True Feminism

Cameron Bessette, Reporter

Partially influenced and driven by the #metoo movement, feminist movements have both grown and decreased in popularity. However, as is well acknowledged by many, fame is not everything. While feminism has seen a rise in popularity among pop stars, celebrities, and in our culture in general, the term “feminist” still has a negative connotation for many people. Why?

Feminism is defined by the Merriam-Webster Dictionary as “the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes.” It’s been around for many years; in fact, the movements we see today are the third wave of feminism.

The first wave occurred in the late 19th and early 20th centuries with the battle for women’s suffrage. The second wave occurred during the 1960s with the battle for reproductive and workplace rights. The third wave is said to encompass the 1990s until the present day.

Each wave of movements has added to aspects of the preceding one. The focus of the third wave is intersectional feminism. True feminists of today seek to be inclusive of anyone who has been previously excluded from the feminist dialogue. There are many stereotypes and stigmas surrounding feminism that obscure this simple purpose and meaning. So here is what feminism is and what it is not:

Feminism is not a fight to be superior to men. It has nothing to do with gaining superiority and everything to do with gaining equality. Feminism is also not about hating men. In fact, many feminists love men. Feminists do not hate men but they do hate the patriarchy. Broadly defined, patriarchy is “control by men of a disproportionately large share of power” (Merriam-Webster). Feminists seek to make the shares of power equal. However, “men” and “the patriarchy” are not one and the same.

Feminists aren’t necessarily lesbians or bisexual, although some are. Feminism isn’t a term defining one’s sexuality.

Feminism is about being inclusive to everyone. Feminist movements that do not include people of color, the LGBTQ community, other minority groups, or men, are generally known as “white feminism” and they are falling out of favor. This current, third wave of feminism is making efforts to be inclusive, although there is always room for improvement.

Feminism is not something that tears other women down. True feminism has no problems with stay-at-home moms, domestic goddesses, or women who want to have a family. They believe that to be their right to choose. They also believe that it’s okay for women to choose to work outside of the home, never marry, and opt not to have children.

Feminism has not taken anything from women. It has not robbed women of chivalry or the right to stay at home and be mothers. But it has given them the ability to vote. It has made birth control legal and has normalized female employment outside the home, should that be what a woman chooses. Feminism is about gaining the rights to choose.

Feminism is not about taking something from anyone else. It’s about being recognized as fully human and equally deserving of a life that doesn’t include a sexual assault just because someone was born (or identifies as) a woman. It’s about having an equal say in government because women should be represented there.

Feminism is a movement that seeks to liberate all women from oppression and inequality. It is a body of individuals all working so that rape culture and misogyny don’t get the final word, so that the rights enjoyed by men freely, can be enjoyed by all.

It is an imperfect movement and it is filled with flawed people, but it is one about working for all women. Working to free men from the constraints left by a history of patriarchy.

Once, feminism gave women the right to initiate divorce. Once, it gave them the right to own property. To attend school. To be represented in government. It gave them control of their own bodies. And it gave birth to so many heroines—too many to name. Today, it strives for rights for women to be able to make all of the same choices that men can. It strives for equality.