Think feminist is a dirty word? You’re probably more of one than you realize …
The 2016 Presidential election certainly stirred up a lot of feelings — many of which surprised Americans, and the world as a whole. Like many, I’m still reeling from the results and wondering what our country will look like in another 4 years (when we, by the way, get to go through this super-fun demonstration of our democratic republic again).
One topic that didn’t see much of the spotlight but was certainly lingering there in the shadows was feminism. Sure, we heard our fill of narrative about what the “first woman President” would mean, and quotes from Hillary Clinton about girls following their dreams have certainly made the meme rounds on Facebook.
But we, as a nation, didn’t really have a conversation about feminism and gender equality — at least not one that wasn’t dated or loaded with cliches. Just in my circle of friends, the word “feminism” came up a few times and I heard quite a few misconceptions based on good intentions.
It really got me thinking … what is contemporary feminism? And what isn’t it?
Look, I live feminism every day. I’m a mom of 3, stepmom of 2, and I chose to pull myself from the traditional workforce when our family was too big to afford daycare. I work from home and make more money than my husband does. He doesn’t care if I share that – it all spends the same.
I watch my husband do the dishes with joy, and he looks on when I fix the dryer. We talk body autonomy with our 4 daughters AND our son, and couldn’t care less who wears pink (or matching clothes, or shoes) on any given day. We don’t say “princess” or “handsome” and our kids are pretty much fed-up with us for always using words like “intelligent” and “hard worker” when they ask how they look.
I’m also the president of my kids’ PTO and I like to make pancakes and I sometimes wear makeup and try to look nice. My husband, who also works mainly from home, enjoys packing lunches, and being here when the kids get home from school. We are a feminist household, and not just in rhetoric. We are living it — but not simply for the reasons I’ve stated so far.
Feminism looks different in every house and family and it frustrates me when I see people trying to pigeonhole the concept. You are probably closer to a feminist worldview than an opposite. Yes, you!
Take a look at some of the most common misconceptions about the word and the real truth behind it.
Myth: Feminists are Democrats.
Do you think women should have the same rights as men? Do you think that women should get to go to college if they want, and work if they want, and that their concerns matter? Did you vote for Donald Trump or Gary Johnson? If you answered yes to all of these, guess what? You’re a feminist because you believe that women have an equal right to the same opportunities as men.
Myth: Feminists are all career women.
Oh my, this one irks me. If you are a stay-at-home mom who believes with her whole heart that you are supposed to be there, in that role, you are not anti-feminist. If a so-called feminist has ever made you feel badly about that choice, and made your entire womanly worth about the career you actively pursue, I’m sorry. That person is misinformed and you are NOT setting women back by staying home with your children.
Feminism isn’t about working or not working. It’s about choices and being able to make them. So if you have a Ph.D. and decide that the workforce is just not for you right now (whether you are a mom, or for ANY other reason), that’s okay. Because that’s your choice and feminism supports that.
If you are a stay-at-home mom who wants to get back into the workforce but are passed over for a job simply because you are a woman, or a parent, or both — that is NOT okay. If you wish you could work a flexible schedule, or earn enough to make the daycare worth it, but you can’t do either so you are home with your kids — that is NOT okay, either (and we need people like you to help us change workplace policies for mothers).
If you’re ready to raise your hands Oprah-style and exclaim “Amen!” after reading this point, guess what? Should I even say it?
Myth: Feminists want reparations.
Feminism is not about emasculating men, or lifting ourselves to a place where we are “better” than men. It’s about bringing up that line of equality just a little bit closer, step by step. Feminists aren’t asking to lower the status of men – they are asking to elevate women. Period.
Myth: Feminists are women.
Do you believe that women should get equal pay for equal work? Do you believe society is better suited when women are educated? Do you want your daughters to have limitless possibilities when it comes to their futures? Are you a man? If you’re shaking your head “yes” to all of these questions, then you’re a feminist. Welcome!
Myth: Feminists don’t put up with shit from men.
I’ve heard women say that Hillary Clinton isn’t really a feminist because she stayed with her husband after that whole whats-her-name scandal back in the 90s (you may recall). Adultery sucks and treating women as sexual objects really sucks too. But you know what? Even in those darkest of moments, when we feel that the people we’ve trusted with our whole life’s happiness have betrayed us, we have a CHOICE. It really doesn’t matter what choice we make — feminism dictates that we are allowed to make it for ourselves.
You don’t ever have to leave your spouse if you’ve decided to stay and stick it out. You don’t ever have to stay, legally, if you know that trust can’t be rebuilt. And you can’t be criminally charged or killed for committing adultery if that’s your own choice, either. Thank goodness we live in America and have the option to totally screw our lives up without lawful penalty.
Myth: Feminists are pro-abortion.
I get that some feminists may come off as angry and even militant, but let’s be completely clear here: No one wants to kill babies. The rhetoric that implies (or outright states) that we do is dangerous and inaccurate. There is no hard rule on when and where feminists draw the line on abortion and it really depends on the person — so I won’t get into that whole catastrophic argument here. There is also an entire group of feminists who are pro-life (yes, it’s a thing!).
At the core of the pro-choice movement is this, however: Feminists are fans of body autonomy, which means that what you do with your body is between you, your medical professional and your God (if you have one). Truth be told, most feminists would love if there were more babies around (shhh! don’t ruin our anti-child image, man). But our human belief system dictates that we don’t get to make that choice for another woman — and she doesn’t get to make it for us.
How many of these struck a chord with you? Did I lose you at the abortion point? It’s okay if you don’t align with every point I’ve made — nothing but love for reading this far.
If you happily embrace the feminist moniker, what myths did I miss?
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