Feminism is a word that causes sighs and huffs around the room. It is a word that carries stigma. Feminism is something that so many people have gotten the wrong idea of that the sentence “I am a feminist” is met with hostility. However, feminism is not a bad thing. Feminism is not in any way trying to attack men or make women superior. In fact, if you’re not a feminist, you’ve either got the wrong idea of feminism or you’re a bad person. Feminism is just the belief that people of all genders are equal. Everyone is equal. So, why not be a feminist?
The word ‘feminist’ starts with the prefix ‘fem’ simply because it began with a focus on women. Women suffer more than men from gender inequality, therefore, the word ‘feminist’ is focused on women. That doesn’t mean feminism itself is only focused on women. It has campaigned predominately for women’s rights, but it is about equality. For example, Ruth Bader Ginsberg fought for men to have equal widower rights as women.
There are different branches of feminism and different beliefs. This piece won’t go into every branch, because there are many and to try to convey every idea in one piece would not do them justice.
Radical feminism calls for an entire reordering of society which eliminates male supremacy. Radical feminists may believe that society needs to be entirely changed. A lot of the stigma around feminism has come from radical feminism, as some radical feminism has stated that women’s needs should be put before men’s. It has also been criticised for ignoring the intersectional difficulties of women of minority. Understand that not all feminist are radical feminists, and that not all radical feminists are female supremacists.
Liberal feminism focuses on how women’s actions can change gender inequality. Liberal feminists look at legal inequality and changing government laws that cause the oppression of women. For example, divorce laws, married women’s property rights, child care, health care and legal abortion.
Marxist feminism explores the ways in which women are exploited by capitalist society. Capitalism often favours men and a patriarchal society often profits from women’s insecurities and exploitation. For example, women’s razors were invented in 1915, when men realised they could make money by making women’s body hair seem ‘disgusting.’
During some of the first marches for women’s rights, black women were made to march at the back. Racism is rooted in the feminist movement, and for this reason many black women and women of ethnic minorities feel unable to participate in the movement. Almost all feminist representatives shown in mainstream media are white, excluding the different experiences of non-white women. Feminism needs to be intersectional. We can’t focus on gender equality and ignore the differences in oppression. We can’t focus on one type of oppression and separate it from others. Intersectional feminism focuses on oppression of women and women’s rights, but it focuses on the differences for each women. Intersectional feminism looks at how age, sexuality, race and other factors play in to gender inequality and sexism. We can’t fight for equality if others are still oppressed in different ways.
Some people wonder why feminism is still needed. We have equal rights, don’t we? No, not really. Several areas of the world still oppress women and girls still miss out on education. Period poverty still prevents girls from going out in the world. Access to contraception is limited. The gender pay gap still prevents women from being paid what they deserve. Women are still shouted at in the streets, groped in night clubs and harassed online. Most people think this is normal, but it shouldn’t be. Nobody should be made to feel embarrassed or unsafe, yet many women are.
If you take anything away from reading this, I hope that it’s a decision to be feminist and call out sexism, or at least a better understanding of feminism and gender inequality. We aren’t equal yet.