If you support equality and equity or believe both should be a driving force within any society, then feminism has to be included. Most people want to live in and benefit from a fair and just world but when the word ‘feminism’ is mentioned, it still evokes some disapproval — often because of clichéd misconceptions.
Understanding what feminism is actually about allows us to recognize and address inequalities and injustices between all genders, regardless of race, ethnicity, class, ability or sexual orientation. It’s a challenge to the idea that certain genders are more valuable or deserving of specific rights than others; it’s a vocal and actionable push back against an inequitable world.
I will not have my life narrowed down. I will not bow down to somebody else’s whim or to someone else’s ignorance. | bell hooks – Shambhala Sun
Whenever there’s action towards social progress, no matter which cause is being galvanized, there’s typically some kind of resistance towards it — particularly from those who don’t believe they can or will benefit from what is being advanced.
People can oppose social change for a variety of reasons. Some may be unaware of the issues other groups face or feel that progress is happening too rapidly; while others may perceive that certain movements will place them at a disadvantage and take something away from their own lives — viewing diversity, equity and inclusion as a threat to a status quo that has (always) reflected, upheld and protected who they are. An example of this is highlighted in a recent Ipsos global study that revealed one in three men and one in five women believes feminism does more harm than good.
When you’re accustomed to privilege, equality feels like oppression. (It’s not.) | Franklin Leonard
Negative stereotypes about feminism often come from a variety of sources. Historically, some of them can be traced to centuries-old attitudes that began constructing the idea that gender equality was something to distrust, fear and deride. These long-standing anti-feminism messages have seeped into our collective consciousness; with the sole purpose of preventing the movement from gaining ground and being able to effect change. Sadly, these fabricated and misleading notions that feminists are angry, anti-family, emasculating, man-hating female supremacists have almost become synonymous with the cause itself. Add to this our modern-day usage of social media, false narratives and deliberate disinformation about feminism does not look like it’s going to stop anytime soon.
This is why supporting gender equality and its continued progress is fundamentally important; here are six things you should know about feminism:
It’s Always Evolving
Typically separated into four waves, the feminist movement has been transformed since it’s beginnings in the mid-1800s. The first wave throughout the 19th and early 20th century generally focused on women’s political power, including property rights and securing the ability to vote. However, this did not include the rights of Black, Indigenous, Hispanic, Latina, Asian and Pacific Islander women, despite their significant contributions. In 1920 in the United States, the 19th amendment was ratified and granted “all” American women the right to vote; however, the reality was that loopholes and barriers maintained restrictions (some for decades) that hindered Women of Colour at the polls.
The second wave during the 1960s and 1970s concentrated on equality, anti-discrimination and the civil rights movement. It included fighting for things like equal pay, equal job opportunities, barring employers from discriminating on the basis of sex and expanding child-care services. These key issues, as well as the movement itself, became slightly better at embracing diversity and inclusion — although it still tended to centre on the needs of White, straight women. During this time, notable legislation was passed, like the Equal Pay Act of 1963 and the Civil Rights Act of 1964 in the United States.
A third wave began in the 1990s that sought to further advance gender, racial, economic and social justice; better encompassing all women regardless of race, ethnicity, sexual orientation and class. The aim was to reconstruct all social systems in a way that promoted and protected equality; with pivotal work being done on combatting sexual harassment in the workplace and the shortage of women in positions of power. Next came a fourth wave in the early 2000s (to present); centralizing attention on any infringement of human rights that stereotyped, objectified or oppressed on the basis of gender, sex, gender identity, sexuality, race, ability or class. Tackling issues like sexual harassment, body shaming and rape culture — or anything else that causes or advances an imbalance of power — comes under the umbrella of modern-day feminism.
Useful Article | What Are the Four Waves of Feminism? – History
It Must Be Intersectional
Conceived and developed by American legal scholar and civil rights advocate, Kimberlé Crenshaw in 1989; intersectionality is about recognizing how multiple aspects of a person’s social and political identities can combine to create unique experiences of oppression and privilege. It’s the idea that no single person experiences discrimination in the same way because of how various social identities converge.
Gender, race, class, sexual orientation, ability, religion and more can each generate their own advantages and disadvantages. For example, while Black and White women may both experience everyday sexism that tries to diminish them on the basis of their gender; Black women may face additional misogyny connected to their race (sometimes referred to as misogynoir). Similarly, experiencing sexism can intersect with whether someone is straight, LGBTQ+ or non-binary; leading to complex, diverging issues.
Intersectional feminism seeks to establish a more inclusive and equitable world by recognizing and addressing overlapping, multiple forms of oppression; one that acknowledges the relationship between them in any given context.
Useful Article | Intersectionality Explained: What Is Intersectionality? – MasterClass
It Benefits Everyone
A cornerstone of equality and equity is fair access to opportunities without restriction or undue burden. Feminism benefits everyone because it embraces this ideology — for all genders.
By promoting gender equality, there’s work being done to address societal and systemic issues of discrimination and hardship. Challenging traditional norms and power structures has its roots in establishing societies with greater economic opportunities, increased access to education, healthcare and other resources — something all of us should seek out. It also encourages more balanced media representation as well as an awareness of the importance of consent, bodily autonomy and respect. And none of these ideals take anything away from men (as is sometimes argued by anti-feminists and misogynists alike).
One example of these improvements can be noted in a 2018 study undertaken by the World Health Organization (WHO). After conducting research in 41 European countries; they found that men living in more gender-equal societies had better health outcomes, sleep and happiness (less depression) compared to those living in regressive, overly patriarchal countries. There’s growing evidence that gender equitable societies are healthier for everyone.
The idea that women’s rights are gained at the expense of men’s is actually the opposite of the truth: there’s now a stack of evidence that men benefit from living in more gender-equal societies and that policies promoting gender equality improve the quality of life of everyone, not just for women. | Anne Karpf – The Guardian
It Champions A Range Of Causes
There are wide ranging issues that impact women, non-binary, gender non-conforming and trans people today. Many encompass feminist causes that anyone can get involved with; including but not limited to:
- protecting reproductive rights
- securing economic rights
- advancing equal access to education
- ending sexual harassment and gender-based violence
- combatting workplace and healthcare-based discrimination
Useful Article | 9 Best Charities for Women’s Empowerment – Impactful Ninja
It Has A Messaging Problem
You’d think the negative stereotypes that emerged after feminism’s inception in the mid-1800s would have dissipated by now. However, as explored previously in this post; the long-established history of detrimental messaging about what the movement exemplifies has not only continued, it has thrived — obscuring and countering the vital work being done (which is the point). Now social media has taken up the mantle; ensuring inaccurate information and fearmongering spreads far wider and more quickly than ever before.
One particular modern-day reworking of these tropes is to now falsely claim that women no longer experience disadvantages or inequality within society. The purpose of this assumption is to further bury the fight for gender equality under layers of suspicion and derision; hopefully delaying (or even ending) its progress — and it’s working. A 2022 study carried out by UN Woman revealed that there’s been a noticeable regression in attitudes towards outdated social norms; restricting gender roles and stifling gender equality.
It’s Not Going Anywhere
Progress may sometimes be gradual or take a number of steps backwards before it regroups, but the fight for gender equality isn’t going to stop. Patriarchal injustice and discrimination will continue to be challenged because no matter how ingrained it has become; increased access to research and knowledge about its negative influence will keep chipping away at its power.
Do you consider yourself a feminist? How do you support gender equality in your everyday life?
29 thoughts on “6 Reasons Why Understanding Feminism Is So Valuable”
Wow, this is a very powerful and impactful post. You’re right, that some people act like women have equal rights. I recently took a course of women in the work place. Women are still viewed differently than men and have a much harder time climbing the corporate ladder.
Also, we love that you mentioned intersectionality, which is so important for being an inclusive feminist. Hopefully things get better in the United States soon and reproductive rights officially become the law of the land.
It’s easy for certain people to assume everything is okay now and women no longer face issues; which is clearly not the case. I hope the U.S. and all countries around the world progress towards gender equality. Thanks for stopping by!
This is terrific – it seems that a combination of “fear of change” and “fear of acceptance” are behind so many of the social issues today – and to me are more a case of “fear of losing imaginary power” since trying to hold others back and “keep them in their place” is really a fear of being passed by…
I agree; it’s a combination of all of these that sees so many people living in some kind of fear of progress because they see it as a negative for them personally. Thanks for reading!
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Love this post! I consider myself to be a feminist, at least once a day I end up talking about our rights and the unfair perceptions society have on us, such as female footballers not being good enough and women needing to have kids! It’s so important for people to realise we aren’t all men-hating, bra-burning people, we just want to be treated equally!
Exactly; 100%! It’s sad just how well the negative messaging is so synonymous with the feminist movement but at least there are those of us who will keep tacking the misinformation. Thanks for reading!
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This is such an important topic and you did an incredible job explaining some of the key things surrounding it!!
Thank you! I wanted to give as thorough overview as I could so I’m glad that came across.
You’re right, that some people act like women have equal rights. I recently took a course of women in the work place. Women are still viewed differently than men and have a much harder time climbing the corporate ladder.
Exactly; the reality of the barriers that many still face are very much present in the workforce and society at large.
I feel like when some people hear the word feminism, they believe that feminists are against men and that feminism will only benefit women and hurt men, or that there is no reason for feminism today because women are equal. Even though some progress has been made, your post is so important in showing that feminism is beneficial for everyone, but there is still gender inequality today. It’s also great you highlighted the importance of intersectional feminism.
I agree; sadly feminism is perceived by many in such a negative light. There may well be angry, man-hating individuals within the movement but that is a trope that is not reflective of what it really stands for. It really does benefit everyone but its progress has been slowed by the stereotypes. Thanks so much for reading!
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This is a very informative post. I do find that saying, “I’m a feminist” now has stereotypes attached to it like, “I don’t like men.” Obviously, that has nothing to do with it. And there’s still a long long way to go before women will be seen as equal. Thanks for highlighting this
This is very true; there are certain things attached to feminism to discredit it (sad that it’s still a problem). I hope education alters this!
Its always good to learn new information. One of my first introductions to feminism was learning about women’s voting rights in school. I remember learning about it and it was a great way to learn about how people fought for their rights and freedoms.
The history of the movement itself is really interesting, especially tracking it through each generation of change.
I really enjoyed this post. Living in an area with a high number of immigrants and refugees coming from cultures where females are secondary citizens, it is distressing to see observe first hand the inequity even in our own neighborhoods. When I was working as a public health nurse, assessing for safety within the extended family was paramount.
There is much work to be done (around the world) to ensure and protect gender equality; there seems to be a general regression in the last few years and it’s something we can all address within our own lives. Thank you for sharing your perspective here — we learn so much from each other through sharing in this way.
Incredible post. This is going to be so helpful for so many people. You raise some seriously important points here, especially about intersectional feminism – which is something that’s still seriously misunderstood and not practiced, even by people who claim to be feminists.
I agree; intersectionality is very much misunderstood and misaligned so I wanted to make sure it was included here. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts!
Thank you for sharing such an informative and meaningful post. The more we use our voices and share educational material, we can dismantle the way feminism is perceived. There’s still so much work to be done, especially with the steps taken backwards, but we’ll never lose hope for moving forward.
Exactly — there’s a definite backlash against feminism going on at the moment that is regressing us to an era when women had less rights. We have a long way to go but thankfully the movement survives.
Thank you for sharing such an in-depth post that is on a really important topic. We should all use our voices. Thank you for sharing.
We should all speak up; I 100% agree — thank you for stopping by!
Interesting to know about how valuable it is and you mentioned some good points about it as well.
Thank you for stopping by to read!
This was such an informative post! It’s so unbelievable that still nowadays people have this idea that feminism is against men and that women are against families and kids when the message is all about equality for all people in all spaces. Thank you for sharing this x
It’s amazing to me just how successful the negative messaging has been that in 2023 we’re still grappling with the same misinformation and stigma. It’s good to highlight the good work being done and I hope more become aware of what the movement is really trying to do. Thanks for reading!