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The misconception of feminism

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There are so many misconceptions about feminism that may hinder healthy conversations about it. Photo by Becca Tapert - Unsplash.

By: Alicia Philip

Feminism—A word that is so vile and obscene that it was included in a 2015 Time Magazine poll as one of the words that should be banned. For many people, the term feminism conjures up an image of vicious misandrists who only care about women’s issues. Individuals and the media have misinterpreted and misrepresented the concept of feminism, leading to a stigmatisation of the movement and the word altogether. As a devoted feminist it compels me to write this article in hopes that it will transform the perspective and understanding of feminism among others. Below, I have outlined five common misconceptions about feminism, along with brief explanations to clear up the confusion and raise awareness about feminism.

Alicia Philip

All feminists hate men.

This is the most common misconception about feminism. Many feminists have a loving relationship with the men in their lives, be it their fathers, brothers, partners or friends. Feminists are not anti-men as much as they are anti-patriarchy and the idea that men are better than women. Although, for centuries, men have been oppressing women, women do not hate men. All women want is to be heard, seen and treated equally. Feminism calls for the equality of genders. Since men oppose this concept, it is aimed at them. It is merely a reaction to the opposition by some men against feminism. Feminism is a movement passionate about allowing people to be their complete and free selves without worrying about being attacked and ostracized by society’s unreasonable standards.

Feminists think men are inferior to women.

This is another false idea about feminism. Do note that there is no matriarchy in the discourse of feminism. In fact, feminist believes that men and women should co-exist to help each other to become better individuals. Feminism advocated for gender equality by balancing the power dynamic between genders. Feminism does not advocate taking away power from anyone. It is about restoring power to the “subordinated” gender considered inferior and less of a human. In reality, women lack many basic rights that allow them autonomy over their lives. Providing them with rightful human rights does not mean taking away men’s rights. In addition, feminism wants to dismiss the mentality that each gender has a specific societal role. Feminism acknowledges that they would no longer be forced to adopt certain mentalities and act in certain ways that hurt them emotionally, mentally, and physically. For example, it is not only men who should be burdened to take up the role of sole breadwinners while women are to be the sole homemakers, and they are to be loaded with such roles set by the society. The whole point of feminism is to correct the power imbalance between men and women. Feminists are against matriarchy just as much as they are against patriarchy. The aim is equality of the sexes, not to bring one above or below the other.

Feminism kills traditional femininity.

It is perfectly alright for women to embrace their femininity, enjoy staying at home, wear make-up and dresses, love culinary arts and still be a feminist. Feminism isn’t about tearing down traditional femininity. Feminists believe women should be given a choice to do what they want with their lives. Centuries ago, women had no choice; instead, they were forced to stay at home, raise children, wear dresses instead of pants, be of a certain size and shape, and wear a certain style of make-up considered womanly. Women are not allowed in public or work. Feminists are merely against the idea of being told how they should behave as women by society. Feminists do not in any way think that women who choose to stay at home are oppressed. The liberation from society’s clutches lies in women’s choices. If a woman wants to stay at home, it’s completely up to her, but if she ever chooses to go out and work, it is entirely the woman’s choice. Feminism aims to break down these gender stereotypes and allow everyone to live as they are without discrimination and prejudice.

Feminists can only be women.

Contrary to the common belief, feminism is not a movement tailored for women. Feminism believes in the equality of sexes, including every gender and sexuality between male and female, heterosexual and homosexual. Feminism is not a movement to bring down the males but rather to raise women and those oppressed for their gender and sexuality by providing the same opportunities as their male counterparts. With that said, feminists may not only be amongst women; as long as you believe in gender equality, you are considered a feminist.

Feminists can’t do with humour and are always angry.

Feminists can take jokes as long as it is not degrading and offensive or belittle the efforts of a feminist. There is a vast difference between jokes and insults; failing to distinguish between jokes and insults may hurt a feminist. Saying things like “go back to the kitchen” as a joke does not pass as a joke. Feminists have the right to be angry. Years of oppression do that to people. After all, feminists are fighting for their liberty and improving their daily lives. How can they not be angry and bitter about the violence and the discrimination that has gone on for years? Of how little girls’ confidence is torn apart and destroyed as they enter the adult world because society makes them believe that their worth is found in their beauty and body, and they are not allowed to be as ambitious, sexual, and strong as men. Of how rape victims are blamed for the crime instead of the perpetrators? So yes, feminists are sometimes angry, bitter or sad. However, the feminist movement is ultimately about acceptance and justice. Instead of simply being angry and hateful towards others, feminists work hard for equality to educate those who hurt – intentionally and subconsciously alike – on how to stop inflicting pain and empower and uplift those around them.

While there are a plethora of misconceptions surrounding the concept of feminism, I hope that these few myths dispelled can help provide insight into the true meaning of feminism.

It is not a bad word. You just need to understand it better.

……

The author is a Lecturer at the Languages and Communication Department, College of Continuing Education, Universiti Tenaga Nasional (UNITEN), and may be reached at alicia@uniten.edu.my

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