Stop misinterpreting feminism

Brace yourself for the most cringeworthy f-word of our generation: feminism.

Feminism is a term that’s hushed before it even becomes a whisper out of someone’s parted lips. People don’t think twice about tossing around “fuck” as an adjective in every other sentence, but suddenly feminism is something we have to be careful about discussing out loud.

People get so caught up in the black hole of gender equality that they don’t even know what feminism aims to do or not do. When people consider feminists they probably picture a group of women parading around while chanting some utterance about “equal rights” and participating in a ceremonial bra-burning that only aims to reinforce a pro-female world-domination scheme. As much as this fabricated imagery presents itself as a myth, these stereotypes and judgements are inherently etched into the minds of many who fear the f-word. As a result, feminism continues to hold a negative connotation.

When you hear the word “feminism” being thrown around, I imagine it’s the same sort of rush Americans get when they think of “freedom,” or when Canadians hear “roll up the rim to win.” But where these words and phrases are talked about with an overwhelming sense of positivity, feminism is more often talked about like “terrorism” and “global warming” are talked about: they’re feared.

But feminism is synonymous with gender equality. It may have started as a women’s movement, but it now strives toward equal economic status between men and women. Frankly, feminism is easier to explain than my IUD, yet it’s somehow more confusing to people than my New Age, cyborg birth control.

Here’s the thing: this journey toward equality is important for both men and women. But people tip-toe around this f-word because they don’t know how to approach it when chest-pounding extremists tell us one thing — mainly that women need to improve their unequal rights potentially at the expense of men’s rights — and society tells us there’s an inherent societal patriarchy. Either way, the term feminism implies that a lot more work has to be done for women and men to be equal. But it’s not just about shattering stereotypical female roles — it’s about shattering men’s, too.

We need to look at feminism beyond the idea that it’s only about women not being equal to men because men aren’t equal to this societal ideal of masculinity either. Although feminism is often preached about by women — celebrity spokespeople and idols like Emma Watson and Serena Williams who have helped create the hype surrounding feminism — it took a “formal invitation” for men to join the conversation. Yes, the “fem” prefix appears to imply some sort of exclusivity — an invite to an all-female movement intended for women only. But it’s not. And it shouldn’t threaten any man’s “masculinity” or elicit fear into their testosterone-filled bodies, nor should it only advocate for women’s rights.

Aiming for equality means finding an acceptable balance between men and women in society. It does not and should not mean that either gender must embody ideals of femininity or masculinity — both of which are social constructs that are hindering this movement.

Women can’t strive to be equal to men — be as successful as men or as powerful as men — when we are telling men to act like men or “toughen up.” That ideology itself is more unattainable than feminism. It creates an unrealistic expectation for men that they should measure up to a standard that simply shouldn’t exist. It’s like telling women they live in a man’s world and that’s the way it is.

Feminism is exactly what we want it to be if you simply say “I agree” to the terms and conditions. It’s the idea that chivalry shouldn’t exist if women want equal economic statuses. If you’re going to pay for her dinner or open the door for her, don’t do it because it’s the “gentlemanly” thing to do. It’s the idea that a kitchen is as much a man’s domain as it is a women’s. Men are capable of washing dishes, making dinner, and cleaning up after themselves — let them. And for God’s sake, she’ll go down on you if you go down on her.

The problem right now is that feminism should be a non-issue, but instead it is still a scary, foreign concept to many, and it doesn’t feel like a positive change. We need people to understand the movement, understand that these issues of inequality are alive and well, and we need people who are willing to help make a change. Maybe then we can improve the connotation of “feminism” and forget that it was once such a “bad” word.

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