Respect - more than just a word.

Why Isn’t Everyone a Feminist?

Written By Maddy Crehan

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I was raised in a household with 7 other females (my mother and 6 sisters) so I was always surrounded by inspiring and loving women. So naturally the rights and interests of women in general has always been of the utmost importance to me. I whole-heartedly consider myself a feminist. But recently I am encountering more and more negative reactions to this identification.

Negative reactions range from eye-rolling and laughing to heated arguments about the necessity and grounds of feminism. And these reactions often come from people who are usually very intelligent and articulate. I find it difficult to comprehend that a movement that has benefited our world so greatly, and continues to do so, could be so incredibly misunderstood and under-appreciated. So I want to just clarify some of the misconceptions surrounding the crazy-bra-burning-agro-violent-ball-busting world of feminism. 

First of all, here is the DICTIONARY DEFINITION of feminism (you’re welcome) :
The doctrine advocating social, political, and all other rights of women equal to those of men.

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If everyone fully understood this definition, the majority of the world would consider themselves feminists. But over time the term has developed negative connotations preventing people from identifying with or appreciating the amazing work done by feminists. And I fear that this attitude is growing more and more.

A survey done in the US in the 1990s found that “more people believed that aliens had visited America, than believed being called a feminist was a positive description”. Um, what?? This may seem ridiculous to some (like me) but this type of thinking is still alive and well today.

In 2013, (to everyone’s great confusion) an online phenomenon called “Women Against Feminism” appeared on Tumblr. On this page women would share photos of themselves holding signs with their reasons for opposing feminism. Most of these reasons stemmed from a severe lack of understanding for the term or were based on a few radical feminist extremists whose views are not shared by the majority of feminists. Some of these signs expressed the following beliefs based on misconceptions – and we’re gonna bust ’em one by one.

Misconception No.1: Feminists are all career-driven and are against those who are not.“I don’t need feminism because I want to have a choice to stay at home and not work. But I don’t want to be judged.”

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The intention of feminism is not to force  or shame all women into work – it is to ensure that they have the choice and the opportunity to do so, if they wish. It is not attempting to belittle or judge stay at home mothers, it is merely arguing that it is not a woman’s only option, and that they should be offered the same career opportunities as men.

Misconception No.2: Feminists hate all men.
“I don’t need feminism because I am not a delusional, disgusting, hypocritical man-hater!”

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Feminists do not hate men. It is, in general, a hate-free movement. Feminism seeks to celebrate and empower women, not to demonize or discriminate against men. Feminism does not blame all men for gender inequalities. Attempting to eradicate gender privileges and injustices is not a hateful idea. Having said that, what we do hate are the actions of SOME men and the social privileges granted to them.

Misconception No. 3: Feminists want superiority, not equality.
“I don’t need feminism because I  believe in respect and equal rights”

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THE ENTIRE GOAL OF FEMINISM IS TO ACHIEVE EQUALITY. I cannot stress this enough. Feminists are not power-thirsty women fighting for matriarchy. We just want equality between men and women in all respects. This should not be a threatening concept. The reason it is called feminism and not humanism is because in order to achieve equality, it is the rights of women – the underprivileged gender – that must be advocated for.

Misconception No. 4: We no longer need feminism.
“I don’t need feminism because I am not oppressed – I am freeeeee!”

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This argument frustrates me more than all others. Yes, we have come a long way in terms of women’s rights, but to say that inequalities no longer exist is simply incorrect. I’m glad that this particular woman feels as though she is not oppressed (oh and by the way, she has past feminists to thank for her freedom and opportunities – right to vote? Thank feminists! Right to divorce? Thank feminists! Right to a safe abortion? Thank the feminists! The list goes on…). But not everyone is as lucky as her. Women’s rights are still being abused all over the world, including here in Australia, and feminism is essential in stopping this. Feminism is not trying to label women as ‘victims’ but rather empower them to the same extent that men are empowered.

For people who view feminism as an unnecessary, out-dated practice here is a list of not-so-fun facts involving gender discrimination:

  • Women earn an average of 18.8% less than men in the majority of industries in Australia.
  • 49% of mothers report experiencing discrimination in the workplace at some point during pregnancy, parental leave or their return to work.
  • Women represent only 31% of all federal, state and territory parliamentarians in Australia.
  • In 2012 women represented 3.5% of CEOs in Australia.
  • More men named Peter run big companies than ALL women.
  • 1 out of 4 women were sexually harassed in the workplace between 2007 and 2012.
  • Domestic and family violence is the leading preventable cause of death and illness in women aged 15-44.
  • 62 million girls are denied an education all over the world.
  • Every year, an estimated 15 million girls under the age of 18 are married off
  • 4 out of 5 victims of human trafficking are girls.
  • American women serving in Iraq or Afghanistan are more likely to be raped by a comrade then killed by an enemy.
  • 1 in 3 women will be sexually assaulted at some point in their life.

So whatever your reason is for being against feminism, make sure first that you fully understand the term. Do not assume that all feminists are the same, or have an ulterior motive.

And if you are not opposed to the idea of feminism but would not personally label yourself as a feminist, ask yourself why? Because if you believe that everyone should have equal opportunities, you are a feminist. If you believe everyone should be paid the same for equal work – guess what – you are a feminist. And if you believe everyone deserves the same level of respect, YOU are a feminist. Congratulations!

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Maddy Crehan

Maddy regularly writes for Rosie, and is passionate about music, history, art and gender equality

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