Game-changing movements are always met with countering adversity because they challenge long-held beliefs and seek to change our way of life. When the feminist movement of the 1960’s started (1960s-1990s is considered the 2nd major wave of the movement), both men and women were uncomfortable with it because feminism protested traditional gender ideals and a relational dynamic they had been used to. Some men felt threatened; women wondered if it wasn’t lady like or improper to step out of the mold placed upon them. Combine uncertainty, fear and traditionalism and you have anger. Many ferociously opposed feminism, claiming that it would be the downfall of our society (because without gender discrimination, we'd surely fall apart) and its supporters were misguided and classless. Feminism was the Grinch that stole gender Christmas. A bevy of other inimical conceptualizations were attached and fast forward to 2012, "feminism" or "feminist" is STILL kind of a bad word. There are multiple false stereotypes about the movement, but here are the main ones that grind my gears.
Feminists are lesbian baby-killers.
Feminists are often assumed to be lesbians for a number of reasons; chiefly the movement's centralization on women and the belief that feminists are misandrist (misandry: the hated of men and boys) and anti-marriage (both beliefs are false; I'll get to those later). There are many feminist lesbians, but not all lesbians are feminist and vice versa. As a matter of fact, several of the movement’s key figures (such as Gloria Steinem) are heterosexual. Lesbian and women's issues can sometimes overlap, as sexism is a contributor to prejudice against lesbians.
The accusation that feminists are 'baby-killers' stems from the movement's role in supporting the availability of contraception and legalization of abortion. Some view abortion as a moral issue and wonder why it would be considered a gender issue. Obviously, pregnancy and abortion are a part of women’s health concerns and any legislation governing such is worth analyzing, as gender-bias or lack of sensitivity or awareness of the female experience may impact voting. Additionally, conservative or traditional views regarding women and child birth may be an influence. Abortion legalization support doesn’t mean feminists believe abortion should be used as a form of birth control or that women should approach it causally. Legalization is backed because feminists believe women should have the right to choose what happens with their bodies. Furthermore, it’s important to note that not all feminists support abortion legalization. During the 1970’s, there was a pro-life feminist group called Feminists for Life.
Feminists are against marriage and childbirth.
I addressed this myth in a previous article last year. In short, feminists are against the idea that’s it’s a woman’s DUTY to marry and procreate. Feminists are against the idea of a woman’s value being measured by her marital or childbearing status. Feminists are against women being treated like subordinates or property if they do indeed get married. Yes, some feminists are against marriage and others have chosen to remain unmarried, but that, again, isn’t everyone and the movement as a whole isn’t about being anti-nuptial.
This is hands-down the biggest misconception about feminism, in my opinion. It makes NO SENSE to try to combat prejudice with prejudice. Feminism isn’t about hating, eliminating or devaluing men. It’s about pursuing equality for women and fighting gender-based injustice. We aren’t saying we’re more important than men; we’re saying we’re equally important. A few of my male friends feel that feminism is about “reducing the power of men.” Why is it a problem if women feel empowered or just as powerful as you? It doesn’t make a man any less strong, powerful or awesome for woman to be strong, powerful and awesome. Also, there may be only a few, but male feminists do exist. Any man can actively support causes for women.
Feminists are angry and bitter.
Passionate and outspoken, yes. And yeah, people being prejudiced against us based on our gender makes us a little angry. Wouldn’t prejudice against you make you angry?
Feminism is useless and unimportant.
Women’s history should seriously be included in grade-school curriculum. I feel many of today’s women and men have no idea how far we’ve come in terms of gender quality. For example, until the Equal Credit Opportunity Act of 1974, women couldn’t apply for a credit card unless their father or husband was a co-signer. My parents were in high school then. My parents are older than that act. Until 1978, it was completely legal to deny a woman employment or fire her if she was pregnant. 1980 was the first time that Equal Employment Opportunity Commission established concrete regulations against sexual harassment in workplace. All of these institutional changes were a result of efforts made by the feminist movement. Privileges we take for granted that we haven’t had for long. Thanks to the feminist movement, women have the right to vote in political elections, establishments can now be prosecuted for gender-discrimination, a number of domestic and sexual abuse centers exist, marital rape laws are in place, women have the same access to education as men, employment classifieds are no longer divided by gender and the list goes on and on. Many of the freedoms and opportunities women enjoy today were provided for by feminists, and the movement is not a thing of the past as sexism is still alive and well.