by Jocelyn Sitton
Let’s talk about the f-word.
Between the #MeToo movement, recent Women’s March, and President Trump’s recent statement that he was not a feminist, feminism is a hot-button topic in America at the moment. It’s obvious this issue is important, but it seems there is a misconception about feminist ideology that needs some clarification. While scrolling down my newsfeed on Facebook, it’s not uncommon for me to pass by some sassy articles written by women proudly claiming they are not “feminists.” To them, feminism is a movement of “girls who hate men and stomp around with no shirts on to piss off the public,” to quote an Odyssey Online article about this exact issue; however, whenever I start to delve into the supposedly anti-feminist rhetoric, I find that most of the arguments from women against feminism are actually… feminist.
So, what even is feminism? Is it really just women who hate men or want to cause controversy in the world by playing the victim? The answer, of course, is a resounding no. The definition of feminism is pretty simple: belief in the social, political, and economic equality of the sexes. This should be a thoroughly non-controversial statement in 2018, but somehow people still don’t seem to get that if you think women and men are equal, then SURPRISE–you’re a feminist.
The reality of feminism is perhaps a bit more nuanced. To fully explain this, it’s necessary to take a look at how feminism has evolved over the years. There are commonly thought to be three waves of the movement. First-wave feminism took place in the 19th and early 20th centuries and mostly focused on women’s suffrage. Second-wave suffrage happened from the 1960s to the 1980s and expanded the movement to deal with more cultural and gender norms past just the legal inequalities in America. Third-wave feminism is what we see today, and it is thought to be both a continuation of the second-wave movement and an attempt to fix some of the problems the second-wave couldn’t.
Today, feminism is still very important, no matter what that random uncle you’re friends with on Facebook may think. I’ve found that the largest misconception about feminism is that it only serves angry women who have some sort of an agenda against men. While I’m all for dismantling the patriarchy, feminism is something that benefits every member of society (including men). It recognizes the unfair gender norms that have been systemic in our society and seeks to make those standards more equal for everyone involved.
Another important thing to consider about modern-day feminism is the potential impact it can have on minority communities, including women of color and LGBTQ+ individuals. The original waves of feminism have been criticized for largely only helping privileged, upper-class white women, who otherwise sought to keep existing power structures in place. Intersectional feminism seeks to remedy that. By drawing awareness to the underlying racism, homophobia and otherwise coded language, intersectional feminists have been working to make sure that all women are able to feel welcomed in the feminist community and reap whatever benefits may come. This is a particularly nuanced aspect, and it is something that requires a lot of self-evaluation in order to fully support each and every one of your sisters in feminism.
Feminism is hardly an issue of the past. The fact that certain women don’t feel oppressed in their everyday life doesn’t mean that women have achieved equality in our society. Perhaps what is even more alarming, some women seem complacent with the fact that women are not considered equals, and they feel that this is as it should be. On the contrary, feminists–both men and women alike–recognize that the equality of the genders benefits everyone. I know so many strong women in my life that make me excited about what the future of America looks like, and I’m proud to call myself a feminist. I hope you are, too.
YAY for our newest contributing writer, Jocelyn Sitton! From Nashville, TN, She’s a senior journalism and political science major at Texas Christian University (TCU). Jocelyn, who thinks Ruth Bader Ginsburg is “bae,” has a passion for “lifting up ladies and working together to solve big issues.” If you want to be a contributing writer for T+D like Jocelyn, or if you just want to be like Jocelyn, contact us here!