It’s the new F-word: It’s taboo, it’s stigmatized, and its use has serious implications. Feminism is so dirtied with images of man-hating, bra-burning radicals that even the most liberal of people hesitate to label themselves as such. Men most often feel the effects of our patriarchal society as it impacts the women closest to them: their sisters, mothers and friends. Feeling disconnected from the movement, some men may have trouble relating to feminism. While this isn’t justifiable, it is understandable.
However, it’s the women that I’m calling out this time. I can’t tell you how many women I’ve met who refuse to call themselves feminists, simply because they don’t want to be associated with the stereotype. They think, “Well, I’m not like that — I don’t shave my head, I don’t march at protests, and I haven’t abandoned my femininity.” Ask anyone, however, if they believe that men and women are moral, political and social equals (the foundation of feminism) and the answer is almost always a resounding “yes.”
Ladies, I don’t quite understand. Why abandon the movement that has won you the right to vote, the right to use birth control and other forms of equality? While the ideas of the feminist movement may seem too “radical” for your taste, it is progressive thoughts like these that led to the equality you now seem to take for granted.
When the first wave of feminists in the late 19th century met at the Seneca Falls convention in 1848 to release their Declaration of Sentiments, much of society was appalled. In addition to the right to vote, these early feminists wanted more social freedoms and the recognition of equality. The declaration stated, “[It is] resolved, that woman is man’s equal — was intended to be so by the Creator, and the highest good of the race demands that she should be recognized as such.”
Opponents of the feminist movement were afraid that it would be detrimental to family life and the social structure of the time. So began the stereotype that feminists pose a threat to all that is moral and right, a misguided judgment that still exists. While these “demands” of the first-wave feminists seem like common sense today, they were extremely radical for the time.
Again, when another wave of feminism appeared in the 1960’s, with supporters promoting sexual freedom, independence and reproductive rights, opponents used lies and scare tactics to draw support away from the movement. Anti-feminists, such as those involved with the successful Stop-ERA (Equal Rights Amendment) movement, also hindered equality by undermining legitimate feminist concerns. Phyllis Schlafly, the woman at the forefront of Stop-ERA, once said, “Sexual harassment on the job is not a problem for virtuous women …” Today, this seems like a shocking display of ignorance and betrayal to one’s own sex. History repeats itself, however, and the reproductive and sexual freedoms that the second-wave feminists fought hard for have become commonplace in today’s society. While the ideas of the current feminist movement may seem radical or outrageous today, history has shown that society will eventually catch up.
While feminists make progress on workplace equality and reproductive healthcare availability, their work is slowed by their tarnished image. Greater equality in all sectors of life will only come if the feminist movement is supported. Let’s clean up the image of feminism; leave behind the idea of feminists as radicals and man-haters; and help support a movement that has created a more equal society.
The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of REPORTER.