Understanding Feminism as More Than Just a Stereotype

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Published February 28, 2016
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The Montclarion
Photo Courtesy: Jay Morrison (Flickr) https://www.flickr.com/photos/artiseverywhere/3987414509/in/photolist-75mxq2-GYaJt-5Wi6oU-jwpsSw-2Gz6EY-7mWt4B-fcv7dL-6K9SRt-bWoXFb-ety6A1-eow3rU-9BagUg-agwoi5-rDjygN-e3fFCi-5jDMoE-4VKfRg-s695qw-Hf9rq-RuY2v-DRoR-mbN9D4-a8dfr8-NfV8d-2n4EFt-8rbR64-69K9gQ-dpqLie-9oKS1g-aFUKxH-7vdgsa-hUyAwA-ETm1-96D5nN-duHhRu-6wRAu3-gcAaUu-2giwyy-bnkw6r-7f3Cxp-a8ffFG-a8gatf-a8dq4n-eiLsVg-a8g4eW-a8g3JL-a8deM6-a8d9k2-657iLt-a8fejN

Being a feminist in today’s society is quite exhausting. There are many misconceptions about feminism that make creating change difficult. However, that has never stopped me. To this day, I continue to fight for equality in society despite the many stereotypes that I have to fight.

Unfortunately, it seems that the fight against stereotypes has started to outweigh the fight against issues of sexism. I should be telling people about the many countries where child marriage is legal and how it is affecting the lives of young girls around the globe. Instead, I argue with people that feminism is not about hating men. I find myself explaining everything that feminism is not instead of explaining everything that feminism is.

How does that seem effective? Why am I still forced to be validating my feminism when there are actual issues in the world that others need to be aware of? The answer seems to be that people are so afraid of feminism, because they are not quite sure what it is. Usually, it is not even their fault, because we live in a society that has framed feminism into something radical and hateful, which is exactly what it is not.

When I asked many of my friends — both male and female — about their thoughts on feminism, there were different reactions. The gist of most of the negative thoughts about it was that feminism is about hating men, while the consensus of the positive views was that feminism is about fighting for equality. As someone who knows the actual definition of feminism — a belief that women and men should have the same social, political and economic rights — it was hard to accept the negative comments.

I did have a friend that said feminism is a good movement and a good thing, but it fails to tackle bigger issues, in part because of the label social media has put on feminism.
Social media is a tricky thing, because anyone can make a social media account and put their views out there, no matter how controversial or incorrect those views may be. Many people’s ideas of a community could be altered for better or for worse based on social media.

Unfortunately for feminists, social media seems to enforce the stereotype that we are aggressive toward men, and tweets and statuses that generalize men are not helping the cause. We have evolved from the misconception that “all men are the same,” but this is undermined by accounts created about meninism which enforce the idea that feminism is an attack on men. The accounts make sexist tweets that degrade feminism and women in general. They will find an example of radical feminism and make their followers believe all feminists act that way, which seems to be extremely hypocritical, considering all parties involved lose it when women say men are all the same.

The problem is that enough radical feminists have been able to alter many people’s minds on feminism. In fact, a radical group of any community is bound to stir up controversy towards that community. Islam and Christianity are two religious communities that are often put under scrutiny because of extremists, but we know not to make assumptions about either of these religions based on the violent acts that extremists have committed in the past. Therefore, we should be able to understand the difference between extreme feminists and more moderate feminists as well.

This conversation I brought up to my friends lasted for two hours. During those two hours, I spent the time defining what feminism is and making sure everyone did not form opinions about it based on radical feminism. By the end of the conversation, I realized that I had completely proven my point.

So many topics can be covered in a two-hour conversation about the latest violations of women’s rights across the globe. However, I spent the entire time shooting down stereotypes and not raising awareness for any of those feminist issues.

It seems now that, when I bring up feminism to take two steps in a better direction, I am pushed back to where I was and remain fighting to take those two steps again. It is quite annoying, especially since many people are feminists without even realizing it.

If you believe that women and men should be on the same social, political and economic levels, then you are technically a feminist. So why can’t we stick together and form a movement that is geared towards making those levels equal? Why don’t we stop feminism from seeming like a dirty word and make people see it for what it is: a push toward equality?

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