Is society misunderstanding the feminist movement?

Rosalie Goldberg, Online Opinions/Campus Life Editor

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Okay, fine, I’ll admit it: I’m a feminist. In the time it took to type that word, some people have decidedly written off my arguments as invalid or one-sided. This is where the problem lies. People, especially men, tend to shy away from the word “feminist” before actually taking the time to examine it.

If you ask the average man if he believes in social, political, and economic equality for all sexes, the answer is most often a defensive yes. Why is it that men tend to fear this word? Some people would say that it’s because feminism is about hating men or subjugating men in some way.

Before we can even have a conversation about feminism, we must answer the question: “But what about men?” This issue of tying men into the idea of feminism has brought the focal point of the discussion back toward dealing with problems pertaining to men.  

Feminism is not about hating men; it works to topple the patriarchal system that keeps men in a dominant position. The patriarchy, which is pervasive in many of our social institutions, is a system in which males hold primary power.

There are innumerable examples, both large and small in scale, to prove the existence of the patriarchy. Women make 77 cents on the dollar compared to men. Catcalling, rape, and sexist jokes are almost always directed at women. There are 99 women in Congress out of 535 total seats, meaning that only 18.5 percent of people in political power are women (who account for roughly half of the country’s population).

The patriarchy even negatively affects men. If a man displays any stereotypically feminine attributes, such as emotions, he is perceived as weak. Why? Because women are generally considered to be the weaker sex, another element of pervasive gender roles. Men who don’t fit neatly into their assigned roles suffer at the hands of their peers, leading to low self-esteem and stress.

Labeling yourself as an anti-feminist, even if you consider yourself to be in favor of gender equality, is harmful to the movement. In middle school, I was taught that being a bystander while watching hurtful actions of a bully is the equivalent of siding with the bully. The same applies to feminism.

By saying that you are not a feminist, you are working to discredit a movement that fought for women to have the right to vote, own land, attend college, and the right to divorce an abusive husband. But we aren’t done. Gender inequality still exists, so we must keep these issues at the forefront of conversation.

Many people also ask why feminism is female-centric if the movement strives for equal rights for all sexes. This is because women are the oppressed group, which means women are more affected by the gender inequality. There is a system in place to keep the oppressed group silenced, and there is an imbalance of social, economic, and political power.

Like many other “-isms,” feminism is more difficult to understand because it does not encompass a completely unified set of ideals, but all feminists have one thing in common: they want to work together to bring about a better society for all genders. As a whole, the movement has suffered from poor coverage by the media and limited understanding, but what must be made clear is that the movement isn’t driven by us versus them, but is instead aimed toward making a better society for all.

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