I want to clear up some misconceptions about feminism.
I’ve considered myself a feminist for as long as I can remember. Nothing happened or “changed” in me to make me a feminist. I’ve never had daddy issues. I was in one abusive relationship with a man when I was 18, but even before that, I was a feminist. My dad didn’t have any sons, he had me and my sister. For as many times as he called my sister and I his princesses, we also played video games with him and pretended to be DC comic superheroes (shotgun, Superman). The superman thing really stuck with me. Strangely, gender was never something I recognized in Superman. I didn’t think of Superman as a man and Lois Lane as a woman waiting to be rescued, nor as a woman obsessed with her career. I just saw two individuals and the one I wanted to be was Superman. I didn't care that he was a man and I was a girl, I just thought being able to fly and help people would be really, really cool. All this to be said, as much as my dad raised me as his daughter, he also raised me as his son. I say that carefully, as I’m not actually a son, and I don’t know what it means to be a male son, but I feel like I was raised in a way where I saw men and women equally. For as many leadership roles that my father took, my mother took many leadership and teaching roles, too. My parents didn’t raise me to be a feminist, they raised me to love, and with that, I identified as a feminist probably before I even really knew what the term meant.
So here are the misconceptions of feminism:
1. Feminists hate men -- this is so far from the truth! More on this will be explained below.
2. Feminists think women are better / feminists want women to be in power over men -- what? No, no feminists don’t think that, and if they do, you have my permission to call them on that.
3. Feminism isn’t actually about equality -- Yes, yes it actually is about equality. That again means that feminists don’t hate men nor do they think women are better. This point is loaded, which I’ll explain in more depth below.
4. Feminists especially hate white, heterosexual, middle class, educated, able bodied, hot, slim men -- ha, ha, ha, no we don’t, and as a straight cis-gendered female, I can tell you that I’m totally into white (well, all colors for that matter), heterosexual, middle class, educated, able bodied, hot and slim men. But, I’m also into more guys than just those ones. Right now, I'm into my bearded boyfriend.
5. Feminism is about burning bras -- I have never burnt any of my bras before. Do you have any idea how much bras cost? They are so expensive that I can barely afford to buy them, let alone be so frivolous with them that I'd burn them.
6. Sexism doesn’t exist anymore -- that’s a very narrow minded thought. I love Mission Street in San Francisco, but there wasn't a single time I wore a dress while walking down Mission Street that some man didn't yell an incredibly sexist comment at me. I hear it every day from my girlfriends, too, situations where they've been cat called or assaulted. Also, have you looked at advertising lately? Sexism does exist. As a female photographer I’ve even produced sexist photographs–this is something I am not proud of and is something I am working on changing and fixing.
7. Feminists are all lesbians or women with daddy issues -- I find this misconception to be incredibly offensive, and it makes me so sad. I am neither lesbian nor do I have daddy issues (or any issues with men). But some of my feminist friends are lesbian, and are also some of the nicest, most sincere women I know. Some feminists I know have daddy issues, some of my friends who aren’t feminists have daddy issues. To call someone out and say they have daddy issues is so disrespectful, and quite frankly, mean. Please stop making these assumptions. They are hurtful.
Historically, feminism started because women wanted the right to vote. During that time, only men could vote. There were also a ton of other things that men could do that women couldn’t do (such as be in politics, the work place, school, etc). Women worked together to gain access to spaces that they previously didn’t have access too. From the start, it was never about kicking men out of politics or education (or anywhere else), it was about allowing women into these places as well. After all, what better person to represent an individual than an individual facing that experience themselves.
Read that last sentence again. What better person than a woman to represent other women than a woman herself. This is first wave feminism. Now we are going to fast forward about a hundred plus years to third wave feminism. First wave feminism was started by white women and was represented by white women for white women. The problem was that it was still exclusive. A woman can not represent all women. All women have different stories at varying degrees. And so, if we look at what (third wave) feminism is today, this is what it is about:
Equality for *any* oppressed individual. This means, equality for:
any person of any color
any person of any gender
any person of any sexual orientation
any person of any social class
any dis/abled bodies
any anyone's, really
Third wave feminism takes an intersectional approach. This means that it isn’t just taking your biological sex into account. It is taking your gender, race and class into account. It is looking at your geo-location, your religion/faith, your upbringing, your culture and your politics. Third wave feminism is actually fighting AGAINST first wave feminism, where it was only about the white, middle class women. First wave feminism may as well have been called white, Western feminism. It can be oppressive to those who do not live in the Western world, it can be oppressive to those of color, to queer people, to immigrants, and yes, even to men. In a lot of ways, feminism is similar to religion. There are always going to be the radical representatives who give the rest of us an incredibly bad rep. But at the heart of feminism, it’s love and equality.
Love and equality.
Please stay with me a little longer. I’ve had a lot of white, middle class, straight men approach me and tell me how much they dislike feminism and how uncomfortable it makes them feel. They tell me that there is nothing they can do about the fact that they are white, male, straight or middle class. I completely recognize that feminism is uncomfortable. Feminism is even uncomfortable for me. Feminism now focuses so much on race and class that as a white, middle class female, I’m even uncomfortable when I sit in my feminist classes. On top of that, I’m a Christian. To sit in a feminist class as a white Christian and hear about all the terrible things white Christians did and are still doing to other people? It makes me incredibly uncomfortable. It also makes me mad! It makes me mad what white people have done to others and what people claiming to be Christians have done to others. It makes me so uncomfortable that I haven’t told a single soul in any of my feminist classes that I’m a Christian.
Here’s another thing I want to clear up. Feminists can come across as very anti-Christian. But, if Christians knew the full extent of the awful things Christians historically have done to other people (and are still doing), they would be anti-Christian as well. And so, no, I can’t entirely relate to the uncomfortableness white, middle class, straight men feel, but I can relate as a white, middle class, straight, Christian female. It is uncomfortable, yes. It is uncomfortable to sit and listen to a group of people tell you everything people (who are very similar to you) did wrong to others. It is entirely uncomfortable. But that’s life, and sometimes we have to sit in that uncomfortableness and acknowledge the wrong that has happened. From there, we can try and undo/fix what "our" people have done to others (our, meaning, those we each individually identify with). I, as a Christian, can be a feminist and try and make it known that not all of us Christian's hate gay people (and it's seriously fucked up that some Christians do hate gay people). I can also apologize for what Christians have done, and make it a point to not be an oppressive Christian. Being a Christian, after-all, is supposed to be about love and equality, too.
Feminism isn’t about blaming someone for being a white, straight, middle class male. Feminism is trying to educate people on the atrocities that have happened and continue to happen, in order for the hate to be abolished. Feminism is operating in order for love to rule, along with equality. This equality includes women, racialized people, queer people, displaced people, and also, most definitely, men. This equality covers a whole range of people I haven’t even mentioned but who need to be mentioned because we all have stories. We all have things that have hurt us, made us laugh, brought us pain and given us greater understanding. All of these stories need to be told.
PS: Thank you, Andrea Priebe, for inspiring this post. Also, I haven't had anyone edit this post, so if I've explained something wrong or misrepresented something, please email me and I'd be happy to make any edits needed. firstname.lastname@example.org