The F-word: Get over it!

(Graphic by Autumn Mariano)

Feminism. There, I said it.

Much like Harry Potter’s Voldemort,  the word “feminism” has a knack for striking fear and anger into the hearts of countless people, men and women alike.

Political activist Pat Robertson said, “(Feminism) is about a socialist, anti-family political movement that encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism and become lesbians.”

Wow. As a feminist, I can say with 100-percent certainty that feminism is not about any of those things.

Misconceptions about feminism are numerous, especially on the Internet. I recently came across a Tumblr page called Women Against Feminism, featuring women holding up signs to share their disagreements (or misconceptions) about feminism.

Now, I’m not trying to convert anyone to feminism. If you want to be anti-feminist, that’s fine. More power to you. But let’s make sure there’s a least a basic understanding of what this movement is all about.

Feminism is defined by Merriam-Webster as, “the theory of the political, economic and social equality of the sexes.” That’s it. That is literally all feminism is about.

The caveat here is that in feminism, like all groups, there are extremists. I’m sure there are people out there who consider marriage a form a slavery, and whatever other notion the feminist-fearing people can think up. But like all groups, those extremists do not represent the majority.

Feminism seeks equality between men and women. It does not seek to raise women up above men, and the majority of feminists do not hate men. Feminism does not equal man-hating.

Feminism is about giving women the right to choose how they want to live their lives. Whether you want to be a neurosurgeon or a stay-at-home mom of 12, there is a place for you in feminist discourse.

Yes, feminism has a tendency to buck traditional gender roles, but that doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing. Not every woman is fit to be a homemaker, a nurse, a secretary or even a mother. And that same logic applies to men. Feminism makes room for everyone, men and women alike, to lives their lives in the way that makes them most happy.

I’ve heard a lot of people say that they don’t need feminism because they already have equal rights. I think these people must not know what feminism has done for them.

It is thanks to feminism that women have so many of the same rights as men. Saying you don’t need feminism because you have equal rights is like saying you don’t need the Internet because you’ve already downloaded all the episodes of “Game of Thrones.” These two things go hand-in-hand, and one clearly comes before the other.

And to those that think that the fight is over and women now have all the same rights as men, think again. To this day, women are still paid less than men for the same amount of work in the same job. Proposals to change this have been placed before the U.S. government, and each time it have been struck down.

This is an example of the types institutional inequality that women face, but it doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of the problems that feminism seeks to fix. There is a reason feminism exists in our world, and whether you personally agree with it or not, it is important to recognize it’s purpose.

Feminism isn’t about a bunch of bra-burning, angry liberals trying to hurt the men in their lives. It’s merely movement that seeks better options for and increased communication between both genders.