Feminism is one of the most talked-about, debated, and at times, even controversial topics today. Everyone has a say in it, yet very few have complete knowledge about it. It’s sad that despite decades of advancement, the world is still a terrifying place for women and minorities.
Right off the bat, you need to know what feminism means (if you don’t already). According to Merriam Webster, feminism is the theory of political, social, and economic equality of the sexes. It advocates rights for all, to bring everyone to a level where they enjoy equal rights, leaving no room for the privilege for others’. Today’s feminism is intersectional, which means that it has evolved into a much broader view of equality, from the first wave. Color, sexual orientation, gender identity, ethnicity, religion- everything is included under the purview of feminism.
Feminism fights for the equality of all sexes. The world has upheld stereotypes based on sex since the beginning of time. When we are taught that girls play with barbies and boys play with cars, or that girls cry a lot and boys don’t cry, we start believing that stereotypes are true and gender roles are real. That’s when we develop an intolerance for anyone breaking down these stereotypes, which is exactly what feminism is fighting against.
But the more prevalent feminism becomes, the more misunderstood it becomes too. Today, there are more myths about feminism than there are facts. To stand in a fight for equality and justice, we must demolish these myths.
Here Are The Top 10 Myths about Feminism I hear Often:
1. Myth- Feminists Are Misandrists
Fact- Feminists Are Fighting Against The Patriarchy, Not Against Men
Misandry is a strong hatred and despite men. Since feminists condemn misogyny, it is assumed we are misandrists. It is assumed we hate men and want power over them. It is assumed we want to rid this society of men. As an informed feminist, I can tell you that this is far from true.
Feminists are not fighting men; we are fighting the patriarchy– a system that has benefited men and belittled women on most fronts since the beginning of time. Feminists are fighting for women’s rights, opportunities, and treatment, because we aren’t born into the same privileged men are. We face a danger owing to our gender, that men simply do not.
Feminists don’t want women to rise over men; we want women to get on the level of men, to live a life where we aren’t at the risk of facing violence because of our gender. And we all need to unite on this front because until we don’t achieve gender equality, we won’t attain peace.
2. Myth-Feminists Don’t Take Crimes/ Stereotypes Against Men Into Account
Fact- Feminists Preach Breaking Down of Stereotypes that Negatively Affect Men
A lot of people think that feminists only talk about women’s rights, and don’t regard how sexism and the patriarchy affect men. This one of the most popular myths about feminism, and it’s untrue on many levels.
Feminism not only acknowledges but actively works against dismantling stereotypes and prejudices, including those that affect men. The patriarchy stresses upon men being “macho,” and any man who shows a sign of weakness is called a woman as if it’s an insult. This toxic masculinity affects boys from a young age. They are forced to exhibit strength no matter what. They are taught to be the “breadwinners” of their family. And that is what feminism calls out. Men shouldn’t be handed a persona when they’re born, with no choice but to fit in it.
According to the American Psychological Association, suicides amongst men are four times more likely to happen than among women. And that’s because men are never allowed to speak about their emotions and feelings, much less deal with them. That’s why men need feminism too.
Here is a speech by activist, feminist and actress, Jamila Jamil, on how to infiltrate awareness among boys from a young age:
3. Myth- Female Feminists Can’t Be Feminine
Fact- Feminists Can Look and Identify as Any Sex
Female feminists are given a reputation for defying standards of beauty and “letting themselves go.” We are caricatured as short, stout women wearing men’s clothes. Being one of the most outdated myths about feminism, this is not only a false depiction but also problematic.
Feminism is about breaking down gender roles and giving them a new meaning. It preaches that your sex does not have anything to do with what you choose to wear and what profession you choose to practice. And that’s because we respect the choice. Society has restricted people into boxes of gender that we are forces to fit into, even if it goes against our individuality.
Feminists are people, and they can be of all types. They can be short, tall, thin, fat, fair, dark, gay, straight, trans, bisexual, asexual, pansexual, or belonging to any sex, sexual orientation, or ethnicity. The only thing they shouldn’t have to be is visually appealing to your eyes.
4. Myth- Feminists Are Bra-Burning, Violent Protesters
Fact- Feminists Preach Choice and Peace
Many people make fun of feminists, as women who just don’t want to wear a bra and are angry for no reason. This one of the most offensive and demeaning myths about feminism, here’s why:
In 1968, a protest was organized in Atlantic City, USA, by women against the Miss America Pageant, condemning its unreal norms of beauty, which are imposed on young girls and women. They hurled lipsticks, bras, heels, wigs, curlers, and other items that represented a heterosexual woman’s “beauty” into a “Freedom Trash Can.” The next day, the image of a woman removing her bra and throwing it in the trash can surfaced, causing people to believe that that is solely what the movement was about.
It’s been fifty years, but this symbol of bra-burning feminists remains. It is used by anti-feminists to argue against feminism and how it makes women appear as “sexual beings.” But the fact is- whether we choose to wear a bra or not, is a personal choice and nowhere related to our fight for equality.
5. Myth- Feminists Can’t Take A Joke
Fact- Feminists Can Take A Joke If It Is Not Perpetuating Stereotypes or Oppression
According to one of the most distasteful myths about feminism, feminists lack a sense of humor. They always have to make everything about their agenda. As a feminist who loves making jokes, this is entirely untrue.
When making jokes, we use a means of communication that leaves a lasting imprint on one’s mind. X tells Y a sexist joke, Y loves it and shares it with A and B, who each tell their best friends, P and Q, then P loves it so much he tweets it out to his 500 followers who then continue to forward it. And that’s how that sexist joke lets many people believe that it is okay to joke about sexist beliefs as long as they are just jokes. But jokes which hurt someone’s sentiments are NOT jokes. They can be offensive, triggering, and disrespectful to people they target.
Feminists can be funny and still call someone out when they make a joke that perpetuates stereotypes and systematic oppression. For instance, Ellen DeGeneres has been making jokes for over twenty years, without being sexist, racist, or homophobic, and she happens to be a feminist. We love you, Ellen!
6. Myth- Feminists Don’t Support Stay-at-Home Mothers
Fact- Feminists Support Both Stay-at-Home Mothers and Working Mothers
One of the most ridiculous myths about feminism- that feminists want women to only be present in the workplace, and not become mothers who stay at home with their kids. But this holds no truth to it and here’s why:
Feminism is about empowering women to do what they want out of choice and not force. We believe that women can be bosses, moms, or a combination of both. We are just breaking down traditional roles that coerce women to stay at home while only men go out and work. It is important that women and men don’t let their sex decide who they are and what they should do.
Feminism is a force against oppression. The gender gap exists in the corporate sector to a vast degree. According to statistics on catylist.org, women occupy less than a third of senior positions all around the world. Feminism is not fighting women who are stay-at-home moms to work, but it is fighting existing workplace conditions and education levels that don’t give willing women the same liberty that men enjoy.
7. Myth- Feminists Are Lesbians Who Hate The Institution of Marriage Fact- Feminism Has Nothing To Do With Sexual Orientation
Feminists are assumed to be lesbians who were rejected by men. It is also assumed that feminists hate marriage, love, or romance. This is one of the most popular myths about feminism, yet it holds no relevance.
Feminists may be straight, or a member of the LGBTQIA+ community. We can be married or not, depending on our individual choice. It is also wrong to presume that feminists are only women. Many feminists around the world are men and are smashing down the patriarchy with us. For instance, Justin Baldoni, an actor, and activist is a primary spokesperson on toxic masculinity and how it negatively affects men. He is also a married man with a wife and kids. Here is a Ted Talk by him which addresses this:
Feminists can be lesbians, but again, that is a personal preference that shouldn’t even be brought up because it has no relevance to our advocacy for equality. The fact that anti-feminists label us as lesbians, using it as an insult, speaks more about their argument than it does about ours.
8. Myth- Feminists Are Insulting Traditions and Culture
Fact- Feminists Are Calling Out Traditions That Oppress Women and Don’t Respect Their Choice
Many people believe that feminism is disrespectful of years of history that our ancestors left for us. With changing times, we need to make our thinking progressive as well. This is one of the most senseless myths about feminism, and it must be debunked.
Before reading further, think about the traditions that feminism stands against. Is it benefiting men, oppressing women, or both? Is it disregarding people who aren’t heterosexual? Can our society function without this tradition, if not flourish? If you answered in affirmative to these questions, now you know why feminism stands against it. Our movement wants to wipe out only those cultural beliefs that have contributed to the mistreatment of women for decades.
The world is not the same place as it was at the time when these traditions came about. Today, more and more people realize the importance of inclusion and of not inflicting violence over those who are marginalized—supporting traditions that are sexist or misogynistic means turning a blind eye to women and their struggle for equality. And we need to be better than that.
9. Myth- Feminism is Breaking Down Society
Fact- Feminism is Demolishing Gender Roles
One of the most used myths about feminism is that feminism is breaking down the structure of society and family. People believe that the patriarchy benefits women because they can depend on a man to earn a living for them, to escape work and responsibility. As a feminist and also a young woman who doesn’t want her identity just to be a wife and a mother, I think this argument is baseless and offensive.
Feminists don’t want to replace men; we want to break down gender roles. Women are people with likes, interests, dreams, and passion. Not all women want to spend their lives looking after children and a husband. Women are individuals who deserve to be treated like that. These gender roles are not only toxic to women but also to men who feel pressured. And feminism addresses this issue.
A society can thrive without gender roles. If people choose to be who they are and what they want to do, the world will still keep functioning, and will also become a much better place.
10. Myth- Feminism Is Not Required Because We Have Already Achieved Equality
Fact- The World is Far From Achieving Equality
In an ideal world, women should be treated the same as men because they do have equal rights. But we don’t live in an ideal world.
The only way to battle such myths about feminism is by statistics:
- According to UNICEF, 130 million girls do not attend a school or were forced to drop out after their primary education.
- As of 2019, the gender pay gap was the widest in South Korea, reaching 37%. The lowest gender pay gap is in Luxembourg, at just 3.4%. According to the World Economic Forum’s report on Global Gender Gap, it will take 202 years to close the gender pay gap between men and women. To know more about the gender pay gap, click here.
- Poverty affects women of color the worst. According to the National Women’s Law Center, the national poverty rate for white men is 7%, while it is 21.4% for African- American women and 18.7% for Latinas. (Source)
- According to the National Center for Transgender Equality, the unemployment rate for the general population is 5%, while that of the transgender population is 15%. (Source)
- According to World Bank’s Women, Business, and the Law Report, only six countries gave women complete equality measured by eight indicators.
- According to statistics published by WHO (World Health Organisation), one in three women from all around the world has experienced sexual or physical violence at least once in their life, with the inflictors being men in most cases.
- Many developing nations in the world don’t have either one, two, or none of the laws on- sexual harassment, marital rape, or domestic violence.
These statistics are just a few drops on the massive ocean of gender inequality. To read more such statistics, click here.
Contrary to popular myths about feminism, feminists are not “extreme”; we are merely taking back rights and opportunities that we should have been rightfully handed ages ago. There are many myths about feminism, and the only way to remove them is by addressing them. We should all be better people by educating ourselves and helping the underprivileged in their fight for equality.
Here’s an empowering speech by Halsey: