Why are Feminists looked down upon in society?

Blessing Bunhu is a student at Humber College.

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Is there something wrong with modern feminism? First of all, let’s begin by stating what a feminist is. According to Webster, a feminist is someone who wants both males and females to have equal opportunities in society. Feminists want to empower equality for females all around the world against male prejudice. When I look at feminism, I think of equality for the minorities in the developing world, which are usually female. But at the same time it makes me wonder, is feminism really about equality for both genders?

Feminist movements have campaigned for women’s rights which includes the right to vote, to be educated, pay equality and equal rights within marriage.  Feminists have helped to protect women and had changed history for women to have a better future. I am a big fan of feminists; they inspire me to become one and they have helped to shape and change how society has viewed women in the past. As a feminist, I am afraid to say the f-word in public, because it has a lot of negative connotation that surrounds the word “feminist”.

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People tend to avoid saying or identifying themselves as a feminist, in fact, they tend to avoid the word as if it is some sort of virus that can spread. When people think of a feminist, they think of us as being male hater, and anti-family. There are so many stereotypes that have been portrayed by the media. With the help of the media, feminists are framed as people who are fighting for special gender-specific privileges for women rather than equality opportunity for both genders in society.

 

As I mentioned before I am afraid to identify myself as a feminist in public and I am not the only one who feels the same. Beyoncé has written an essay about feminist and songs that empower women and girls to stand up for their rights. “I’ve always considered myself a feminist, although I was always afraid of that word because people put so much on it,” said Beyoncé. “When honestly, it’s very simple. It’s just a person that believes in equality for men and women. Men and women balance each other out, and we have to get to a point where we are comfortable with appreciating each other.” I believed that feminism brings sisterhood together and that both men and women are fighting for their rights against prejudices.

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The feminist groups have become more complicated to identify in society.  Feminism has become a different ideology from what it used to stand for. People choose not to became a feminist because they fear the idea that feminist represents gender equality for women, but has failed to represent men as well. “People have very legitimate reasons to reject feminism,” says, Sheila Sampath, a Toronto-based race and gender activist. “It doesn’t surprise me that the narrative they’re responding to is the dominant narrative. That narrative itself is pretty racist, pretty capitalist and focused only on gender. To be honest, I reject that too.”

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But they’re feminists who had to keep on fighting for equality despite what the media and anti-feminists had said. Emma Watson publicly denounces herself as a feminist during her speech at the United Nations headquarters in New York City. Emma Watson was assigned as the UN Women Goodwill Ambassador. She helped launch the UN Women campaign HeForShe, in which calls men to help bring equality for women around the world. Emma Watson has helped promote education for girls in locally devolved countries.

I believe that men and women can be both feminists fighting for equality and if we all come together, we can make this world a better place. That’s what being a feminist means to me. So what does a feminist or being one mean to you? What is so wrong about today’s feminism that people are afraid to say the F-word in public?

“Feminist” is not a bad word

There’s a weird paradox in many people when it comes to believing in something. On one hand, we whole-heartedly reaffirm and reiterate the points and opinions of the people who agree with us. We excitedly nod and say “God, yes,” all the while brimming with anticipation to share our own views with those who see it our way.

On the other hand, when among a crowd that thinks differently, it’s not such a fun time. Depending on how they are, you might just want to avoid stupid conflict. You might care immensely about what they think of you. Or, the word you use to identify with your cause might have been tarnished by misguided zealots. Thanks a lot.

Here’s where that final scenario applies: feminism, the asinine, deplorable belief that two genders should be treated equally by all and have a mutual respect for one another. Ha! Crazy.

Negative portrayals of feminism have run rampant through society for a very long time. Change scares people, and those who are comfy in the seat they’re in don’t want to consider other ideals. The opposition works tirelessly to smear this reputation so they can continue to stagnate in their beliefs.

But of course, it’s not some good against evil battle. This is real life, and there are plenty of reasons why the word “feminism” can automatically rub someone the wrong way. Sometimes people are just plain intimidated by a cause. It becomes a delicate balance, and the way one should teach someone about a cause should mirror the way everything is taught: start off small. You don’t teach math by jumping straight into quadratics. Sell ideals by telling the audience how they benefit from this. However, becoming frustrated when someone doesn’t immediately see what you’re seeing is a dangerously easy ditch to fall into.

These things and others all add up to the widely-held belief that feminists are all man-hating bra-burning lesbians. That’s become the go-to image for the apathetic citizen, and that’s the image that people against feminism want them to see.

Because of this, some people look around the room really quick before informing you they believe in gender equality. Being firm in your belief, yet having to hastily explain yourself is no way to be. Worse still, people will publicly announce they support all items present on the feminist agenda, and then claim not to be a feminist. Yeah, okay buddy. You live on earth and require oxygen and all that, but you’re not like, a carbon based lifeform or anything.

I’ve been through this. I had a (shamefully lengthy) point in time where I believed we were treated completely equally, and that women who complained about it were just whiny uptight girls. See that? See how that stereotype was a reality to me? Don’t do societies, kids.

Yes, I thought catcalls were compliments and that there was absolutely nothing wrong and that gender issues magically based themselves on nothing, I guess. I know why people have these ideas. While it sure is easy for me to point at nothing and exclaim “SOCIETY’S FAULT!” we have to remember that we are society. It does not exist without us. There are people behind these negative statements and detrimental ideas, so many real living people who have to worry about family and who love their pets and really would just like some time to relax. They’re not evil, they just don’t know or don’t care. That’s what they were raised on. David Wong, executive editor of Cracked, writes that “Nobody involved in a conflict thinks they’re the villain,” and the things David Wong writes are the realest things I’ve ever read. This idea is no different.

So, y’know, we are the future, break this terrible cycle, etc. You’ve heard these motivational go-get ’em things before. While being the change is a very nice thing to aspire to, it’s ultimately just your goal. Thats like motivating someone to climb Everest with “Get to the top!” That’s the idea, but like, rationing and climbing equipment and stuff.

It has to start with acceptance. You’re not supporting your cause if you don’t say it audibly and confidently. Being okay with yourself and this thing together is step one, and there is no physical way to skip step one.

So have you taken that first step yet? Do you have glorious ideas about how to shape the world for the better? Still too nervous to admit it to others? That’s okay if you are, though. I was too.

Tabitha Summerhayes is a full-time PR student at Humber College.