Feminism 101

An overview of feminist viewpoints. 

Feminism is about fighting for women’s social, economic, and political rights. Many women get scared away from feminism because they don’t completely understand it or are afraid to be a bad feminist. You don’t have to read all the feminism manifestos in order to be a feminist. You just have to be willing to seek education and support women. Being a feminist is being an ally to women and empowering yourself. It is a process and there are always new things to learn. No one should expect you to be a perfect feminist. Feminists are people too and people are not perfect. Here are just a few hot button issues to better understand third wave feminism.

Defining a movement

Real feminism doesn’t police women’s dress and tells them what to do or not do with their bodies. Real feminism allows women to choose what they want to wear and do with their bodies. Real feminism allows women to choose their religion or lack thereof, from atheism to Islam. Real feminism allows women to choose their career, even if it is “traditional.” Real feminism is not meant for only white women. And finally, real feminists do not hate men, we hate men who disrespect women and those perpetuate the discriminatory systems we work against.

Intersectionality

The validity of feminism is determined by its inclusiveness. Feminism is only successful when feminists are listening to the struggles of women of color because everyone has a different experience. Women who are feminists and also white need to learn that it is not enough to have gender equality. Racial equality needs to be discussed. White feminists need to learn how to check their privilege. Although being a woman has its struggles, remember it is even harder for women of color to exist in this world. At the beginning of the US suffrage moment, women seeking the right to vote teamed up with minority groups to get their goal accomplished. When the right to vote was granted to women, people of color’s contributions to the cause were diminished or forgotten altogether. It is time that women of color’s rights are just as important as white women’s rights. There is a lot of talk about the pay gap and women getting 78 cents to every dollar a man makes. That is only true for white women. Black, Latina, and Native women make far less than 78 cents. The statistic of women making 78 cents to a dollar being widespread just shows how mainstream feminism is mainly white and includes only white women’s perspectives.

Gender

Feminism has been demonized and misinterpreted so often that some people are hesitant to label themselves as feminists. Some people prefer the term “egalitarianism” to feminism. Don’t be caught up on the wording. Feminists do not wish to be treated better than men, they just wish to have the same opportunities that men today have. Women’s rights have made great progress in history, but we’re not finished. Women are still facing many issues that they have for hundreds of years. Feminism is also helpful to men too.

Men can be feminists, but their voices should not overpower the voices of the women running the movement. Feminism can benefit men in many ways. Men are also provided gender roles at a young age that may not fit with their personalities. Society has expectations of men that are also unfair and crippling. Men can also suffer from eating disorders and body issues. Men also face sexual harassment. Men are expected to be emotionally unavailable and to have hard exteriors. Men’s mental health suffers from not being open with their emotions. Men also suffer from suicide and depression because of the patriarchy telling them that they should shove down their emotions and learn to toughen up. Feminists understand this and fight against unrealistic gender roles expected of men.

Feminism should include all genders. Feminists should be having a wider discussion about gender and what makes a woman. Identity is what makes a woman a woman. Not biology or what you wear. Transgender women have drastically different experiences with womanhood than people whose sex is female.  Gender is all about how you identify yourself. Mainstream feminist rhetoric should include the experiences of transgender women and the struggles they face. The rights that need to be fought for differ from those who were born biologically female.

Rape culture

Rape culture is the sexist culture that we leave that blames victims for being raped and puts the responsibility to not being raped onto the victim, not the perpetrator. This backwards way of thinking blames the victims’ choices such as having too much to drink, wearing something revealing, flirting, walking alone at night, and overall being too “tempting”. Rape prevention includes self-defense classes for women, but there is often not any classes teaching men not to rape. Feminists hope to change this environment of women being vulnerable to sexual assaults and assailants not being brought to justice. Sexual assault victims are often questioned by authorities and society instead of being supported and believed. Feminism fights for the rights of women and men to live an assault free life in which victims are not blamed for living their lives in a certain way.

Slut shaming

Slut shaming a tool used to make women feel bad about their reclaimed sexuality. Women are often used as sexual objects but society is in opposition of women who own their sexuality in a way that they are in power. Women enjoy sex and should be allowed to sleep with whomever they want (as long as it is consensual). Slut shaming is hurting women while men get away with the same actions. Men are praised for sleeping with many women but women are condemned for sleeping with many men. It is a double standard that needs to be put to an end. Sexual relationships are the business of those involved and should not affect any other part of a woman’s life.

Pro-choice

Pro-choice is does not mean pro-abortions. People that are pro-choice can acknowledge that an abortion is not right for them because of certain reasons, but they feel comforted that it is an option. Keeping abortion clinics open is important for a multitude of reasons. Clinics enable women to get healthcare at a lower cost including prescriptions to birth control, free condoms, non-abortion procedures, and breast exams. Women need birth control pills in order to regulate their periods, decrease the size of ovarian cysts, to combat the symptoms of endometriosis, along with preventing pregnancies. Men are also able to access the services of clinics. Clinics are in areas where major hospitals are inaccessible or too far away. Abortions are provided to women in all walks of life. This includes women who already have kids and can’t afford another, women who were impregnated by a rapist, women who are victims of incest, women who want to wait to have kids, women who are unable to afford kids at this time, and women who know their fetus is unviable. Abortion allows women to make choices about what happens to their bodies and lives. Having a choice leads to less life threatening, back alley, illegal abortions. Feminism is giving women a choice of what happens to their lives and not letting an embryo determine that.

Cat calling

Despite what some men say, cat calling is not a compliment. It is a threat of a woman’s safety. Men are not completely stupid. They do understand that no woman hops in their car or gives them her number after being cat called. They do it to assert dominance and remind a woman that this is a man’s space. It is meant to make women feel uncomfortable in a world where they are told that they are equivalent to their appearance. Put a stop to cat calling. It is useless and demeaning.

Women in the workforce

Since the introduction to women in the workforce, women have faced many issues when wanting a career for themselves. Women are not in many leadership positions when it comes to careers. When women are in leadership positions, they face sexual harassment. A specific form of sexual harassment is used against female superiors by male juniors. This form of workplace sexual harassment is meant to demean the female superior and question her authority and ability to perform the job. Some labor sectors are lacking women altogether such as the fields of math, science, and technology. When women do work long and hard to become promoted, they are paid less than their male counterparts. If they are not being paid poorly, they are being pushed out of jobs for having a family. Women are fired for being pregnant. If women to return to their job after they have had children, they are often demoted. Paid family leave is not a possibility for many in the US. Required paid family leave is absent from American ideals. The US is the only advanced country without some form of mandatory paid family leave. If women are not being paid to raise their children, they are less likely to return to work at all.

Along with the financial realities of women being employed, working women also face scrutiny for their employment choices. Women are becoming more financially independent from men but society calls them selfish for wanting a job and putting off marriage and children. Working women are sometimes seen as intimidating to men, especially if they are successful and get paid more than their significant other. Feminism is needed to fight for working women’s rights and to fight back against unfair judgements of working women.

The fight to choose your path in life

It is not un-feminist to have a family or have traditional values. It is not un-feminist to dress conservatively. It is not un-feminist to dress feminine. It is not un-feminist to raise your child and be a stay at home mom. It is your right to choose your path in life. As feminists are fighting for the right to be included in places that women were rarely included in the past, feminists are fighting for every woman’s right to choose a more traditional path.

Political representation

Woman’s rights can only go so far with grassroots campaigns. Once policy starts being made, more change will occur. In order to make this happen, we need to elect officials that stand for our beliefs and will fight for the rights of women and people of color. Representation of women is low in congress. We have yet to have female president. More female politicians should be elected to congress in order to fight within the system. The US is falling behind on female representation in our political system while political systems around the world have much more representation in their parliament.

Reclaiming words

Derogatory words once used to shame women for their sexuality are now being reclaimed such as the n-word has been reclaimed by the black community. Friends call each other bitches, hos, sluts, and skanks without the literalness. Just as a white man calling a black man the n-word is unacceptable, the same is for men calling women sluts simply because they hear their friends calling them that word. Bitch is a word that has particular power after it has been reclaimed. Women call themselves bitches to show that they are in charge and not willing to back down. The connotation associated with that word is now positive in the context. Head bitch in charge is a phrase that has gained popularity showing that the female leader should not be messed with.

Problematic pop culture

Your favorites are problematic. Pop and hip hop music uses themes of objectifying women. Women are used as props in music videos and plots of movies. Some songs send misogynistic messages to those listening. But they are catchy and you can’t help but to secretly listen to them. That is ok. You are capable of separating your feminist ideals from your consumption of pop culture. Never stop analyzing the message and language in pop culture and identifying the pitfalls, but give yourself a break when you like something that is problematic.

The trendiness of feminism

Feminism for the benefit of only yourself is missing the point of feminism. The point of feminism is to uplift all women. Women should feel the need to look out for other women, not constantly compete against each other for attention. Feminists should claim the rights for themselves and all other people. Feminism shouldn’t be used as a marketing ploy. People who use the namesake of “feminist” but do nothing to move progress forward should relinquish the name and save it for those who actually believe in feminist causes.

I’m not sorry

Apologies are something that women are trained to offer up from a very young age. We were taught to be sweet, nice, and agreeable. Even if the situation is not our fault, we automatically apologize for it. I am guilty of apologizing to a man who has walked into me. Stop automatic apologies. Start speaking up and stating what you want (not asking for it). Passivity is not biology, it is trained.

We can’t be silenced

Being a feminist sometimes means that you are under constant scrutiny. You will likely butt heads with family members and friends who are not used to thinking in that way. Being aware of the issues in society that feminism has opened your eyes to can cause you to analyze everyday events. It will make you question many things. Some days, it gets tiring waking up fighting, but it’s a cause that is worth it. Never stop fighting the good fight.

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