Destigmatizing feminism


Suhani Kashyap

Nowadays feminism has two separate meanings, on one hand it’s about making a society where women and men are equal, but in contrast some believe it’s about making women more powerful than men.

Shreya Jagannathan, Features Editor

When a boy kept repeatedly kicking me in the fourth grade, I was told “boys will be boys’’. So the next time he did, I kicked him back, and I ended up getting reprimanded. I was told “girls shouldn’t be aggressive.” This was the first time I noticed different gender expectations, and it was clearly visible how deeply rooted unconscious sexism was. 

Christine de Pizan was one of the first female activists. She published works discussing the source of women’s oppression, the lack of education for women, different societal behaviors and visions of a more equal world, and she was writing this as early as the 14th century. 

Since then feminists have made numerous improvements in education, suffragist rights and societal roles, but feminism has also grown to be the laughing stock of social movements. Feminism even though fighting for a fundamental right of equality is widely debated and dismissed by many. 

In her UN Women Speech, actress and gender equality advocate Emma Watson posed an important question, “Why has the word [feminism] become such an uncomfortable one?”

In recent years, the movement has become increasingly associated with ideas and actions that are divisive and polarizing. They have been labeled as “man-hating” or “radical.” According to the Oxford Dictionary, feminism by definition means the advocacy of women’s rights on the basis of the equality of the sexes. Feminism is about the rights of women in that they are equivalent to the rights of men.

Yet when an anonymous DVHS student was asked to explain feminism, the student answered, “A feminist is a person who believes in the empowerment of women above all, and sometimes that belief of empowerment of women can go to extremes.”

These stereotypes create the perception that feminism is about putting women above all, defeating the “equality” we claim for. This misleading idea is what feminism needs to get rid of for people to take the argument seriously. With these associations, feminism’s real mission is altered and changed much like an ignorant rumor when being spread.

Feminism is the ideology that women shouldn’t have to be constrained to the outdated criteria made by society centuries ago of what a woman is in all situations. 

DVHS junior Nishank Raisinghani sayid, “ Most [people] have the wrong perception, they probably feel like feminism means that women will have a higher standing in society”.

Unfortunately, there are some people who identify as feminist yet they misrepresent the women’s rights movements as poorly disguised contempt for men. The reality is that these people are misandrists; they dislike and have an ingrained prejudice against the male sex. 

Under the false cover of feminism, they make damaging statements and claims that further divide men and women and create an inaccurate representation of feminism. Feminism is about gaining the equivalent respect and opportunities for women that men may naturally get in a situation. These mock-up feminists are what garner negative attention to the women’s rights movement. 

According to Forbes, “Most people believe that feminists are forceful and angry women who what to control the world and put men down.”

In the midst of these negative connotations, it is important to remember that feminism is not about making one gender superior to the other, but rather about creating a society in which everyone has equal opportunities and rights. Feminism at its core is a theory of political, economic and social equality between men and women. 

In addition to the unfavorable stereotypes of feminism, some people just refuse to support it because they feel it’s unnecessary. Many make the same argument that women are clearly different from men and so equality isn’t attainable. In simpler words because of the physical differences in our bodies, which affect women’s physical capabilities the equality feminists fight for isn’t tangible.

Men and women do not have to be indistinguishable physically to have equal rights and equal access to opportunities. By accepting that ideal, people are dismissing a fundamental human right. Feminism was never about women being identical to men. 

Again accepting that ideal enforces the neolithic idea that women should stay within their boundaries of what is “meant” for women. This is what feminism is fighting against: the ideology that women must behave a certain way in order to fit societal expectations of what a woman should be like. Feminism is the ideology that women shouldn’t have to be constrained to the outdated criteria made by society centuries ago of what a woman is in all situations. 

This movement is about diminishing those social barriers society has been based on for centuries. It isn’t to undermine men, or create a society where women are at the top of the hierarchy. It’s called feminism because more often than not women’s supposed “place in society” is subordinate to men. In the developed society that we are today basic equality is not a lot to ask for.