Misconceptions of Feminism


International Women’s Day fell on Saturday 8th March this year, an occasion which is actually a national holiday in countries like China, Russia, Vietnam and Bulgaria. According to a website dedicated to the event, it’s “a global day celebrating the economic, political and social achievements of women past, present and future.” Some well-deserved recognition for us ladies and a middle finger to the patriarchy, then. Good.

It’s safe to say that we’re quickly becoming a more progressively-thinking society in general, so we can hope that complaints of “but what about an International MEN’s Day?” have been kept to a minimum (hint: it’s every other day). We can also hope that this means the long-overdue death of the stereotype of a bra-burning man-hating lesbian evoked by any reference to feminism for some. Not that there’s anything wrong with being a lesbian who sets uncomfortable underwear alight, but it’s difficult enough to open dialogue about the promotion of women in society when ‘feminism’ translates to ‘hatred of men and femininity’.

This is an issue brought to light time and time again in the saddest of ways when female celebrities denounce feminism for that very (misguided) reason. Of course, women in the media spotlight face a multitude of challenges when it comes to staying appealing and respected by consumer culture and they may not think publicly siding with a controversial social movement is in their best interests. Whether their statements come from ignorance or a desire to keep the ignorant on their side, they’re detrimental to a cause which exists to support them.

When asked if they would consider themselves feminists, the following stars responded:

  • Kelly Clarkson, when asked if she was a feminist, responded “No, I wouldn’t say feminist — that’s too strong.”
  • Lady Gaga: “I’m not a feminist. I hail men, I love men, I celebrate American male culture.”
  • Susan Sarandon: “I think of myself as a humanist because I think it’s less alienating to people who think of feminism as being a load of strident bitches and because you want everyone to have equal pay, equal rights, education, and health care. It’s a bit of an old-fashioned word. It’s used more in a way to minimize you.”
  • Katy Perry: “I am not a feminist, but I do believe in the strength of women.’ Even Bjork: ‘[I don’t identify as a feminist] because I think it would isolate me. I think it’s important to do positive stuff. It’s more important to be asking than complaining.”
  • Taylor Swift (who faces a near unprecedented level of misogyny-guised-as-criticism): “I don’t really think about things as guys versus girls. I never have. I was raised by parents who brought me up to think if you work as hard as guys, you can go far in life.”
  • Even girl group Little Mix, who released an album very much focused on the topic of girl power in 2013, insisted: “I wouldn’t say we’re feminists: we don’t hate our men.” These comments all appear to come from the same misunderstanding of what feminism is and unintentionally demonstrates why feminism is necessary – because there are plenty of people who would like us to believe that having a voice, having the audacity to point it out when mistreated is something to disassociate ourselves from. Because feminism is merely ‘complaining’.

That’s not to say that feminism is a black-and-white issue that comes complete with a set of guidelines. Just like the cultural issues faced by women, feminism is a deeply personal thing; I, for example, struggle to reconcile feminism without intersectionality with feminism at all. Of course some takes on feminism are questionable at best but those who are racist, transphobic and incapable of thinking outside the western hemisphere are not feminist because they do not support the struggles of women and therefore shouldn’t be used as examples to tarnish the name of a movement which strives for equality.

While it’s true that the perceived negative connotations surrounding feminism are the result of ignorance and often used as just another tool to attack women, perhaps educating people on the meaning of a word isn’t what’s most crucial at this point. Maybe we should spend the other 364 days of the year instead educating people on the realities of rape culture, the danger faced by transgender women and the countless other faults in society that render any claim that feminism is no longer necessary completely redundant. And wherever you’re reading this, fellow student of higher education, remember that the first ever university was founded by a woman.

[Hannah Westwater]

1 Comment

  1. Actually they’re not misunderstanding feminism in the slightest. They’re seeing what you are unable to see as perhaps you’re too close to the problem to see it accurately or maybe you just can’t bear to face an unpleasant truth. But you’re not going to convince anyone worth convincing by simply pointing to the dictionary definition of feminism then folding your arms smugly like you just proved something. The problem is that there is an enormous gulf between the THEORY of what feminism is allegedly about (the dictionary definition) and the PRACTICE of what feminism really is and does in reality.

    It is quite easy to demonstrate what I mean. You see, when your movement claims that it is simply fighting for equality with men, not special privileges above and beyond what men have, no silly, just equality, then your movement needs to explain why it still exists in the western world now that women have had all the same rights as men for quite some time now in addition to some female-specific special privileges on top of that which no man will ever have. Point me towards even ONE law in the U.S. for example which discriminates against women in favor of men. I hear crickets chirping. When you have already achieved all the same rights as men yet you still keep on playing the victim card to try to milk further gender-specific concessions out of society, guess what? You’re making it pretty damned obvious to anyone with more than 2 brain cells to rub together that equality isn’t nearly good enough for you, that you’re a female supremacist movement unconvincingly dressed up as one that’s “fighting for equality”. (For crying out loud, even the movement’s very NAME gives away its purpose. If it was fighting for equality it would be called egalitarianism or humanitarianism or something quite a bit less narrowly gender-specific.)

    If feminism TRULY was about fighting for equality rather than being a one-sided gynocentric superiority movement then ask yourselves why it constantly pooh-poohs any problems or injustices that aren’t 100% exclusively about women. Ask yourself why it makes no effort at all to redress any of the imbalances that favor women over men.

    For example, where is the feminist activity on the issue of women being sentenced to 60% less prison time for the same crimes as a man? Why isn’t feminism demanding that women be held to the same standard of adult responsibility as a man who committed the same crime? Why is your movement content with such an egregious disparity in sentencing? Oh yeah, because it is a disparity that favors women over men, whereas if the situation was reversed with men getting let off with 60% less prison time than a female you bet your ass it would be a feminist priority.

    Where is feminism’s activism about the issue of women getting awarded custody in about 90% of child custody cases? To the extent that the woman would have to just about be a practicing prostitute or a heroin addict in order for the man to be given custody. Funny but this doesn’t seem to make it onto feminists’ radar either, I wonder why…

    Why has feminism remained silent about the huge discrepancy in funding for male homeless shelters versus female homeless shelters? When the overwhelming majority of homeless people are men rather than women, why on earth should men’s shelters get short shrift compared to female shelters? This clearly isn’t a problem for your imaginary “patriarchial” government which routinely ignores men’s issues in favor of women’s issues so why isn’t feminism, the movement you never tire of telling us is not gynocentric but all-inclusive, fighting for equality not female supremacy, doing a damned thing to bring this to society’s attention? You can bet any amount of money if the situation was reversed with the homeless population being mostly female it would be a crisis of Biblical proportions, worthy of the government declaring a “war on homelessness” to solve it. Why is the feminist movement just as disinterested in this matter as the government?

    Why is feminism content with men still having to pay alimony in 2014? Aren’t you the same ladies who constantly tell us how women are just as good as men, just as capable and just as independent? Then why the hell should a man have the responsibility of paying for the upkeep and lifestyle of his former spouse on an indefinite basis? Why did this issue only make it onto feminists’ radar (in Florida) when the infinitesimally small amount of women paying alimony to THEIR former spouses inched up a tiny bit while still remaining a mouse fart compared to men’s alimony payments? Where is feminism’s indignation that these supposedly liberated, independent women are entitled to being supported by a man that isn’t even living with them any longer? Why don’t you see this as an enormous insult and indignation? Oh yeah, because I suppose the convenience of getting a monthly check in the mail assuages your little feelings of shame and dependency, right? So long as it works in women’s favor instead of men’s it’s perfectly OK with the feminist movement.

    Where is feminism’s concern with the issue of men committing suicide at rates astronomically higher than women? You know if the numbers were reversed there would be a colossal shitstorm until we got the numbers of women killing themselves back down to acceptable levels but yet with the numbers being what they are this, unsurprisingly, isn’t an issue feminists will lift a finger to work on.

    And I have yet to hear a single feminist push for women having to register for the draft. Why does a man have to register at age 18 or else he isn’t entitled to any of the benefits of society, can’t vote, can’t collect Social Security when he’s old etc. yet no woman has to register for the draft in order to enjoy any of that? Why are feminists content to let women avoid adult responsibilities that men can never avoid? Oh yeah, because it isn’t a movement about equality at all but rather female supremacy, the same reason why the KKK never pushes for anything aside from matters that affect white people. As despicable as they are at least they’re honest enough to not pretend to be fighting for racial equality.

    Or what about the biggest double standard on the face of the earth? By this I mean the elective abortion/mandatory child support issue. Let’s say a woman gets pregnant accidentally, neither her nor her partner intended for it to happen. If the man wants to be a daddy to that unexpected kid but the woman doesn’t want any parts of it she’s going to go to the abortion clinic and get that unborn human dismembered and sucked out of her uterus without having broken a single law in the process. That man will now be the proud daddy to a bloody little pile of severed arms and legs. But if the situation is reversed and the woman wants to keep the baby but the dad doesn’t want any parts of being a daddy? Tough tittie, he’s on the hook for 18 years of child support payments for a kid he will never see. The law simply doesn’t allow him to act like an irresponsible piece of shit at least not without facing the penalty of jail time for his irresponsibility. The law holds that man to his responsibility, forces him to act like a grown adult and take responsibility for his actions. Whereas the law makes no effort whatsoever to force the woman to act like an adult and take responsibility for HER actions, no, instead it lets her dance away from the consequences of her actions without a care in the world. When the man’s irresponsibility results in the woman not getting a monthly check in the mail and that’s illegal yet the woman’s irresponsibility results in the death of another human being (the unborn human) and yet THAT is LEGAL?? Are you effing kidding me?? This has to be the most horrific double standard the world has ever seen, yet I guarantee you that if anyone was to start pushing for ending mandatory child support payments or tying the continuance of legal abortion to the ending of mandatory child support it would be the feminitwits who would be leading the charge to make sure things remain as one-sided as they are now. When the woman is allowed to act like a magical sparkly princess with no more responsibility than a child even though her irresponsibility and immaturity results in a human being’s death and the man isn’t even allowed to skip out on child support payments for a kid he never sees, clearly this abortion/child support situation can be called nothing less than overt female supremacy. Not equality between the sexes. Not egalitarianism. Overt, in-your-face female supremacy and nothing less. Funny but I haven’t heard of a single feminist anywhere pushing for an end to elective abortion. Feminism seems perfectly content to let this terrible double standard remain in place and any comment made about ending elective abortion is immediately met with a lecture about how it would somehow be “oppressing women” to hold them to the same standard of responsibility a man is held to, how it would be “chaining them to the stove” or ensuring they are “barefoot and pregnant” or whatever other feminist propaganda bullshit they can come up with. Because this is one of the many double standards that feminists embrace, those which favor women over men. Another reason why few people aside from feminists themselves take feminists seriously.

    So you want to “prove” your movement really is about equality and not female supremacy and special gender-specific privileges? Great, come out against elective abortion. Demand that it be abolished, demand that women are held to the same standard of responsibility that a man is held to, demand that women receive no preferential treatment in the court system etc. etc. Basically it comes down to a realization that not everything in life is a right or a privilege, that there are some things in adult life that are called “responsibilities”. If feminism wasn’t all about milking society for more benefits, more gender-specific set-asides, more quotas, more gynocentric advantages and actually grew the hell up enough to see that there are such things as RESPONSIBILITIES as well then maybe more people would take feminism seriously. As it stands right now only about 23% of American women identify as feminists meaning no less than 77% of women wouldn’t touch with a ten foot pole the movement that is supposed to be designed around their interests. That is a spectacular failure so amazing words can’t describe it. Perhaps women are getting tired of being constantly told they’re weak, helpless little victims who can’t do anything for themselves without a movement behind them to keep them pointed in the right direction and protected from this cruel world. I suspect your average woman is quite a bit stronger than that and doesn’t appreciate being talked down to. But whatever it is, your movement is dying and I say good riddance. Let it be replaced with something that doesn’t try to drive an unnecessary wedge between working class men and working class women. Let it be replaced with something far more mature, grown up, sensible and realistic. In other words let it be replaced with something that is GENUINELY about equal rights for the sexes.

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