“Feminism destroyed,” “feminism vs. logic,” “feminism cringe” – these phrases, popping up at the forefront of internet search results, seem to capture an emerging side of today’s zeitgeist. While the pervasiveness of technology and the internet is hugely important in democratizing modern feminism, it also groups together the people who are vehemently against the movement and the people who are just tired of hearing about it.
In some circles, the modern-day “feminist” has become synonymous with a raging, short-haired, misandrist troll-woman who resides in an underground lair beneath a Planned Parenthood clinic – this is offensive and simply untrue. Some of us have long hair!
In all seriousness, it is quite tragic that what started out as a progressive, well-meaning movement has been recast to be so scorned. Seneca Falls, the 19th Amendment, the Equal Pay Act – these landmark events in women’s history would not have been possible without female activism, and this goes to show that the feminist movement has a history of engendering positive change. So what is the reason for the sour public attitude?
One explanation is the prominence of the radical side of feminism. The clearest voices are always the loudest, but that doesn’t mean they are the most representative. For instance, just because feminists want to support single mothers doesn’t mean they want to destroy marriages and eradicate families. Just because the title of the movement is “feminism” doesn’t mean that it is inherently opposes men.
And there it is – another explanation for the stigma behind feminism is the name itself. The root of the word is Latin – fēminīnus – which means “the state of being feminine”, and this lends to the misconception that feminists are advocating for female supremacy or the construction of a matriarchal society. Conversely, the ultimate goal of feminism is the equality of the sexes; however, this equality can only be achieved by directly addressing the systematic oppression women have faced since the dawn of time. A feminist strives for equality by championing the rights of women. Furthermore, with an English vocabulary filled with masculine-centric words such as huMANkind and HIStory, one would think that there would be less debate in regards to the etymology of “feminism” when it’s message and motivation are sound.
The reason feminism has been steered into sharp focus in recent times is no doubt due to the election and presidency of Donald Trump. Here is a man who leads a long record of vile misogynous insults, a man who is an admitted sexual harasser, and a man who in his campaign pledged to rescind the Affordable Care Act (which grants women birth control, prenatal care, and coverage for mammograms) and elect court justices who would annul Roe v. Wade. This man now sits in the White House, proving to the masses that being essentially anti-women’s rights is not reason enough to be disqualified in becoming the leader of the country.
Society has become increasingly polarized in terms of women’s rights. On one hand, the new women’s activism is flourishing. The 2017 Women’s March was a revolutionary bulwark against the new administration where over two million people protested against all types of injustice – demonstrating the power of intersectionality between feminism and other minorities’ movements. On the other hand, anti-feminist sentiment continues to fester. It is time that people understand the true bearings of feminism and join the ranks of the people who want to make the world better not only for women, but for all.