Five Myths about Feminists

October 16, 2012 by Ashley

Let me preface this by acknowledging that I am not an authority on the subject of feminism – but I am feminist, and these are my views on some of the big misconceptions that stand in the way of people’s understanding of feminism.

Image from blogs.siuc.edu

Is the F word a dirty word? When I asked my now boyfriend on our first date if he was a feminist, he said no, he was an ‘equalist’. But shouldn’t that be the same thing? Isn’t feminism, at its heart, about equality? I am still surprised when people, especially women, tell me that they don’t identify as feminists. So I’ve written down some thoughts on why that might be… Feel free to add your own in the comments, or feel free to disagree!

1) Men and women are equal now – we don’t need feminists anymore

Despite the fact that we have come along way since the fight for women’s suffrage, there is still a lot to do in order to realise full equality between men and women. For one thing, the pay gap in the UK has been around 25% since 2000 – that’s 12 years with no improvement. And at the moment, women make up just over 15% of board members.

Looking at the disturbing idiocy of sites like unilad.com (this link goes to our posts related to unilad, not to the site itself), shows there is a lot to be done to get rid of misogyny and sexism. It is incredibly ignorant to assume that just because we have the vote and can drive in the western world, women and men are treated as equals. We still need feminism.

If you have a spare 15 minutes, DO check out this amazing video of Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard delivering the mother of all smackdowns to the leader of the opposition concerning his misogynistic and sexist hypocrisy.

2) Feminists hate men

This might be one of the biggest (and most disturbing?) misconceptions about feminists. Feminism at its most basic is about equality - not supremacy. Hating men would have absolutely no positive impact, as the only way we can achieve equality is through men and women working together. We need men to be on board with us if we are ever going to change things – so hating them will achieve absolutely nothing.

Besides, I like men. They can be really fun and sometimes they make you eggy crumpets when you’re hungover. And my dad makes the best pavlova in the world.

3) Feminists are militant fun sponges  

“Feminists do not know how to have fun. Every conversation is an angry rant from an uptight woman who’s probably just in need of a good shag.” Yes – that is actually an argument someone used in front of me during a discussion about feminism. I almost had to laugh. In the same conversation he used the word ‘feminazi’ and ‘man hating’. Au contraire, mon frere. Most of my female friends are feminists and they are some of the funniest, coolest, kinkiest people you will ever meet. And boy, do they get laid. I’m absolutely, passionately, and resolutely feminist in my views, but I don’t bring it up in every single conversation and I don’t shout down people who don’t agree with me.

Yes, some feminists are militant, but that’s a good thing. We need some of us to be the passionate ones, that march and scream and shout about it. But it’s also ok if you’re not that way inclined. No one wants to spend seven days a week angry. I like talking about feminism because I like to understand why people don’t identify as such (for me it is the default position – I am usually amazed that people don’t realise that it’s essentially about equal rights for women AND men). But I have never once yelled at someone for not agreeing with me.

4) You cannot be a feminist and a housewife

This is another popular myth – even among people who identify as feminists. Feminism is about equality, and part of equality is having the right to choose what you want to do. I believe as a modern woman that you have just as much right to choose to be a stay at home mum as you do to be a rocket scientist. Being a housewife used to be the default – it used to be the very symbol of female oppression. Well, I don’t think it is anymore. You should be able to choose what you do. See the movie Mona Lisa Smile for more on this.

It annoys me when people suggest that baking cupcakes or wearing aprons or going to sewing classes is a step backwards for women. It’s not. It’s not symptomatic of a mass regression into the days where women were expected to be at home all day – if anything I think reclaiming such hobbies is a positive thing. If no one is standing over you demanding that you darn socks and put dinner on the table by six, I say sew on. The current fashion for twee is harmless – it is not the first sign of the apocalypse, and it is not damaging to the feminist cause. You can absolutely enjoy knitting and baking while simultaneously campaigning for equality. To suggest cupcakes and feminism are mutually exclusive is to make women one dimensional. Equality should encompass the freedom to choose your hobbies.

5) Feminists are all hairy-legged bra-burners

Bra-burning has to be one of the most ridiculous myths. Bras are designed for support, not restriction. If you’re small-breasted, let your boobs fly free – but if you have rather larger breasts, bras are fairly essential for comfort. Besides, a quality bra is expensive – so bra-burning really isn’t a sustainable activity in this economy.

And the phrase ‘hairy-legged feminists’ is one that just seems to roll off the tongue, like ‘chocolate chip cookie’. Shaving and waxing are 100% personal choices that generally do not have a much of a bearing on your views on equality. Some women don’t shave in order to make a point about beauty standards, others just prefer to be au naturale – but the thing to remember is that women that do shave/wax and women who wear make up etc are just as likely to be feminists than those who don’t. Shaving your legs, waxing your bikini line, and having a minor addiction to Lancome does not make you a bad feminist – it’s a personal choice. The bullshit argument that says women wear make up and shave to please men is nonsense. I do not get up in the morning and think, ‘I reckon the patriarchy will be pleased by my freshly waxed eyebrows today’. (Though if you are thinking that at 7am then you might want to have a word with yourself.) It’s none of your damn business if someone, feminist or not, decides to let nature keep them cosy or not. It’s about the freedom to do what you want and not prevent others from doing their own thing.

~

So, what are your top myths about feminism?

Ashley is the editor of teamawot.com. As well as working as a press officer, she runs a little food blog, called Peach Trees and Bumblebees. She’s also on Twitter. Oh, and her boyfriend now identifies as a feminist. Score.



14 comments
ZoeLeMouse
ZoeLeMouse

This was posted to me by a friend:"I was just reading this blog post and there's a really interesting comment about bras - I really want to take mine off right now but I'm in work!---  I realize that this blog is about feminists myths. Ironically, the author has unconsciously accepted a myth about breasts. When she mentioned bra burning she stated, "if you have rather larger breasts, bras are fairly essential for comfort." This statement assumes there is something biologically wrong with large breasts that require 20th Century lingerie for support and comfort.  I am a medical anthropologist and breast cancer researcher, and co-author (with my co-researcher and wife, Soma Grismaijer) of the book, Dressed To Kill: The Link Between Breast Cancer and Bras. Having pain or discomfort when you are natural, i.e., bra-free, is a sign of breast disease. Being naked should not feel uncomfortable (at least not physically uncomfortable. Emotional discomfort is another thing.)  Usually the cause is fluid accumulation within the breasts as a result of constriction from tightly worn bras. Bras are designed to alter the natural shape and position of the breasts, and they do this by applying constant pressure to the breast tissue which constricts the tiny, delicate lymphatic vessels within the tissue that drain fluid and toxins. This impaired lymphatic drainage from the breast tissue results in fluid build-up, including cyst formation. The breasts are essentially slightly swollen, suffering from lymphedema caused by chronic constriction from bras. Red marks and indentations in the skin left by bras are signs of pressure and constriction. This is the major cause of breast pain. Speaking about comfort, when we were in Fiji doing follow-up research we asked some large breasted women why they were not wearing bras. The common answer was, "my breasts are too large for a bra". In Fiji, where about half the women are bra-free all their lives, large breasted women are comfortable with their breasts, and think of the bra as intrinsically tight and uncomfortable. In bra-wearing cultures it's assumed large breasted women need bras. That's because they have become physically and psychologically addicted to bras. It starts with Barbie, and the body image distortion lasts a lifetime. And it's not new to have fashion killing women. Foot binding in China lasted centuries, disfiguring and deforming women's feet for the pleasure of their men. Corsets killed women for centuries, too, by constriction. Actually, the corset was broken down into the bra and girdle. So think of the bra as a breast corset. If you research the bra/cancer issue you will see it is being actively censored and suppressed by the ACS and Komen Fdtn, which refuse to take the bra issue seriously or do any research into the link. Meanwhile, they ignore our research, as well as a study in 1991 out of Harvard that found a bra/cancer link, too. Clearly, the cancer industry wants detection and treatment, not prevention with a cost-free clothing change. And the bra industry is working with them to make sure this link does not get further research, for fear of lawsuits. This is a major feminist issue of our time. Breast cancer is a culturogenic disease related to the way we view and treat women and condition them to view and treat themselves. Meanwhile, medicine profits from treating the disease, and actually encourages bra wearing and cosmetic surgery to further exploit the body image disorder. "Not saying you're wrong, but it's food for thought. :) 

CircleThinker
CircleThinker

Is anyone else a bit cross about the bra-hate comment from MR. Sydney Singer who presumably has never worn a bra in his life?  /endrant.

I really enjoyed this piece, like Nina it was a small relief to read as I often consider myself to be "a bit of a bad feminist" rather than just a feminist as I don't necessarily agree with everything my feminist friends say but I do fundamentally believe that women and men should be treated equally in every aspect of their lives. I'm certainly trying to get a bit more clued up on the subject too, so thanks!

 

 

RebeccaTaylor
RebeccaTaylor

What a fantastic post Ashley, I agree with every word! And excellent work converting the boyfriend :)

ninadepaulahanika
ninadepaulahanika

Oh man this was such a relief to read. I recently started at university and joined the Womens' Campain because I thought it would be make me feel more connected to the cause. The girls who run it are amazing and really dedicated, but the online discussion group has just made me feel a little alienated. At the moment, I'm just feeling like I'm not extreme enough in my views - that because I don't scream and shout about every Ladculture comment that gets made (which would be pretty much every 2.3 seconds) that I'm failing. I like to get dressed up and wear makeup and feel attractive and recently I've been feeling like I'm failing myself and my beliefs by wanting to feel desirable. Thanks for this! It's made me feel a lot happier (I especially like point 4, which I always try and explain and never quite got the words rights previously)

SydneySinger
SydneySinger

I realize that this blog is about feminists myths.  Ironically, the author has unconsciously accepted a myth about breasts.  When she mentioned bra burning she stated, "if you have rather larger breasts, bras are fairly essential for comfort."   This statement assumes there is something biologically wrong with large breasts that require 20th Century lingerie for support and comfort.   

 

I am a medical anthropologist and breast cancer researcher, and co-author (with my co-researcher and wife, Soma Grismaijer) of the book, Dressed To Kill: The Link Between Breast Cancer and Bras.

 

Having pain or discomfort when you are natural, i.e., bra-free, is a sign of breast disease.  Being naked should not feel uncomfortable (at least not physically uncomfortable.  Emotional discomfort is another thing.)  

 

Usually the cause is fluid accumulation within the breasts as a result of constriction from tightly worn bras.  Bras are designed to alter the natural shape and position of the breasts, and they do this by applying constant pressure to the breast tissue which constricts the tiny, delicate lymphatic vessels within the tissue that drain fluid and toxins.  This impaired lymphatic drainage from the breast tissue results in fluid build-up, including cyst formation.  The breasts are essentially slightly swollen, suffering from lymphedema caused by chronic constriction from bras.  Red marks and indentations in the skin left by bras are signs of pressure and constriction.  This is the major cause of breast pain.

 

Speaking about comfort, when we were in Fiji doing follow-up research we asked some large breasted women why they were not wearing bras.  The common answer was,  "my breasts are too large for a bra".  In Fiji, where about half the women are bra-free all their lives, large breasted women are comfortable with their breasts, and think of the bra as intrinsically tight and uncomfortable.  In bra-wearing cultures it's assumed large breasted women need bras.  That's because they have become physically and psychologically addicted to bras.

 

It starts with Barbie, and the body image distortion lasts a lifetime.  And it's not new to have fashion killing women.  Foot binding in China lasted centuries, disfiguring and deforming women's feet for the pleasure of their men.  Corsets killed women for centuries, too, by constriction.  Actually, the corset was broken down into the bra and girdle.  So think of the bra as a breast corset.

 

If you research the bra/cancer issue you will see it is being actively censored and suppressed by the ACS and Komen Fdtn, which refuse to take the bra issue seriously or do any research into the link.  Meanwhile, they ignore our research, as well as a study in 1991 out of Harvard that found a bra/cancer link, too.  Clearly, the cancer industry wants detection and treatment, not prevention with a cost-free clothing change.  And the bra industry is working with them to make sure this link does not get further research, for fear of lawsuits.

 

This is a major feminist issue of our time.  Breast cancer is a culturogenic disease related to the way we view and treat women and condition them to view and treat themselves.  Meanwhile, medicine profits from treating the disease, and actually encourages bra wearing and cosmetic surgery to further exploit the body image disorder.

 

If you want more about this try our website killerculture dot com.

sophinaphalange
sophinaphalange

I couldn't agree more. I definitely get a lot of 'oh you just hate men' comments when I talk about feminism and equal rights, etc. I've also been told that the pay gap is a myth and we're 'making it up'. A lot of people would rather shut up about inequality because of being branded a hairy-legged monster or as Australia's lovely lady prime minister a 'witch'. It's ridiculous that feminism has become such a taboo, do people not get that we're not trying to take over the world, we just don't want to have the possibility of doing so taken away because we have a vagina!?

awannabe_writer
awannabe_writer

Fantastic post Ashley. I too have always taken a feminist stand point as default. But some have trouble using that term, particularly men I know, who otherwise are very engaged in equal gender rights issues. To be honest as long as people are in favour and actively supporting equality, I don't care what they call themselves. If it gets them engaged with the struggles still left to be fought, then it's fine by me.

 

The only myth I think that is missing from the above is that feminists are all lesbians (though this ties into the hating-men trope). But not just any lesbians; militant, male-castrating, dungaree wearing, angry lesbians. I am yet to meet a lesbian, or indeed a feminist, who matches these criteria. Maybe I've just not been looking hard enough...

AliceHasWords
AliceHasWords

"It’s none of your damn business if someone, feminist or not, decides to let nature keep them cosy or not." What a beautiful way of putting it. ^^

ZoeLeMouse
ZoeLeMouse

Ahhh I did actually format it, I don't know why the paragraphs dropped out :(

CircleThinker
CircleThinker

@SydneySinger

I have larger boobs and I wouldn't feel comfortable not wearing a bra walking down the street because I would be extremely conscious of the fact that they are moving around a lot as I do so-a sensation that I do not find pleasant.  Also at certain times of the month my boobs get INCREDIBLY painful and wearing a bra actually alleviates this pain-nothing to do with tightness or swelling and more to do with the fact that they are more comfortable when supported than not. Also, women with very large breasts can suffer from back pain due to the weight on their spines, which is again alleviated (in some cases more than others) by keeping them supported. 

I don't think bras are akin to foot binding because they are clearly performing a duty and not just there for aesthetic purposes or to conform to societies ideals of beauty. Yes, they're sometimes uncomfortable but they're not just a fashion statement, they're fulfilling a purpose that isn't just to "make them look good for blokes to appreciate" which is essentially what you are. Also if they fit properly, there is no restriction on the breast tissue as the tight parts of the bra will rest below and around them, rather than on them. If you are predisposed to breast cancer genetically, wearing a bra vs not wearing a bra is not going to make much difference  when it comes to getting it. There are much larger risk factors such as smoking and drinking that will affect you in greater ways than will wearing a bra every day. 

Also, the 1991 study from Harvard linked bra size and increased likelihood of cancers (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1827274) not whether wearing one increases the risk. I suspect they used bra size simply because it's a handy, already established unit of measurements for breast size, rather than having to measure each participants breasts numerically. I'm pretty sure,  that women wearing bras or not is NOT one of the major feminist issues of our time as they are not oppressive, we are not wearing them to entice or attract men but for comfort and functionality in our every day lives. There may be a small increased risk of breast cancer from wearing them that we would not have if we didn't wear them but I for one am prepared to take that risk.

 

ashleyfryer
ashleyfryer

 @awannabe_writer Thank you for your comment! I agree - there is so much idiocy about the myths and the lesbian one is definitely a big one. People are such sheep.And I definitely agree that the most important thing is to have people on the same side, regardless of what they call themselves.

SydneySinger
SydneySinger

 @CircleThinker  @SydneySinger First, I think breasts should not be referred to as "boobs", as Circle Thinker has done.  They are not "ta-ta's" or "the girls", either.  The use of euphemisms to describe part of the body shows discomfort with that part of the body.  Until women can deal with their breasts in a rational and mature way, there is no hope for ending breast disease.   

As for the Harvard study, it found bra-free women had half the incidence of breast cancer compared to bra wearing women.  Put differently, wearing a bra increases the incidence 100%.  My research shows a greater link.  This is a significant link to breast cancer, much larger than smoking and drinking.

As for large breasted women feeling pain when not wearing a bra, that is a sign of breast disease.  Large breasts do not cause back problems, unless you shift the weight to the shoulders with a bra.  Women have existed for millenia without bras.  

Of course, the first reaction of many women is denial, or anger.  These women are addicted to the bra, psychologically and physically.  But keep in mind that it's better to be bra-free than breast-free.

I believe women should be calling for more research and taking this information to heart. It's not about seeing women jiggle in public to gawk at them.  Stupid men do this even if you wear a bra.  It's about women's health and the negative impact of breast constriction by bras.  

 

 

CircleThinker
CircleThinker

 @SydneySinger "Premenopausal women who do not wear bras had half the risk of breast cancer compared with bra users (P about 0.09), possibly because they are thinner and likely to have smaller breasts." That's saying it's more likely due to size than due to bra wearing. I haven't read the whole study but that's written in the abstract and therefore easily findable on the internet without paying to read it. (Although if I find a free version I'll certainly read it thoroughly because I am interested in the topic and a scientist. And then I'll probably continue wearing my bras regardless.)

I think you have to respect anyone's choice to wear or not to wear a bra because at the end of the day it's a personal thing, not a society thing. If someone chooses to not wear a bra because they think it'll increase the risk of them getting breast cancer then they can, similarly if someone wants to wear one and doesn't care about the increased risk then you shouldn't really tell them not to. Similarly, I can call my boobs/tits/norks/nunga nungas whatever the hell I like, thank you very much. I prefer calling them something familiar rather than the clinical "breasts" as I am very much in love with them and definitely not uncomfortable with them. I also do not wish to deal with them in a mature way, I much prefer to jiggle them at my friends and enjoy them. Also, my breasts are not diseased. As I mentioned, it's at certain types of the month that they hurt-it's a well documented phenomenon that one of the symptoms of PMT is breast pain, and I find that this breast pain is alleviated by supporting them in a bra, rather than letting them hurt under their own weight. 

However, I can see that you aren't about to be swayed by my argument so I won't waste my breath any more. Similarly, I am not about to stop wearing my bras so I would ask that you afford me the same courtesy please. Let's agree to disagree.