Understanding Feminism: The “F” Word

I am not the first person to talk about this. In fact, many others have talked about this so far. This topic concerns the “f” word. And before any of you giggle like children, I do not mean the big “F” word. I’m talking about our favorite “f” word of the moment: feminism.

Many prominent celebrities like Katy Perry, Beyonce, and even Sandra Day O’Connor have gone on record denying that they are feminists. In fact, these women will answer questions regarding the slightest potential of their alliance with feminist ideology with some variation of  “I’m not a feminist, but…” followed by whatever they feel like would be a thing that qualifies them as feminist-but-not-really-feminist. It is important to note that at least two of the examples I listed above have since identified as feminist, especially Beyonce with her infamous display of her newly found feminism at her Made in America performance last fall.

INGLEWOOD, CA - AUGUST 24:  Beyonce performs onstage at the 2014 MTV Video Music Awards at The Forum on August 24, 2014 in Inglewood, California.  (Photo by Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic)

INGLEWOOD, CA – AUGUST 24: Beyonce performs onstage at the 2014 MTV Video Music Awards at The Forum on August 24, 2014 in Inglewood, California. (Photo by Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic)

The issue I have is that it’s not just celebrities that do this. Everyday people use this phrase when they say anything concerning women’s rights. Including examples such as “I’m not a feminist, but I believe in rights for all people” or “I’m not a feminist, but I think the pink tax is ridiculous.” Or, I’ll hear the opposite thing when someone says something concerning women’s rights. A person, regardless if they are feminist or not, can say something slightly in favor of women’s equality and the response that follows is “What are you, a feminist?”

Quite frankly, I do not care if you actually identify as feminist or not. In fact, most reasonable people that are also feminists don’t care either. My concern is that the popular way to understand this word is through its negative stereotypes rather than what it actually means. Because we have decided that this word means only negative things, no one can use it without backlash, and the idea of feminism or being somehow attached to feminism is considered an insult. Meaning, being a feminist or even saying the word feminist is considered an inappropriate or dirty thing to say. I cannot stress this enough, I do not care if you, the reader, are feminist or not. However, those who allow the negative connotations of the word to inform their whole opinion about feminism will inevitably miss the true purpose of feminism, which is “the advocacy of women’s rights on the grounds of political, social, and economic equality to men.” In case this definition was not clear enough, feminism means to advocate equal opportunity of women in relationship to men, which includes the equality and equitability of bodily rights and personal safety. For the 9,000th time, this does not mean any of the following:

  1. Women suppressing men so they become the subordinate race only to be used for breeding season.
  2. Women wanting more power and/or status than any man ever in order to fulfill the conspiracy that women seek to subject men.
  3. Women who banded together one day because no man would have sex with them, so they were scorned and hurt enough by this rejection to start a movement.
  4. Anything women say or do in the way of equality is invalid because they bleed out of their vaginas, or some variation of “they must be on their periods.”
  5. Women who are exclusively lesbians, not because they are sexually attracted to other women, but because they hate men and, as noted above, they have not found the “right” man.
  6. Women who hate men and are discriminatory against men because they are men. Because, what would be the point of an equality movement if those seeking equality chose to be discriminatory and seek a solution that requires discrimination and subjugation against a particular group?


Photo credit: “the femiwriter”

My point is that those who use the word “feminism” or some sort of feminist ideology to make a relevant point about the status of women in the world or to rebuke some sexist comment should not feel like their opinions are invalid. The negativity associated with this “f” word creates an environment in which women in particular feel that they must stipulate they are not feminist before making any legitimate criticism about women’s equality. This is not okay. In fact, this feminist-shaming environment only serves to suppress legitimate opinions, to further normalize inequality of women, and to ultimately excuse sexism as a natural part of life. Regardless about your personal identity in relationship to feminism, women’s lack of equality is a legitimate issue that needs to be addressed. While believing in the equality of women does not strictly make someone a feminist, there is no need to feel shame or guilt about being one. Feminism is not a dirty word, nor is it shameful to be considered feminist. Think of the women who defied society’s expectations of themselves in order to make the equality women have now a possibility. They made important contributions to the empowerment of women, allowing other women to recognize that their futures, their careers, their opportunities, and even their bodies belonged not to the men in their lives nor the government, but to themselves. Additionally, many men now see women in terms other than a baby-making machine designed solely to serve them. Finally, and more importantly, these important actions have led to the version of equality that many women enjoy today, which, in my opinion, is extremely feminist.


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