8 Lies About Feminism People Cling To And Why
“This is what a feminist looks like”.
It’s the slogan of the Feminist Majority Foundation. I have a bumper sticker and a coffee mug with those words on them. And recently, I found a cover photo with that slogan for my Facebook profile. But I NEVER thought that I would get some sort of backlash from people who seem to think that “feminist” means something it doesn’t.
One person actually told me that he sees feminism as the mirror of chauvinism, that feminists hate men, and this sends a shiver down his spine. THEN my roommate (shout-out here to Tania Smith) sent me this video about straw feminists in the media…and I realized there is a serious conversation to be had about ongoing misconceptions about feminism.
In starting to look at the various misconceptions people DO have, I came across a post on the blog One Chosen Family entitled Six Myths You Believe About Feminism-~-it’s a great post, but rather than just parrot the analysis they give you, I’ll go over the six “myths” they discuss, talk about a few I’ve encountered myself, and then talk about straw feminists and how these lies get perpetuated. It might get a tad long, bear with me.
MYTH #1: Feminism is just about women
Wrong. Feminism is about equality. Both women AND men are involved in the feminist movement, and for good reason. Feminism is about deconstructing preconceived notions about gender and gender identity that foster prejudice and hate and rebuilding the idea that people are people. So no, it’s not “just about women”. Feminist organizations like the Feminist Majority Foundation also actively support the LGBTQ movement, and work to help men who are also being hurt by the Patriarchy.
MYTH #2 (my observation): Feminists hate men.
Lies! Feminists do not hate men! Okay, it is entirely possible that a few individual feminists hate men, but it is also possibly that a few dogs are also mean-~-that doesn’t mean ALL dogs are mean. The reality is that a) there are male feminists and b) feminists don’t hate men, we hate the Patriarchy. We hate the system of oppression that prioritizes the desires of men above the well-being and autonomy of women. But there are women who remain complacent with this system, and men who are actively fighting it.
MYTH #3: Women can, and should, out-compete men.
Maybe reactionary feminists think this. But they’re also the ones who maybe hate men and think women should rule the world. And they’re a fantastically small minority when you look at the number of feminists there are and the number of things they believe. Women have different perspectives than men, it’s true, and they should be brought to greater prominence in fields like science and politics-~-not to dominate men but to balance them and to help them. Men and women shouldn’t just be partners in creating babies, they should be partners in creating the world we want to live in.
MYTH 3#: Men need to defend themselves from feminists.
Feminism is not victimizing men, people. The Patriarchy is victimizing everyone.
MYTH #4: Feminism is an attack on family values.
This is what Republicans want you to think. They want you to believe that working mothers and single mothers and sexually active women and women who think are a threat to the family, because the family is the Most Important Thing. 1) Not all families look the same. I myself consider a number of people to whom I am not biologically related to be family, and they act like family to me as well. 2) It is entirely possible for the concept of the family to evolve. The nuclear family wasn’t always the standard. It may not always be the standard. And it isn’t the standard in every culture. 3) Honestly people need to just get over this concept of female sexuality. It is an absurd double standard. Men sleeping around is probably a greater threat to the concept of family because they are statistically more likely to abandon their children and/or less likely to be involved in the lives of illegitimate children. In those cases, single mothers are probably just doing the best they darn well can. Let’s not ignore some of the real issues at play here.
MYTH #5: Feminists are lesbians.
First, that’s just backwards. Some lesbians are feminists. Feminists support the LGBTQ movement (or at least, many do). But to say that most or all feminists are lesbians would be absurd. In fact, a colleague of mine went so far as to tell me that sometimes, when lesbians actively support things like birth control, they are given strange looks because they aren’t at risk for pregnancy. This kind of myth is just another example of people projecting their hatred in a way that they think will gain support, muddling two groups they dislike, or trying to otherize feminists so as to paint the movement as alien and dangerous.
MYTH #6 (my observation): Feminists don’t actually DO anything, they just rant a lot.
This is what we like to refer to as “slactivism”: just blogging, just liking things on Facebook, just ranting. Obviously there
is nothing wrong with blogging, or talking to people about oppression and the need to change it, or really anything that forces people to THINK about the problem…but many feminists, and especially many feminist organizations, do a lot more than that. A number of fantastic groups such as Equality Now, the Feminist Majority, Planned Parenthood, and Emily’s List, are actively fighting to promote strong women leaders and campaigning for women’s issues. We don’t, as one person told me, “just yell a lot in college while running around getting our Mrs degrees so that we can become stay at home moms”. Nope.
MYTH #7 (my observation): Stay-at-home moms aren’t feminist.
Says WHO? If you CHOOSE to stay at home because you are able to make that choice, good for you! It is when we force women to stay at home that feminists have a problem. Women who choose to stay at home should absolutely be supported. Being a mother is an incredibly tough job. Hayley already covered this in her last post.
MYTH #8: Feminism is over.
I already discussed this a bit in the third installment of my WTF Feminism Series, but I’ll say it again here for good measure. Feminism is not over. First-wave feminism (suffrage) is over, because women have the right to vote. Second-wave feminism has died down. But third-wave feminism is alive and kicking. Feminism was never just about the ability to vote or the ability to hold a job. Until women can walk down the street at night without having to worry about being attacked, until women’s right to access things like birth control are no longer under attack by our leaders, until women are no longer being driven out of certain fields, until “pink collar” and domestic work is no longer devalued by our society, feminism will still be here.
WHY PEOPLE BELIEVE THIS
First, we have politicians who WANT you to believe this. We have radio talk show hosts and TV show hosts and Fox News and none of this is helping. But we also have feminists misrepresented in the media all the time, and this bad reputation often keeps people from identifying as feminists even if they agree with what feminists are fighting for.
I’m just quickly going to talk about straw feminists here, and I’ll likely talk more about it later. What I’m referring to with this term is the creation of characters in TV shows and movies who identify as feminists but then are portrayed as crazy, over-the-top, man-hating, etc. It creates and perpetuates a distorted view of feminism that in term undermines the movement…exactly what the writers likely wanted, unfortunately. On top of that, it makes the things that feminists are fighting for seem absurd. This video, which you should watch as it gives far more analysis on this subject than I am giving you here, gives a great example from the show Veronica Mars where a group of straw feminists push for programs like escorts across campus at night, etc, in response to a series of rapes on campus. All of the ideas they are promoting are great ideas, and women across the country have been fighting for similar programs to create safer campuses-~-but the association with straw feminists paints them as absurd or unnecessary. On top of that, the use of straw feminists as antagonistic characters prevents strong female characters from identifying as feminist, which is equally problematic.
The video is about ten minutes long, but definitely worth watching if you’re interested in this subject.
I’m just going to leave you with the definition of feminism found on the Feminist Majority Foundation’s website: