A month ago or so, I bought a book entitled Das Feminismus Buch (The Feminism Book). A friend of mine saw it and her first comment was: “Oh god, what crap is this?” She looked at a couple pages and told me that it’s all exaggerated and points made in the book were stupid and unnecessary. She then proceeded to ask me, if I could stop being such a feminist and so “extreme” in my views and that she thought feminists are just too pushy and loud. Coming from a good friend of mine, whom I consider to be a strong, independent, smart human, I was quite shocked and sad at her berating any argument that was remotely “feminist.”
The basic definition of feminism according to Merriam-Webster is: “the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities.” Sounds simple and self-explanatory, right? But is it? When I tell people, I am a feminist I oftentimes get snarky and dismissive comments and oftentimes a lot of backlash as shown above.
There is so much misinformation on feminism and what it is and people are quick to say: “Oh I am not a feminist,” because they don’t really take the time to educate themselves on the topic and go by what a big part of society sadly still thinks about feminists and the stereotypes that have been engrained in people’s minds. One of the biggest of these clichés is that feminists are just man-hating lesbians trying to take over the world and get rid of all men (this might sound a bit exaggerated, but there are still people who think so). This is very harmful not just for the feminist movement but for everyone else, as everyone would benefit from equality. (Take a look at this piece on the damaging effects of toxic masculinity, for one.) Moreover, some people are quick to dismiss feminism as they think whatever feminism is fighting for or against does not affect them.
But why is that? Why do so many people dislike feminism, disregard what it stands for, and make fun of people who call themselves feminists?
Unconscious gender bias and femmephobia
Whether we like it or not, we all have biases. Unconscious gender bias is a big issue when it comes to feminism. The quote: “I don’t need feminism, because I am a strong woman” is something I have heard quite often. Feminism isn’t about strong or weak people, it’s simply about equality for all.
Femmphobia is another issue. Whether it’s conscious or not, we often see feminine things as less valuable or make fun of it. A great example is the constant hate on teenage girls and their love of boy bands. They are constantly looked down on just for what they like. Not so much on typical “boy-stuff,” such as gaming. If a girl enters the gaming world, there are still many instances of them being not taken seriously or blatant sexism. Vice versa, if a young boy loves a boyband, they are often ridiculed for liking “girls-stuff “or even called gay, which isn’t just femmephobic but also homophobic. I have a male friend who likes to wear nail-polish, likes to watch romantic comedies, and is also a big fan of BTS and One Direction, two very famous boy bands. He has also been with his girlfriend for five years now and identifies as heterosexual. Yet, he constantly gets teased for what he likes, called a girl in a derogatory way, and has to defend his sexuality, which is so sad and unnecessary in 2022. Why is it that stereotpyical feminine things are seen as less worthy than stereotypical masculine things?
The Victim Card
There is also the assumption that feminists play the “victim” card. That they just pick unnecessary fights so they can complain about it instead of appreciating the progress that has been made. Of course, the wins and accomplishments need to be celebrated, but that does not mean one has to stop there or settle for half-wins. Just because it’s better now doesn’t mean we have reached equality. We are far from it. As Katie Porter said: “I’m 46 years old, I’ve had to hear a lot of times, ‘Well, it’s better than it used to be for women.’ And, you know, I don’t think that’s my goal, to have it not get worse.” I have encountered similar things in my own friend group.
During a discussion about intersectional feminism with a focus on including the LGBTQ+ community within feminism, I have heard from some of my best friends: Aren’t you exaggerating. Queer people have it so good, especially in our home country. Why does everything have to be “made gay” now (with references to movies and TV shows especially). Just recently, a friend asked me why I so publicly talk about my queerness, that she thinks my personality has changed since coming out as queer (isn’t that a good thing?) and why I often talk so negatively about our time in school. I had to remind her that as a heterosexual person, her experience growing up was different than mine. While I did not show it at the time, I often felt a alone and not seen in my small hometown without anyone who (publicly) went through the same. Because I had an amazing childhood nonetheless, some of my friends don’t seem to understand what a difference inclusion and equality can make. When gay marriage was legalized in my home country I cried. I don’t know if I will end up marrying a women or a man, or if I will get married at all, but knowing that people finally listened and granted the same rights to everyone just made me so unbelievably happy. I would expect my friends and family to be happy for me, too, even though it might not affect them directly.
Misinformation and miseducation
Feminists hate men. They try to take over and suppress men and are just just frustrated because they did not get a guy. Feminists are too loud, obnoxious and annoying, constantly angry and whine about everything. Feminism is just for women, they reject all traditional feminine traits and hate on women who prefer to stay at home and raise children. Men who are feminists are all gay or too soft. These are just some of the many stereotypes and misconceptions about feminism. All this stems from centuries of misinformation and miseducation surrounding feminism spread by people who were afraid of the status quo changing and were worried they might lose power or influence or simply did not wish for equality for all.
Many people have this notion about feminism where it rejects all traditional forms of femininity and hates on people who like those traditions. I have heard quite often from other women: “I am not a feminist, because I want to be a stay-at-home-mom.” But feminists aren’t against that. We don’t want every women to not have a family and just work in a corporate career. If you want to be a housewife, that is totally fine. That’s the whole point. That everyone can choose what they prefer.
Or people say you can’t be a feminist because you dress a certain way (usually they say that when a woman shows a lot of skin). Firstly, you are the one sexualizing or even slut-shaming another person based on how they dress. Secondly, feminism has nothing to do with clothes. Feminism gives you the right to choose what you want to wear, whether you want to fully cover up or whether you want to show as much skin as possible. If you want to show your boobs, go for it. If you don’t, go for it as well. It’s your choice and no one else’s.
Seeing it as a win-lose issue
Too many people think of feminism as a black-and-white issue, a win-all or lose-all situation. They think in order for feminism to succeed there have to be major losses for others. But feminism is not a win-lose situation. It’s a win-for-all situation. Its goal is to dismantle all oppressive systems, meaning it benefits everyone who has been affected by these systems in the past. Feminism also allows women to be more masculine and break away from feminine cliches, if they so chose to do. I just remember all the backlash I got when I shaved my head—a typical masculine thing. Simple things like that show me that there is still a very long way to go.
Feminists don’t hate men. They hate toxic masculinity, because toxic masculinity hurts us all. We divide ourselves into typical masculine and feminine traits. Society tells men to toughen up, don’t cry, don’t show emotions and so on. No wonder that suicide rates among men are so high, if they have never learned to express themselves and if they tried, they were called weak.
Intersectional feminism and breaking the binary
While breaking the stereotypes we have put on ourselves, feminism also sheds a light on gender-non-conforming and non-binary people as well as transgender people who have historically been excluded from discussion. If we break away from the notion that feminism is focused solely on a binary gender thinking, we would all be much better off because it would also show that there are no two opposing sides in this. We are all trying to work together to make the world better for all of us.
I don’t have a problem with having a heated discussion. I know some things can be debated (a big issue for many is the gendered language and using the * or other symbols within writing). I am happy to hear arguments on both sides and understand where some people who are against the change in language are coming from, because they might not experience aspects of exclusionary or gendered speech. Simply dismissing everything feminism is trying to accomplish and trying to ridicule or dismiss my arguments or experiences, just because they are associated with feminism itself, I can’t accept. I would expect my close circle to support equal rights in all its forms and thus, support feminism as well. Instead, some of my friends constantly poke fun at feminism and my views, sadly also many female friends as the example in the beginning shows.
I am not saying feminism is perfect. It’s often still too binary and not intersectional enough, but it sure as hell is important and leads us in the right direction. We all want to have equality and fairness. That’s what feminism stands for so we should stop hating on it. If you dislike feminism or consider it useless, you have not fully understood the concept and meaning of it. Even if an inequality does not directly impact you or you don’t understand it fully, it most certainly affects someone close to you. That’s why you should fight for it.
Get more like this—Sign up for our daily inspirational newsletter for exclusive content!