Ah, feminism. It’s possibly one of the most misunderstood movements in history. While many shoulder all of the blame for this onto scared, misogynistic men, I’m going to propose a radical theory here: we’re all to blame. Maybe it’s because every person in this world has a gender, but far too often we let our passions rule with this subject and end up exaggerating facts and condemning our sexual opposites. And what does this do? Well, it sure doesn’t help the problem. Grouping all men together as jerks doesn’t stop them from raping women. Grouping all women together as crazy doesn’t stop them from arguing with you. So here is my proposal: why don’t we look at these myths of feminism and the facts that explain them away, regroup, and then collectively decided that every person, regardless of gender, race, sexuality, etc., is a person and should be treated as such.
First, we have to get this straight: feminists don’t burn bras. In fact, they never did. When women were protesting and demonstrating for women’s rights in the sixties, they took a variety of items (not just bras – also girdles, kitchenware, and Playboys) and threw them in the trash. So stop worrying about women’s underwear and actually listen to feminism’s message – please.
This brings us to our next myth: feminism is too radical. Let’s think about this argument. While many women are afraid to say to their friends, “I’m a feminist,” is anyone afraid (at least, in this day and age) to say, “I support equality for all races”? Our president is African-American, isn’t he? If we are no longer ashamed or afraid to say that we support racial equality or gay rights, why must we still feel judged if we think that women should be seen as important as men? Just let that stew a little bit.
Now, when I say we, I mean all feminists. Which does not mean just women. Men can be feminists, too. If you prefer, just call yourself a “gender equality” advocate. Same idea. In fact, men should be feminists. If you’re not, it’s like telling your mother or daughter, “Stand there, look pretty, but don’t talk because you don’t have the exact same anatomy as me.” And who would say that to their mother?
That should also debunk this myth: all feminists hate men. This is a cop out. Feminists have fathers, brothers, husbands, sons. We don’t hate them. In fact, a study shows that feminists are actually less hostile towards men than non-feminists. What we hate is when men claim to be superior based on their sexuality alone. What we hate is that little boys are told that they’re smart while little girls are told that they’re pretty. What we hate is when women are blamed for being assaulted. What we hate is hearing that a girl at engineering school was told by her professor that she doesn’t belong there.
But we know that there are men out there that don’t do these things, and we appreciate them for that.
There’s another myth floating around that feminists can’t have a great relationship with a man. But, in fact, there’s a study that proves this false. There is nothing that says that feminist women have worse or better relationships than non-feminist women. What is true, however, is that feminist women have better relationships with feminist men. Why? Because they have the same worldview. If you believe in a god and your partner is an atheist, will you have some bumps along the way? Probably. If you’re a democrat and your partner’s a republican, will you occasionally clash? Yes. If you have common values, then you’ll probably get along with each other better. Simple.
Another myth to bust will actually help you guys in relationships: feminism is one-sided. It just can’t be – then we’d all be hypocrites and non-feminists would have the right to call us annoying and crazy. So sometimes woman might pick up the check for you, or ask to split it more often than not. Men don’t have to completely lose their chivalry; you can still hold open the door for me, just know that I’d do the same for you. Men shouldn’t be restricted because of their gender, either. Cry if you need to, ask for help, read men’s fashion magazines. Embrace whoever you are, just let women do the same.
Now that we’ve established how feminism itself is misconstrued, let’s look at statistics that some feminists like to throw around that aren’t true, either.
First off, the “fact” that women make $0.77 to every $1 a man makes. Here’s a book that proves that this statistic grouped jobs together that shouldn’t have been grouped together (think school librarian versus lawyer). It also didn’t take a lot of factors into consideration: hours worked, education, and experience, among others. When you look at equal jobs and candidates, the wage gap diminishes significantly. However, some reasons why these statistics are wrong do indicate greater problems. Women typically go for lower-earning jobs, while men go for higher-earning jobs. What are the implications of this? Furthermore, women are less likely than men to ask for a raise or to negotiate their salaries. Does this mean that women still see themselves as less-than-adequate in the workplace? Is society reinforcing this? We need to stop harping on this exaggerated pay gap and start asking these questions about why women still seem to have a meek mindset when it comes to the professional world.
There are other statistics that are exaggerated, as well.
Myth: one in four college women have experience rape or at least a close call. This statistic ignores the fact that many of the women interviewed had not considered themselves raped. Rape is no light matter, and the lines continue to be blurry where they should be clear. However, we demean the experience of rape by exaggerating statistics just as much as we do by ignoring statistics. How rape is dealt with itself needs a huge revamping. It seems that people are still too afraid to create a solid definition for what is considered rape, but it is something we need to work on. However, we are ignoring this problem and demeaning the issue when we shout hyperboles that make all women victims.
Another exaggeration: thirty percent of women who go to the emergency room do so because they are victims of domestic violence. Two government studies* have shown that it is really around one percent. Domestic violence (all violence, really) is something to be taken seriously. Making it seem like either a larger or a smaller issue than it is is irresponsible and hurts the cause. True feminists and gender equality advocates should not be here to point fingers at men and proclaim them the evil enemy. Being able to live in equal harmony is the goal here, not demonizing the opposite sex.
This brings us to our last myth: feminism is now irrelevant. Women are doctors, lawyers, engineers; they go to school and usually go to more school than men; they can wear crop tops or midi skirts, sneakers or heels; the age of sexism is gone. Not true. Elsewhere in the world are countries where sex trafficking is rampant and genital mutilation is still a common practice. Atrocities still occur in America as well. Double standards exist by the hundreds. Until no person in the world will say to a woman who was raped that “it takes two to rape,” our fight for equality is not over.
*National Center for Health Statistics, National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey: 1992 Emergency Department Summary , Hyattsville, Maryland, March 1997; and U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics, Violence-Related Injuries Treated in Hospital Emergency Departments: Washington, D.C., August 1997
Madeline St. Amour is currently a sophomore at Fordham University, where she studies Journalism in the hopes of one day starting her own magazine. She participates in various journalism and business clubs on campus and writes as much as she can. She is passionate about women’s issues and the power of the written word. She has been published in Teen Ink magazine, writes a fashion blog (Fabulous Poor Girl), and also writes for various school publications. When she’s not working or studying, you can find her exploring the city, reading a stack of magazines, or putting together outfits on Polyvore. For more, follow her on Twitter @MadelineVioletS.