Recently, over a $5 glass of wine, a friend introduced me to her co-worker. The conversation swayed to football and I mentioned how I didn’t particularly like the sport because of a variety of reasons: chronic traumatic encephalopathy, the history of mistreatment of cheerleaders, and high rates of domestic violence (to name a few.) My new friend cut me off saying, “No, no, you don’t understand…football is…football is strategic. Like when you are picking out your outfit in the morning and want to look cute, you have to choose carefully.”
On a very, very, very small scale, this is one of the reasons why I am a feminist. This man thought that because of my sex, I would only be able to understand the concept of strategy through the lens of picking out an outfit. Simultaneously, this is both an extreme and minute example of sexism.
Even with my cheap wine buzz, I left the interaction frustrated. This man was unable to understand the core and primary value of feminism: equality between sexes.
Only a few days later, I was at a family friend’s home where her uncle was wide-eyed, exclaiming how “dirty and angry those women with the signs are.” Those “dirty and angry” women he’s referring to were peacefully marching in the Women’s March on Washington in January.
It’s the unfortunate truth that many of these myths about feminism are still alive and thriving. It’s even sadder that if I speak up, I’ll transition from “the cute girl who doesn’t get football” to the “angry, hairy, bra-burning, probably lesbian, man-hater.” I feel as if I can’t win.
Not surprisingly, a 2019 paper in the Journal of Social Psychology found a correlation between increased exposure to negative feminist stereotypes and reducing numbers of women who self-identified as a feminist. That persistent “trap question for women“, to which Elizabeth Warren recently referenced, rings true here.
And so, in this month of celebrating women, let’s reiterate in a nice easy-to-read-and-not-miss-the-takeaways listicle format what it really means to be a feminist. Let’s debunk these myths, baby!
Stereotype: Feminists want to hold more power than men.
Correction: Feminists believe in all forms of equality across sexes.
Feminism is about creating equal opportunity for all genders. There is no reason for men to have more opportunities, easier routes to success, higher paying positions at work, more ability to choose, less slut-shaming, and more freedoms – just because they’re male.
Stereotype: Feminists are lesbian man-haters.
Correction: Feminists are individuals of any sexuality, gender, or sex.
Feminists don’t hate men, but they certainly do not like when men are sexist. And with the high rates of reported sexism against women (around 42% just in the workplace!), you may be confusing our dislike of gender discrimination with hatred for an entire gender. We don’t hate men!
Stereotype: Feminists are only women.
Correction: ANYONE can be a feminist.
Anyone who truly supports equality across sexes is a feminist, regardless of their sex, gender, race, socio-econonimc status, alma mater, hair color, eye color, favorite color, job, or shoe size.
Stereotype: Feminists all have the same political and religious beliefs (or lack thereof.)
Correction: Feminists are united by their belief in equality between sexes. Period.
Feminism has NOTHING to do with political or religious beliefs.
Stereotype: Feminists are all highly sexually active.
Correction: Feminism is the belief in equality between the sexes, including SEXUAL equality. But this has nothing to do with a woman’s choice to have – or not have – sex.
Just because a feminist would not slut shame another person, this implies nothing about their level of sexual activity.
Stereotype: Feminists never want to be subjects of sexual attention.
Correction: Feminists do not want to be the subjects of UNWANTED sexual attention or actions.
Just because a woman believes in equality, does not mean she doesn’t want her/his/their partner to give her consented sexual attention.
Stereotype: Feminists are anti-marriage.
Correction: To marry or not marry is not a feminist issue.
You may be confusing this with feminists disagreeing that women should be raised to see marriage as a pivotal peak in their lives, while men are not taught to aim for this same “goal.” Feminists don’t believe every woman’s goal should be to get married, as past decades have taught. But two individuals who want to legalize their partnership through vows? Nothing wrong with that.
Stereotype: Feminists are bitter.
Correction: While it can be very frustrating to experience inherent sexism, feminists are not mean, bitter, and angry.
Like all people on earth, feminists experience a variety of different emotions all the time. And yes, having to be activists for equality can become frustrating – but so can being stuck in traffic. If you are stuck in traffic once, you aren’t bitter forever!
Stereotype: Feminists don’t shave.
Correction: Feminists choose to groom their body hair in a way that works for them.
This is one of the more ridiculous stereotypes. I mean, comeon, there is no way to classify an entire movement by hair grooming. Some women have taken to not shaving their bodies to show that the way an individual grooms their body hair is their choice. But it does not define their femininity or their masculinity. It just means there’s a wide variety of hair styles among all people who believe in gender equality.
Stereotype: Feminists are only focused on their careers.
Correction: Feminists are focused on equality, in all spheres, and the ability to have the same opportunities as men.
My mother is one of the strongest supporters of feminism; she’s been a stay-at-home mom since my oldest brother was born. To raise awareness and and end sexism, feminists frequently highlight the issue in the workplace. That may be why it may be easy to conflate the idea of feminists wanting workplace equality with feminists only wanting career success. However, feminists are advocating for equality and the ability to choose between a career, motherhood, or to have both — all options should be available to women.
I truly hope this is the last time we have to reiterate what feminism actually is and we can mark these myths as debunked! Please, take it in, acknowledge the truth, and move on to other, more fun, more surprising listicles.
And, if while reading this list you were starting to realize that you, yourself are a feminst, don’t be alarmed! Behind all those negative stereotypes, is a pretty sane and logical concept, so it makes sense you might be into it.
P.S. While writing this I got distracted by a list on Buzzfeed of celebrities’ 2020 Presidential endorsements and, let’s just say, Cher’s will surprise you. I also got distracted by “14 People Who Aren’t Afraid To Admit Michael Myers Has Big Dick Energy”. Our own Lova Lists are, of course, a must read! Those are the kinds of lists I want to read more of in 2020.
About the Author, Claudia Morano
Claudia Morano, a recent Georgetown graduate, is an avid writer, runner, and toast-eater. She believes strongly in equality, art, and running off a hangover. In the future, she hopes to have a career she is passionate about and get more consistent with her journaling.