Feminism: What It Is And Isn’t

Natasha Watts

“The advocacy of women’s rights based on the equality of the sexes.” This is the dictionary definition of feminism. But what does it mean exactly? Is feminism about knocking men down a notch? About degrading men? Or is it about women demanding equal pay, not being constantly sexualized, and getting past misogyny? 

Feminism is about bettering women’s experiences in the world, socially, politically, and economically. Modern feminism is solely about the raising up of women, not the deteriorating of life for men. If a man makes $100,000/year in his job, and a woman makes $80,000/year in the same position, a feminist would want the woman’s pay to be raised. Sticking with this example, it would not matter what race, sexual orientation, social class, or gender the person applying for this position is. A feminist would say that whoever applies to this job should receive $100,000/year if that is what the man started out with. But, this is only an economic example of feminist ideals. 

Socially, feminism is about taking away the biases and stereotypes that hold women back. You might be asking, Which stereotypes? Not all of them are harmful… Well, allow me to give a few (out of hundreds) examples. 

  • “All women are weak”

This undermines every woman’s strength, whether it be mental, emotional, or physical. Every weight-lifter, survivor, or ordinary woman and her strength is dismissed by saying that women are weak.

  • “Women who speak out are loud/aggressive/spoiled/out of line”.

If this was true, every woman who has ever raised her voice or spoken up for her rights would be at some sort of fault. The women’s suffrage movement would be seen as a group of arrogant and disrespectful women when all they wanted was to be on the same playing field as men. 

  • “Men are smarter than women.”

This statement undermines the academic achievements of every woman who invented something, who was valedictorian, who can learn or teach circles around a man. Now, saying that women are smarter than men is in no way productive either, so try not to take that out of this article. Marie Curie invented the Theory of Radioactivity. Maria Telkes made the first 100% solar-powered home. Ann Tsukamoto developed stem cell isolation. These are just three of many extremely educated women. 

  • “A woman “wants it” if she wears revealing clothing, if she drinks, if she is out at night, if she smiles at a man, even if she changes her mind.”

I sometimes wonder why this needs to be explained, but the only consent is a woman saying yes. Yes then no, means no. A woman wearing revealing clothing or even a woman being naked is not consent. Being under the influence and being easy to overpower is not equivalent to a yes. Just because a woman is nice to you does not mean she is giving you consent. Just because a woman is out at night, just because she is at a party, just because she is not home and it’s dark out, does not mean you don’t need her consent. 

  • “Black and Latina women are loud.”

Thinking that every person in ANY one group is the same is ignorant. Every human being has their own traits and their own personality. Some black and Latina women own being loud because it empowers them. That does not mean that other people calling them loud or obnoxious is acceptable or at all wanted. 

  • “Lesbians dress like boys.”

Similar to the previous example, not everyone who fits into a group is the same. This idea invalidates any lesbian woman who does not wear more masculine clothes. 

  • “Transgender women are not women.“

This statement could really not be less true. These women fight to make their bodies match their minds, whether they have surgery or not. They fight like every other woman has fought to be treated with respect, to have rights, and to not be alienated for being different.  Every transgender woman is a woman, a powerful and brave one at that. 

A feminist does not degrade men or women. A feminist does not wish for women to rise above men. A feminist fights for equality in all aspects of the word. A feminist does not attack men or women, body shame men or women, send unwanted remarks to men or women, or threaten a man or a woman. A feminist does not have to be a woman. Men, non-binary people, gender-fluid people, and every single human on this earth has the ability to represent the ideals of feminism. You simply have to push on with this fight for equality.