Simply mentioning the word feminism causes a stir amongst people. Unpleasant looks are exchanged and it’s not uncommon for an argument to arise about the controversial topic. People who call themselves feminists are often asked the daunting question, “Why?” or “What’s the point?” There are others who choose not to ask anything and only roll their eyes with assumptions.
It is almost halfway through 2016, a year in which politics has been at the forefront of many minds. It’s become a daily routine to see violence and aggression on our screens in response to a certain presidential candidate and yet, people are still not comfortable with aspects of feminism: discussions, books, classes, articles, etc.
Feminism has been a part of our country’s history since the 19th century with the first wave, which focused on suffrage and political equality for women. The second wave dealt with social equality at home and work. Whether the third wave of feminism is currently underway is still up for debate, but it has widened the horizon of feminism to include every women in any social, political and economic situation. Feminist discourse has existed for over 120 years. Despite the immense progress that has been made through the centuries, there’s still a long way to go.
The textbook definition of feminism is the equality of men and women in politics, the economy and society. The word has received criticism for years and that’s partly due to the meaning of it being misunderstood. It is not a man hating movement motivated by single, bitter women. It’s an important cause that aims to improve the lives of women today but most importantly, for the future lives of all females.
There are different types of feminists focusing on various parts of life, but they are all working towards the same goal – equality. With the different forms and tactics of feminism, it’s easy for people who don’t understand or even care to educate themselves, to turn their backs on it and proceed to insult the cause. Radical feminism has been responsible for these kind of negative reactions. It is a form of feminism that believes in a radical reorganization of society that eliminates all superior male power in society and the economy. What people fail to recognize is that radical feminism isn’t all feminism. People can choose which subtext they follow and it’s not fair to generalize the entire movement, solely based on one feminist perspective.
Feminism is treated as a bad word and a taboo. It’s true, it does carry a negative connotation. People often think feminism is a movement driven by old women who have no children or husband. Women who hate men and want to get rid of them altogether. It’s an assumption to think all feminists want to shove their beliefs down your throat. Feminism is much more than the negative connotation it carries. The movement has goals such as ending the wage gap through equal pay, protection of reproductive rights and access, paid family leave programs, creating ways for women to easily participate in the professional and public world, amongst other important ideas. Women want to be treated equally as men in all sense of the word: cultural, personal, political, economic and social rights. Feminism allows any women to live in any way they want – married, single, with a husband or wife, have children, a cat, be a homemaker, a successful business owner, be dedicated to their work and/or family. Feminists want women to free to be whoever they want all the while having the same rights as men.
I am a feminist and I whole heartily believe in the movement. It’s unfortunate to see that even women reject this identification because of how other people react to feminism. They can fit the definition of the word but refuse to call themselves as such. But it’s important to remember that it’s only one part of identity, like your age, ethnicity and religion. The word feminism doesn’t need to be feared.
Men shouldn’t feel like they’re being put down by feminists but instead strongly consider joining the cause. There isn’t one clear cut image of what a feminist looks like because the most important aspect is understanding and wanting equality for both men and women in society, politics and the economy. Feminism benefits men as much as women. Through it, we can all be freed from stereotypes and have the ability to be our own individuals.
Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau proudly said he’s a feminist. He understands how uncommon it is for a powerful man to continuously speak about feminism. He also acknowledges that he receives a huge response from the press and social media. But Trudeau has made it his personal goal to continue talking about the importance of feminism and identifying as a feminist until there is no longer a reaction. It shouldn’t cause any kind of reaction because it’s common sense to want equality for women and men.
The next time you see the word feminism or feminist in a headline, don’t scroll past it. When you hear a person say they’re a feminist, don’t give them a dirty look. Just because you may not understand it, doesn’t make it wrong. Like other parts of life, educate yourself to comprehend what is being fought for. Most importantly, don’t choose to be ignorant because it’s easy to do and others are doing the same. Don’t fear feminism.