded women needed it more than men did i.e. when women couldn’t even vote.
      Now that the movement helps men as well as women (e.g. by trying to make it easier for men to report domestic abuse and rape) people think the name should be changed. I think they’re just being overly pedantic. The movement has fought for equality since its founding and shall continue to do so, giving it a name change seems pointless and petty,

  14. Jodie Knowles-baker

    My biggest problem is with the word itself. ‘Feminism’ an amalgamation of ‘femme’ and ‘inism’. Now ‘femme’ has, and always will mean ‘female’. How on Earth can a movement that basically calls itself ‘Womanism’ or ‘Femaleism’ claim that it wants equal rights for men and women?!

    There are plenty of words for equality such as Parity, you call it Paritism and I’m all good. You use gender biased language and claim that you’re not gender biased. Leave ‘feminism’ to the radicals, the ‘free bleeding’ ones who obviously know nothing about sanitation, hygiene or manners.

    Yes there’s a pay gap but not because of gender discrimination. You are paid according to your hours, distance traveled and level of qualification. It has been shown that women are more likely to chose degree subjects that interest them or look fun than have earning potential compared to men. Women are more biologically maternal and so chose to take jobs closer to home/family and work shorter hours/travel less distance. (Obviously this doesn’t apply to all women or men so don’t jump on me about that one) On the same note, men who choose paternity over work such as single fathers, often work part time or not at all and travel very little distance to work.

    There is a huge gender bias that already favours women. EG a woman is much less likely to be convicted of rape than a man-in fact I know some men who would feel embarassed to report abuse from a woman-not because women are meant to be somehow inferior but because it’s not commonly spoken about.

    I am all for equality but modern feminism is purely a bunch of women making a point of being offended by everything and making EVERYTHING into a gender issue. If a man beats up another man it’s just a fight, if a man beats up a woman it suddenly becomes so much more serious and a gendered issue. If a woman beats up a man people laugh it off. Post modern feminism is a blight to our country that ONLY serves to create more inequality.

  15. Alana

    Feminism at any time has been seen as something terrible to a large proportion of the population. At every point when feminism has existed, there’s been people against it, both men and women. It may always me this way, so I think the cause should just continue to be fought the way one would fight any cause, regardless of how much people say that they hate I and think it’s “stupid”. A few months ago, a male who we didn’t know was moved into our student house, and he sexually assaulted several of us. However, because it was within a dwelling, the police said that nothing could be done as sexual assault is not illegal when the perpetrator lives in the same house. Of course, this can happen to both men and women, but it makes it clear that there is still work to be done. The word didn’t stop us before, so it shouldn’t stop us now.

  16. Zucchini

    I am quite surprised that one could *not* know the reason why feminism has become such a toxic concept. As others have said, a very large proportion of feminists are advocating concepts that are actually the complete antithesis of their original ideology: equality; they fight for one side and bash the other. A simple search for feminists and judging by preliminary searches you’ll find *most* are bashful, hateful, overly-argumentative, egotistical, narcissists.

    Do you get peace protesters protesting against war by starting them? No.

    Hunger protestors against world hunger by starving people?
    No.

    A movement (arguably a cult now) that protests for equality by splurging hate and inequality to others (#KillAllMen, thousands of feminists calling all men rapists and pigs, etc. etc.) is…urm…pointing it’s own gun at it’s own face a bit, eh?

    I agree with complete gender equality and always have. Two people doing the same thing, be able to do the same thing, should always get equal praise and chances for doing/have done that thing, simple.

    P.S. any mention of FGM or anything like that, it’s a very terrible act, but please open your eyes a bit please, “GM” happens to both genders. It’s a 100% invalid argument for anything “for” females. It’s “against” all genders.

    Thank you, and I hope in the future you understand a bit more, OP.

    Zucchini

  17. Dale Richards

    Rachael, all of your arguments are sound, but you’re arguing in favour of egalitarianism, not feminism. Of course women should be granted the same rights as men in all areas of society, and it’s sad that in many ways this still isn’t happening.

    The reason that “feminism” is becoming a dirty word is not because we think the battles have all been won, or that society feels women shouldn’t be entitled to equal rights. It’s because the word itself is a symbol of gender inequality. Feminism fights only for the rights of women, ignoring the plight of others marginalised on the basis of age, race, ethnicity, etc. As an enlightened society, we are becoming increasingly conscious of the need to ensure that rights are granted equally to all people. This is the philosophy of egalitarianism – when we embrace it, we can stop thinking of someone as a “woman” and just think of them as a “person”, and fight for their rights on that basis alone.

    Using a word like “feminism” is inherently sexist, and only serves to magnify the gender divide. It’s why the male version – “chauvinism” – has been considered shameful for some time. It’s not because we don’t want women to have rights, it’s just that we want to stop thinking of them as “women” and start thinking of them as “people”. Terms like “feminism” obstruct this goal.

    Women should be equal to men because they are people, not because they are women.

  18. Charlotte Swale

    The reason I am no longer happy to say I am a feminist is because I don’t agree with what most feminists now advocate. I believe men and women should be treated equally, but the loudest feminist voices are telling the world that we should replace the patriarchy with a matriarchy, where women rule the world at the expense of men.

    I also believe that many things are considered sexist which shouldn’t be considered sexist. If a man whistles at me in the street, I don’t think he’s being demeaning or misogynistic, I think he’s commenting on the way I look and I take it the way it was probably intended. Rather than advocating a world where men can’t comment on women’s appearances, I think feminism should be advocating a world where women are equally able to comment on men’s appearances. If I want to whistle at a man in the street, then I will. I don’t do it because I want to demean him as a man, I do it because I find him aesthetically pleasing and I want to pay him a compliment. If women would take things as they are intended then many of the “problems” women see as sexist would disappear.

    • Abbie

      People who think that the patriarchy should be replaced with a matriarchy are not feminists, they are misandrists. Feminists believe in equality. Maybe the name is misleading but when feminism was founded women needed it a lot more than men did.

  19. Emma Bramble

    FEMINISM – the equality of the sexes. It emphasizes on females because in every country in the world, the females are more strongly discriminated against than men are!! WE ALL KNOW THIS, and if someone’s a feminist (not a feminazi) then they do NOT hate men, they want to be treated with the same respect

    • Will

      “Because in every country in the world, the females are more strongly discriminated against than men are!! “. Not true, just look at countries like Sweden or Iceland. Even in the UK there are blatant examples of the government discriminating against men. For example, women can claim a state pension at 61, whereas men can only claim it at 65, despite having a shorter life expectancy.

  20. John

    If the movement is about equality for both men and women, then I see no reason not to refer to it as “egalitarianism” rather than “feminism”, which clearly excludes males. As for why feminism is such a dirty word, a quick Twitter search will reveal large numbers of feminists referring to men and boys as “pigs” and “rapists”. A few months ago, tens of thousands of feminists took part in the hashtag “#KillAllMen”. As an analogy, imagine if a particular movement claimed to be anti-racist, but a significant number of prominent people within that movement were openly neo-Nazis, and were calling for all Jewish people to be murdered. Would you really just accept at face value their claims about supporting equality?

    • Megan Joss

      Just because some feminists hold those radical opinions, doesn’t mean the term feminism should become a dirty word. You should marginalise the term because a few who identify with it hold extreme views and beliefs.

      • John

        But it isn’t just a few feminists, it’s a very large, significant portion of feminists. If you want to have a movement which advocates solely for the rights of women then fine, but you can’t also claim that it stands for the equal rights of men and boys, when the very name of the movement is “FEMinism”.

        Since the word “feminism” already has such toxic connotations, surely it is better to use “egalitarian” instead, especially since that’s a more appropriate name for a movement which advocates for the equal treatment of both men and women.

  21. Steve

    I think the main reason is the toxicity that the term “feminist” is full of nowadays, one only has to search the word on twitter or other social media and find crazy social justice warriors, misandrists and people who block someone for simply not agreeing with them and their echo chamber.

    If it was really about equality why does it simply focus on women? Having a focus is not equality. The term “Egalitarian” is one that refers to striving for true equality over genders, and looks at people as people.

    • Emma Bramble

      there is a focus on females because in every country in the world, females are discriminated against more strongly.

      • Alex

        Does women being discriminated against more strongly mean that we should ignore discrimination against men? This is what the term feminism implies. It seems to many men to be an exclusive term, one which they feel that they cannot embrace because of its clearly female connotations. These same connotations have attracted some radicals who express ridiculous and violent viewpoints, further placing men outside ‘feminism’ as a concept. ‘Feminists’ need to realise and address this problem with the far more inclusive ‘egalitarian’ removing the obstacle which prevents many men from fully embracing the movement, despite holding its core, though somewhat diluted, ideals of fairness and equality

        • Katherine

          @Alex: It’s called FEMINISM because it is femininity that is despited and hated against. When you think of discrimination against men, you would normally think of the toxic masculinity stereotype, which forces men to embrace a certain type of masculinity that is socially accepted, and turn their backs on anything that is traditionally seen as feminine (crying, asking for help). Also, a movement does not have to include appealing to men to be valid. After all, men don’t suffer BECAUSE they are men, whereas women suffer BECAUSE they are women.

          • Alex

            Funnily enough, you’ve just revealed one way in which men DO suffer because they are men. You have just said that men’s entire pattern of behaviour is shaped by what is socially acceptable. So why, then, do you go on to state that men do not suffer because they are men? I’m not being facetious; discrimination against women IS more prevalent and serious. And at no point did I say feminism is not ‘valid’ as a movement. I was suggesting that it would ADVANCE feminism if it was less exclusively female, which could be achieved through a change in terminology.