The F-Word // Feminism: Let's Drop The Negative Connotations

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I have identified myself as a feminist for several years now and whenever I describe myself as one I’ve largely been greeted with uneasy, sometimes even hostile looks. I’ve had people change the topic of conversation, roll their eyes and most often have had people complain, ‘Oh you’re one of THOSE types’. Yes, I am actually. But why is ‘feminist’ such a negative word? 

Definitively, the notion of feminism has been misconstrued by the internet, the media and in people’s minds. Men’s rights activists believe that feminism actively attempts to demonise the male sex. And this is what they base their entire movement on. Essentially ‘Men’s Rights’ groups formed as part of a backlash to the Feminist movement going ‘too far’ and are founded on the idea that feminism places the male in the position of the enemy.  This suggestion has had such a harmful effect and so many people I have met have been uncomfortable aligning themselves with the word ‘feminist’ because of implications such as this.  

These connotations are plainly not true. Feminists are not ‘man-haters’ or ‘female supremacists’. It is a movement that welcomes people of all genders. The stereotype of bra-burning, male hating ‘feminazis’ is entirely ridiculous and dishonest.    

Unfortunately, it’s these negative stereotypes that have caused many to actively push away the concept of feminism. Recently this has been seen in the ‘Women Against Feminism’ campaign online, particularly on twitter. A mere glance at these posts highlights the misconceptions surrounding the movement. It makes me incredibly sad to see so many people stating that they couldn’t possibly be a feminist because they love their fathers, brothers, sons and husbands. Being a feminist means you believe in the empowerment of women, without the belittlement of men. In fact, I am a feminist partly because I want my younger brother to grow up in a world where females are respected as his equal, rather than as his inferior. The male figures in my life are incredibly important to me. I hold a lot of admiration for my dad, particularly his wit, determination and intellect. I can aspire to posses these traits because I am a female with agency and believe I am his equal. The idea that I hate men just because I am a feminist is simply wrong. 

Let’s break ‘Feminism’ down as a word. Yes, the word does include ‘Fem’. No, that does not mean the movement is exclusively for females. Feminism tackles a whole spectrum of problems that arise from the patriarchy. Some of them are specific to those who identify as a female, but not all of them are. The ‘Fem’ in feminism originates from the negative connotations or associations that are paired with female identity or feminine characteristics. These negative associations affect the male gender as well as the female, as society prohibits men from having feminine attributes such as being emotional or sensitive. Characteristics should be prescriptive to the person, regardless of their sex. An immense amount of pressure is placed on the up keeping of gender roles in society and this causes spiralling effects such as mental health problems and suicide. Amongst other issues, feminism tackles this via attempting to remove the stigma and dismantle gender specific roles. 

The purpose of feminism is not to demonise the male gender. We need feminism so that globally, females can have the opportunity to receive an education, can be paid the same amount as men for carrying out the same jobs, to ensure that females have a voice to safely and freely speak out against injustice, to prevent females being consistently sexualised and treated as sexual objects, but also to allow men to have whatever attributes they want to have. The goal is to make all genders equal. 

‘If feminism is a movement for gender equality and you do tackle some male-related problems, why do you mainly talk about issues relating directly to women?’ I here you ask. And here is my answer: 

In the whole patriarchal scheme of things, men are not the victims. Yes, they are subject to gender roles and do face problems that they have to struggle against that are directly related to the effects of the patriarchy, however, it does not mean men are being oppressed. There’s a difference between a struggle against specific issues and the oppression that all women undergo due to systematic sexism in everyday life. Because of this, there are many more circumstances under which women are placed as the inferior and thus more problems arise from this placing. If we’re talking in ratios, then I do talk more about issues relating directly to women because systematic sexism creates more.  I’ll say it again though once more for good measure, talking about female-specific issues does not make the movement (all together now) anti-men! 

We need to eradicate the negative connotations and learn about what ‘feminism’ actually means. ‘Feminist’ does not equal female superiority. It is an inclusive movement and to identify yourself as a feminist you do not have to be female, you merely need to believe in the cause. Feminism is the belief of the equality of the sexes. It’s as simple as that.  Negative connotations of the word ‘feminism’ stem from misconceptions and should not force those who believe in equality to be hesitant at labelling themselves as a feminist. No one should be made to feel ashamed to be a feminist simply because some do not understand what it is. If you don’t identify yourself as a feminist, that’s entirely fine. But don’t frown upon a movement when you are not aware of its causes or goals. Do not dismiss me because of your ignorance.

I take pride in my belief of the equality of all genders. I am a feminist. 

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