This word bothers some of us because it destabilizes the idea of a society built on patriarchal ideals that have taken root over centuries. Let’s talk about why feminism is still frowned upon and why it is still so necessary.
“Feminist.” A hard word to say and an even harder word to define oneself by. Since the beginning of civilization, men have been classified as the stronger sex and women as the weaker. These differences started out with physical capacity and strength, and in turn, these designations gave men the power to make political, economic, cultural, and social decisions, relegating women to a position of caring for the home and family.
Social inequality between the sexes resulted in the feminist movement of the 18th century, which sought equity and the provision of the same rights and opportunities for both women and men. Now, there are different kinds of feminism resulting from different types of female exploitation in different parts of the world. Some of these categories are liberal feminism, radical feminism, black feminism, eco-feminism, transfeminism, and queer feminism. All of these are part of the fight to ensure fair and equitable rights and responsibilities for the sexes.
The issue is that saying that you are a feminist or believe in feminism can be interpreted negatively. Some think of feminism as a War of the Sexes, initiating hatred against men. Feminists are often considered resentful, spinsters, feminazis—the list goes on. Where do these misconceptions come from? To begin with, not many are willing to let go of the privileges that they have enjoyed for centuries. So, since men have been the so-called center of the universe for a long time, it’s not easy for them to give up some of their power and share their rights and opportunities now that women are demanding change.
On top of this, we live in a patriarchal system that rejects and repels all things feminine. Menstruation is taboo and is even considered disgusting. Body hair is thought of as unsanitary and unsightly. Breastfeeding in public places is considered an animal act. Sensitivity is considered a weakness. In short, everything effeminate is repudiated in a misogynistic society, and this not only affects women but men as well. Just think of popular sayings like “You run like a girl,” “Men don’t cry,” “Must be PMS,” and so on.
And of course, many men will try to defend themselves by saying that they love women: “I adore my mother and I love women in general.” Yes, they do love women so long as they are in service of men and meet certain requirements. Men like quiet, passive, impeccable women who put themselves at a man’s disposition. And then there’s that phrase “not all men.” No, not all men rape or kill, but sharing intimate photos of women, telling macho jokes, not doing housework, not co-parenting, not hiring women at work, mansplaining, and gaslighting are all part of the same system that supports rapists and murderers and allows them to get away with their crimes.
Finally, women are made to believe that what we want is unreasonable, that we already have the same privileges, so how could we possibly want more? We may have the vote, but abortion, for example, is not legal in many places. The patriarchal system runs so deep that it even tries to dictate what and when we can protest, as if men understood female oppressions better than women themselves. This is just more mansplaining, trying to convince women out of our fight. The feminists who fought for the right to vote were seen as evil witches, man-haters, extremists, and immoral beings.
So, what’s the problem with feminism? That it’s uncomfortable. These same ideas that might feel disruptive now are essential to making important changes that benefit everyone. Yes, everyone. Even men. Gender equity not only benefits women but all of society. No one is liberated until everyone is liberated.