You hear about it on TV, read about it on Twitter and learn about it in history class—feminism. But why do young women and men shy away from calling themselves feminists? Why is girl power only awesome and sexy if Beyoncé is singing about it? There are too many myths and false assumptions about feminism that threaten to derail the entire movement—again!
The first problem is that people wrongly assume that the goal of feminism is to eliminate the need for men entirely. Seventeen-year-old feminism advocate Elizabeth Suarez said, “From my experience, many men (and women, unfortunately) view feminism as extremist propaganda that tries to eradicate all men from the face of the earth.” This is simply not the case. By definition, feminism strives to provide equality for both genders and does not seek to replace the role of men. Feminists ideally hope that women and men should be able to coexist in society with equal opportunities and options. According to University of Miami senior Edwin Gates, “If men can come to the table acknowledging that women are neither stupid nor inferior, then women should be able to come to the table acknowledging that not all men are sexist or power hungry.”
There is also a misconception that women should automatically support each other. “There is a pervasive idea in feminism that we should support all women, and that is quite ignorant,” said PhD Candidate and Professor at the University of Florida Keasha Renee Worthen. Some people assume that, because feminism seeks to empower women, a feminist should automatically support any other woman.
For example, rather than supporting their ideal presidential candidate, some feminists believe that women should support Hillary Clinton solely because she is a woman. Suarez responded to this by saying, “Not every woman is going to be perfect and, even as feminists, we have a right to choose who we support. That is my favorite part about feminism—the right to choose.” Supporting a woman because of her gender and not because of her beliefs goes against the very nature of feminism, without a doubt. If women only encourage each other because they are women, then the idea that females are merely unintelligent vagina-owners is progressed, rather than prevented.
In the past, high-paying careers such as attorneys, CEOs or engineers were available only to men. Now these careers are viable choices for everyone. Therefore, some women feel pressured to take on these new “powerful” positions that women in the past only dreamed of having. But empowerment doesn’t only come in the form of scrubs, suits, or lab goggles. “You can be a feminist and a housewife! There is no definitive way to be a feminist. Women can feel empowered by being an at-home mother, stripper, doctor, CEO, etc.” said Suarez. “The goal of feminism is to give everybody the ability to choose who they want to be, and be happy with whomever that person is.” Essentially, it’s important to realize that feminism has many different faces, many different occupations, and many different personas. Feminists should not strive to mold, fix or alter women, but accept that women feel empowerment in their own, unique ways and are not in need of “saving.” Professor Worthen put it perfectly when she said, “A woman who chooses to be a housewife or even a porn star is often treated like she is a victim when in actuality she made a clear and conscious decision.”
Additionally, feminism is rejected outright because there seems to be a lack of inclusion. “Sojourner Truth had to stand up and say, in a room with white women who were discussing the right to vote, a right which was denied to all African Americans, ‘Ain’t I a Woman?’” Professor Worthen said. In order for feminism to progress, it is important that the ideology expands to include people of all backgrounds and experiences, recognizing that race and gender issues are mutually intertwined.
The feminist ideology must acknowledge and recognize that all women face different experiences because of race, religion and sexuality. “I suppose a basic position [on feminism] is that ‘there are inequalities between men and women, and that is bad,’ but even that formulation is problematic [because] it does not account for transgender persons, for example,” University of Florida’s Dr. Westmoreland said. The real task lies in finding the root of the problem, be it in the ideology of feminism itself or in some of the proponents of the ideology.
Advocates for “men’s rights” feel as though they are being left behind while women are being offered new choices. Because feminism is intended to be about equality for all, supporters should strive to create equality for men too. Why are men looked down upon if they decide to be stay-at-home fathers? It’s ridiculous to think that based on gender alone, certain lifestyles are deemed acceptable, while others are ridiculed. The reality of the situation is that every individual has her own unique skill set and should apply her gifts and talents in whatever way her family sees fit. “If it works better in a family for the man to stay home, there should be no judgment following that,” Gates said. “You should dictate your own roles in your household based on what’s best for you. Society shouldn’t dictate those roles for you.” At the end of the day, life is full of decisions and as Whoopi Goldberg once said, “Normal is nothing more than a setting on a washing machine.”