In my last post, I described myself as, among other things, a feminist. That post was more personal than I care to admit, but in the end, I decided to keep it on my blog. This decision then led to the understanding that some readers may not know what feminism is, or have a misconception based on stereotypes. As I may refer to the movement in future posts, I wanted to write a general description of feminism and why it is not as scary/threatening/gross/insert-generalization-here as some may believe.
As defined by Wikipedia, feminism is “the advocacy of women’s rights on the grounds of political, social, and economic equality to men.”
Let’s focus on that last part of that definition: “equality to men.” It is not “achieve more rights than men,” nor is it “hate all men based on gender alone.” It is simply the movement toward equality.
But, why is it called “feminism,” rather than equalism/humanism/egalitarianism? When I am asked this question, I offer the answer that feminism is equalism with a feminine lens and perspective.
The movement focuses on the fact that society (American, in this case) was built on a patriarchy. This does not mean that men are the cause of all feminine suffering; this just means that men are born with certain privileges that are not shared with women. Men are more likely to be taken seriously in any given field, and will most likely receive more respect from their peers. A woman is less likely to get catcalled or otherwise harassed if she is out with a man. The phrase “I have a boyfriend/fiancé/husband is more likely to stop unwanted attention rather than a woman’s upfront “no.” Using true examples from the past year alone, the patriarchy enables the entitlement to women’s bodies; a young woman has been stabbed for rejecting an invite to prom, and six people, mostly women, were shot by a young man who claimed to take revenge on the female gender for simply not paying attention to him.
The patriarchy does not exclusively hurt women, but men as well. Men are told to “man up” and “don’t be a p*ssy,” because being strong and void of too many emotions is good, while having feminine traits or expression is looked down upon. Men are not taken seriously when they come out as victims of rape, and they are expected to be the protectors of the family. These harmful expectations are caused by the patriarchy.
This is exactly what feminism fights against. This is where the phrase “dismantle the patriarchy” comes from. It is not a slogan tearing down men; rather, it is a call to tear down a society that hurts everyone. Once the patriarchy is subtracted from the societal equation, then equality between all genders can be achieved.
Like all movements, feminism is on a spectrum. There are radical and moderate feminists. There are feminist Republicans and feminist Democrats. There have been all kinds of feminists for each of the three waves of feminism.
The first wave consisted of women’s suffrage and the right to vote at the turn of the twentieth century. The second wave occurred in the latter half of the same century, and focused on more equality in the workplace, less discrimination, and the right to the option of contraception.
I identify as a third-wave feminist. This current wave revived feminism with the inclusion of women of every race and sexuality, transgendered women, and men. Utilizing the internet, feminism is being communicated faster than ever before, resulting in a more available analysis of society from smart phones and laptops. The patriarchy has been the societal structure for so long it has since become ingrained in the fabric of daily life, and feminism is pointing out these injustices in the name of equality.
Feminism is about supporting all genders. Feminism is supporting the woman who chooses to wear lipstick and the woman who chooses not to shave. Feminism is supporting the woman who chooses to wear the hijab, and she who chooses to wear a bikini. Feminism is found in intersectionality and tolerance. While we may have our own individual preferences, an individual’s decisions are theirs alone, that should be free from the judgment of the patriarchy, and of others.