Feminism clarified

Published: October 9, 2015

Commentary by
MARY BAURKOT

A feminist is a person who believes in the social, political and economic equality of the sexes. Feminism has been a widely discussed issue in today’s society. I consider myself a feminist and think that you should too. Many people are afraid to call themselves feminists because of a stigma surrounding the name and misconceptions about what it means. My aim is to explain what feminism is by explaining what it’s not.

Misconception number one:
Feminists look down upon women for wanting to be stay-at- home moms. This statement could not be any further from the truth. If you want to settle down and have kids in a nice house with a white picket fence, that’s great, beautiful even. However, this is not what you have to do. Women can become CEOs, work for the FBI and become the president of the Unites Sates if they want to. What feminism really aims to say is that there is a certain sense of traditional expectancy on how a woman should live her life. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that traditional life, but don’t hold yourself back from doing what you love if that something is done traditionally by a male and vice versa. Be what you want to be, no holds barred.

Misconception number two:
Feminists hate men. When I ask people why they are not feminists, many say it’s because they don’t hate men. My response? That’s great, but why aren’t you a feminist? People easily confuse feminists with misandrists. Misandry is the contempt for and prejudice against men. Feminism and Misandry do not coincide. In fact, feminism is just about the opposite. As UN Goodwill ambassador for gender equality and actress Emma Watson has so very clearly pointed out, feminism is not just about women; feminism is also about men. Men have grown up being taught that they shouldn’t act in a way that isn’t masculine. For example, men aren’t supposed to cry, because that’s what girls do. Men don’t express their emotions, because they are taught that doing so is somehow emasculating. This view is extremely problematic because suppressing emotions has harmful physical effects. Women statistically live longer than men for a couple of reasons, one being that we express our emotions more and reach out to others for help. Men should not feel like they can’t do just the same and it’s unfortunate that they do. Feminists do not hate men, feminists encourage men to forget about their own gender stereotypes and express themselves as they please.

Misconception number three:
Feminists want women to get special treatment in the workforce. As of 2014, women are paid just 79 percent of what men are paid. And the numbers are even worse for women of color, a topic I haven’t even gotten into yet. Women do not want to be hired just because they are women. Women do not want to get paid the same as men just because they are women. A company hiring a woman simply for purposes of diversity is not what feminists want. What women ultimately want is to be paid the same as men for doing the same job as men and for matching the quality of work that men do. Research shows that both female and male leaders are equally effective in the workforce. Do they lead the same way? Not always, but the end result is what is really important. Women want to be paid equal to men because their work is equal to men.

Misconception number four:
Feminism forgets all about intersectionality. Most of what I have already talked about is largely considered “white feminism.” But feminism is much more than that. One thing feminism does not do is exclude women of color. In fact, feminism in its true form acknowledges that the prejudice white women receive in their lives is very different from the prejudice women of color face. According to theAmerican Association of University Woman, women make 79 percent of the salary that a man makes. Overall, white women make 78 percent of what men make and black women make only 64 percent. Even further down the line are hispanic and latina women’s pay, which sits at 54 percent. And it’s not only about women of color; feminism also deals with LGBTQ+ issues as well. Because feminism is supposed to be accepting people despite traditional gender roles, feminism is closely intertwined with LGBTQ+ issues. A lot of transgender and homosexual men and women are ostracized because they do not act in a way that their genders traditionally do. The LGBTQ+ community faces very different prejudice than straight females do. Feminism is all-inclusive. It recognizes all types of prejudice in the world and seeks to put an end to it.

Feminism aims to break gender roles and treat people as who they are human beings. And that is not to say that feminists refuse to believe that there are obvious differences in males and females. Yes, men are usually physically stronger than females, and yes, women are the only gender that can get pregnant. But these differences should not affect a person’s rights and should not limit what they can and can’t do. We are not all bra-burning, man-hating liberals. We are simply people who wish to encourage others to do what they love and not have to face adversity to do so.
I am a feminist and if you believe in equality, so are you.

Contact the writer: mary.baurkot@scranton.edu

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