By: Shafiqah Othman in Malaysia
In recent weeks while I was browsing my timelines on Twitter and Facebook, I have seen many people on social media bashing the feminist movement, labelling it as “men-hating” and a movement driven by misandry.
It seems that the term “feminism” has received a lot of negative connotations, and it bothers me that feminism has been misinterpreted and misrepresented by certain vocal feminists or by the media.
While I know these misconceptions have been going on for a long time, the frequency of seeing it these past few days have compelled me to write this, in hopes that it will stop people from believing the wrong things.
1. Feminism is only for women
Contrary to popular belief, feminism is not a movement built only for women. The prefix “fem” might make it seem like a club exclusively for women, but it is not. Feminists believe in equality of the sexes, and this includes every gender and sexuality that exists between male and female, heterosexual and homosexual. The “fem” in feminism is not about bringing males down, but rather, to raise women and those oppressed for their gender and sexuality up, giving them the same opportunities as their heterosexual male peers.
With that said, not all feminists are women too. As long as you believe in gender equality, regardless of your gender or sexuality, you are considered a feminist. I know many men in my life who believe in pushing the beloved females in their lives to be the best they can, not restricting them of opportunities and chances merely because of their gender. They see women as their equals. These men are feminists.
2. All feminists hate men
This is by far the most common misconception that I have heard or seen. Many feminists have loving relationships with the men in their lives, be it a friend, partner, father, brother or acquaintance. Feminists are not anti-men as much as they are anti-patriarchy and the notion that men are better than women, regardless the gender of the person who promotes it. Ask any feminist, and they can tell you that there is a man in their lives who have encouraged them to be the strong, independent woman that they are today.
3. Feminists think women are better than men
No, feminists do not think this at all. Feminists acknowledge the fact that men and women should exist together to help each other become better individuals. Feminists do not think that they are better than men, but rather would want to be treated as equals. Any feminist who thinks that men are below women are not feminists at all. The whole point of feminism is to correct the power imbalance between men and women. Feminists are against matriarchy just as much as they are against patriarchy. The aim is equality of the sexes, not to bring one above or below the other.
4. Feminists believe in nudity
While there have been topless riots by some extreme feminist groups, please do not let them define us as a whole. Feminists come from all sorts of cultures and backgrounds. Feminists do not advocate for nudity, but rather being able to make a choice in what you wear. The liberation does not lie in being naked or in being covered. The liberation lies in being able to make a choice and not get discriminated for it. If a woman chooses to cover herself, it’s completely up to her. The same thing applies if she chooses to wear revealing clothing. In some societies, women don’t even get a say in what they are allowed to wear but are forced to conform to standards set by the societies that they live in.
5. Feminists are career-oriented and are against homemaking and femininity
Just like point number 4, the liberation lies in the choice. In some societies, women are being forced to stay at home and are not allowed a voice. They aren’t allowed in public or to work. Feminists believe that women should be given a choice to do what they want with their lives, and this also includes the choice to be a homemaker. If a woman wants to stay at home, it’s completely up to her, but if she ever chooses to go out and work, feminists want to make sure that the opportunity is there for her to do so. Feminists are merely against being told how they should behave as women by the society. They do not in any way think that women who choose to stay at home are oppressed.
The same thing applies to women who are stereotypically feminine. Feminists are not against femininity, but the idea that women are not allowed to be anything else except for feminine.
If your form of feminism is defining what freedom and liberation is supposed to mean to others, than you’re not truly a feminist at all.
In society today, we see women who show masculine traits being put down for not being feminine enough, and men with feminine traits being put down because they aren’t masculine enough to fit the stereotype of their gender. Feminism aims to break down these gender stereotypes and give everyone a chance to live their lives as who they truly are with no discrimination and prejudice.
Feminism does not only benefit women, but also men who are being caged by ideas of hypermasculinity. Men who do not portray or possess typical male qualities are sometimes looked down upon as being “less manly.” These not only include transexual, transgender or LGBT men, but also common heterosexual men who are inclined to repress their emotions or to show aggression in response to anger and sadness for fear of being seen as weak by their peers. Male abuse or rape victims are sometimes made fun of by other males because of the notion that “real men fight back” or “real men want sex.”
Men, women and everyone else who exists within the spectrum deserve a chance to be sensitive and strong. Everyone deserves a chance to live life to the fullest the way they want regardless of their gender and sexuality.
While many people could say that feminism is redundant because women get the same chances as men, not all societies can say the same thing. There are still many places in the world that are heavily affected by gender inequality, and it’s unfair for us to close our eyes to their plight merely because we live in a privileged bubble.
Feminists acknowledge that “not all men are the same.” There is no point in telling them this over and over again because they already know. Again, it’s not men they hate. It’s patriarchy and misogyny. They know that not all men are patriarchs or misogynists. You can stop repeating it like a broken record.
Do not let one or two radical feminists define the whole movement. If you do not like people stereotyping you based on your race or religion, do not do the same thing unto others. Not all feminists are the same.
There are many things that I could add on, however I would like to keep this basic and easy to understand.
Feminism is not a bad word. You just need to understand it better.
*This is the personal opinion of the columnist.