There are people who hear the word feminism and groan, roll their eyes, and say “not again”, with the same exasperation a child displays when faced with a nagging parent.
So yes, again. Because this is an important issue that must be addressed. And I’m not just talking about feminism itself — I’m talking about the misconceptions that lead to this sort of reaction.
Feminism, by its very definition, is the belief that women are equal to men in every aspect of society: political, economic, cultural, personal, and social. Feminist movements throughout history, and even today, campaign for the rights of women around the world, including the right to vote, to work, equal pay, education, and bodily autonomy. It is, in a nutshell, gender equality.
Many societies around the world, including our own, are structured as a patriarchy — one in which males hold power and authority over all aspects of work, family, and society. It is often tied to the concept of misogyny, which is a dislike of females, leading to behaviours such as sexual discrimination, violence against women, and sexual objectification (e.g. catcalling and sexual harassment).
Feminism exists to correct this imbalance of power, by advocating for the rights of all people, regardless of gender, race, sexual or romantic orientation. Many mistake these sentiments as man-hating, or degrading to males; those who think this way likely to do not fully understand what it truly means to be a feminist. It is a campaign to level the playing field by bringing everyone up to the same status and not, as is the common misconception, by bringing males down.
It is more than just about women's rights. It is about equal rights for all, regardless of gender, race, sexual or romantic orientation.
There is no handy, textbook definition of feminism. You cannot possibly hope to garner a true understanding of what feminism is, simply by looking it up in the dictionary. Everyone defines feminism differently. It is shaped by the way you live, what you experience, and how you put it into practice in your everyday life, through your thoughts and actions towards yourself and other people.
It is about respect, about standing your ground, about believing you are just as good as everyone else, that you deserve to be heard as much as anyone else in this world. It is about treating others the way you would like to be treated, and embracing individuality as a gift, not a weapon to use against others. It is acknowledging people’s right to decide what to do with their bodies and lives without fear of judgement; breaking down gender stereotypes and allowing people to freely express their individuality. It is a call for equality, not an act of hatred.
That is what feminism means to me. What does it mean to you?
Image from www.norwich.tab.co.uk
“Feminism to me means equal rights and opportunities between genders. Whether you're female or male, nobody should be discriminated against because of their sex. Everyone should have the option to choose their lifestyle options without judgement or barriers.” — Jemma
“Feminism to me is a movement that challenges the norm of everyday practices be it for women or those who are in a state of disadvantage. Feminism fosters social change that will have a knock on effect for future generations within contemporary society.” — Dani
“Feminism is a belief system whereby women strive for and believe that their rights are as important as and equal to anyone else's. Feminism extends to all aspects of life such as social, political, educational and employment equality.” — Natasha
“Feminism is being supportive of a woman's right to act, speak, dress, work and live, however she wants. It means agreeing that women share equal rights with men while also accepting that women have to be supported in all the ways they are different to men - such as during pregnancy. A feminist can be male or female, and an anti-feminist can be male or female too. It's about treating women with respect in every aspect of life - from the workplace to the home.” — Brooke
“Feminism sees an exciting time in people reaching a gender equality movement where everyone is seen equally and has the freedom to express themselves and achieve in life as per a male. Feminism provides the same opportunity as the next GUY.” — Amelia
“To me feminism means gender equality, but not man hating in the process. Also inviting men to be a part of gender equality discussion not excluding them.” — Louise