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.
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.
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.