Feminism: The myths and the truths

by Carmen Visser

“All men should be feminists. If men care about women’s rights, the world will be a better place. We are better off when women are empowered – it leads to a better society.” - John Legend

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Myths about feminism

Many people dismiss the concept of feminism because of the myths they hear and believe. These myths all have different origins and different beliefs but most, if not all of them, are wrong.

One of the most well-known myths is that feminists hate men and wish to be “better” and “more powerful” than them. However, as feminists, we fight for equal rights for both men and women in the political, economical, and social spheres. Moreover, feminism also works to destroy “toxic masculinity”, which among other things is the belief that all men should be physically strong and emotionless.

Another trending myth about feminism is: “All feminists believe that a woman should be career-focused and never stay at home with her children”. Just a few days ago, I heard a lady ridicule feminism by arguing that she wanted to cook for her family and clean the house. She also loved the fact that her husband was much stronger than she was. This myth about feminism can easily be corrected – feminism is all about letting women choose what they want to do with their lives. Feminism supports women who strive for a successful career, but also support women who would rather be full-time housewives and mothers. Feminists fight for women to have the choice.

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Someone I know who misunderstands the true meaning of feminism stated: “Feminism is dumb. I don’t understand why women would fight for rights to be involved in the war. I don’t want to crawl through mud carrying a gun”. The misunderstanding here is that all feminists want to do that – which is untrue. I do not want to crawl through mud either, but the feminist movement fought for women to have that choice. Why should this decision be taken out of our hands?

A few other myths about feminism include:

- Feminists are bra-burning lesbians.

- Feminists cannot be feminine.

- Feminists do not believe in marriage.

- Only women can be feminists.

- Feminism is not needed anymore.

Feminism includes people from all gender identities, races, sexualities, cultures, social backgrounds, ages etc. Also, for feminism to no longer be needed, it would mean that women are receiving the same pay, the same opportunities in the workplace, and the same respect that men receive. Furthermore, the current cases of gender-based violence crimes would be much lower, if not non-existent.

To further prove the need for feminism, here is a powerful and swaying statement from Daniel Craig: “Women are responsible for two-thirds of the work done worldwide, yet earn only 10 percent of the total income and own one percent of the property… So, are we equals? Until the answer is yes, we must never stop asking.” The James Bond actor said this in an attempt to identify the need for gender equality.

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What is the truth about feminism?

Feminism is the fight for equal rights in all aspects of life. It empowers all women to love and accept themselves – regardless of race, body type, height, scars, sexuality.

Through empowering women, feminism also aims to demolish ‘beauty standards’. These standards include the ideas that, in order to be beautiful, a woman must fulfil a long list of unrealistic expectations and meet socially constructed standards. Some of these expectations include long legs, a thin waist, large hips, clear skin, full lips, long eyelashes, and many other uncontrollable features of a human body. In an attempt to destroy these harmful standards, all body types are accepted and loved by the feminist community.

In addition to this fight, feminism is also the fight against toxic masculinity. This is a cultural concept that requires men to satisfy a long checklist in order to be considered “a real man”. Toxic masculinity shames men for having any kind of feminine look or “girly tastes”. Furthermore, it glorifies strong and emotionally-detached men. Unsurprisingly, this concept leads to low self-esteem, mental health illnesses, violence, and substance abuse. These harmful socially-imposed norms need to be broken down.

Another social system, which feminism aims to defeat, is patriarchy. This is a social construct that distributes an unequal amount of power to men and women. Patriarchy supports the notion of a male-dominated society and is evident in everyday examples. These examples include men being the “head of households”, the man’s family name being continued on when they get married, and men in politics creating laws controlling women’s bodies. Patriarchy involves the discrimination, oppression, and domination of women.

Feminism, simply put, is the belief that members of a society should have equal access, equal opportunity, and be treated equally regardless of their gender.

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How to educate yourself

If you want to become a feminist, or even just learn more about what feminism is, start with accepting the fact that men and women are not treated equally in society. Also, try to avoid judgement of other women based on their personal life choices. These are minor steps you can take, which will have a large impact on your perspective of the world. You can also indulge in feminism education in your everyday life.

· If you are a social media fan, here are my favourite feminist pages on Instagram: @feminist, @feministvoice, @feministlisa and @feminist.herstory.

· If you are a bookworm, here are a couple of feminist novels: “Women Who Run With The Wolves” by Clarissa Pinkola Estés, “Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions” by Gloria Steinem and “Feminism Is For Everybody” by Bell Hooks.

· If you are a frequent podcast listener, give these a try: “She’s All Fat” hosted by April K Quich and Sophia Carter-Kahn or “How To Be A Girl” hosted by Marlo Mack. Perhaps even try “The Outspoken Beauty” hosted by Nicola Bonn.

· If you love to binge, here are some series that will entertain you and educate you at the same time: Supergirl, Tommy and Big Little Lies.

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