“I don’t really think about things as guys versus girls.” — Taylor Swift, The Daily Beast
“I guess I am a modern-day feminist. I do believe in equality. Why do you have to choose what type of woman you are? Why do you have label yourself as anything? I’m just a woman, and I love being a woman.” — Beyoncé, Vogue UK
“I am not a feminist, but I do believe in the strength of women.” — Katy Perry, Billboard’s “Woman of the Year”
All of these statements are non-answers that completely miss the point. By definiton, feminism is “the theory of political, economic and social equality of the sexes.” So if you “believe in equality” and “the strength of women,” then you are, in fact, a feminist. Why hem and haw around the question? Honestly, I don’t think that these women have any idea what feminism actually is.
Say what you will about the “adorkable” Zooey Deschanel, but at least she has the balls to openly declare her feminism, unlike most Hollywood starlets these days:
“There is not an ounce of me that believes any of that crap that they say. We can’t be feminine and be feminists and be successful? I want to be a f-cking feminist and wear a f-cking Peter Pan collar. So f-cking what?”
A modern aversion to the word “feminism” may stem from old myths about the women’s movement that still exist today (“I’m not a feminist because I’m not a bra-burning, man-hating megabitch, etc.”) and, in my opinion, should be myth-busted immediately.
Here are a few common misconceptions about feminism that are simply not true:
Myth #1: Feminists hate men.
Feminism is about equality, not the superiority of one sex over another. Patriarchy can be just as damaging to men as it is to women (encouraging an “alpha-male” mentality, instructing boys never to cry or show emotions, etc.); so, by that rationale, men can be feminists too. Feminism isn’t about shifting blame or shoehorning all of the world’s problems onto men. It’s about identifying areas of inequality and working together to fix them.
Myth #2: Feminists don’t believe in marriage.
Contrary to popular belief, not all feminists are bitter old spinsters, mannish lesbians or ice-queen CEOs who only care about climbing the corporate ladder. Just because you want to get married one day (to a man or a woman) does not mean that you care any less about women’s equality at home or in the workplace.
Myth #3: Feminists are pro-abortion, bra-burning, bleeding heart liberals.
Yes, feminists tend to be more liberal than conservative, and collectively pro-choice for the most part. However, you don’t have to vote Democrat to support women’s equality, and defending a woman’s right to choose does not make you “pro-abortion.” The key word here is choice, and that’s the true beauty of feminism. Choosing to be a stay-at-home mom or dad doesn’t make you any less of a feminist, just like choosing not to have children doesn’t make you any less of a woman or man. Also, those “hairy-legged women libbers” of the sixties never burned their bras in protest. True story.
Myth #4: Feminists are offended by any gesture of gallantry.
I like when men open doors for me. It’s a nice break from having them slammed in my face. Feminists may have introduced the idea of splitting the check (and treating our partners to dinner every now and then) but that doesn’t mean we hate chivalry and romantic gestures as a whole. I appreciate when a guy offers to pay for dinner or insists on driving me home; however, I always make sure to return the favor at some point. As long as there’s equality and balance in the relationship, then a feminist couple can take care of each other in whichever way feels right for them.
Myth #5: Feminists may have been necessary in the past, but we don’t need them anymore.
We’ve come along way since the fight for women’s suffrage and Roe v. Wade, but we still need feminism, both in the United States and around the world. Rape and victim-blaming, child brides, sex trafficking, genital mutiliation and disfigurement, honor killings, forced prostitution, infanticide of female babies in countries like China and India, domestic violence and other crimes against women are as rampant as ever. The struggle for equality continues on, and feminists will not rest until every woman has the inalienable rights and freedoms that she deserves.
Leah Pickett writes about popular culture for WBEZ. Follow her on Twitter @leahkpickett.