Jasmine Irving

Man Hating, Bra Burning: What is Feminism Really?

Feminists are man haters – irrational bra burning women who want to take over the world, right?

Most people who identify as feminist have probably been called or assumed to fit one of these stereotypes.

The concerning thing is, a lot of people who link negative connotations to the word “feminist” are actually completely aligned with the values behind feminism and yet see the term in itself as inaccessible.

Like most things in life, it comes down to personal experience, but I find it really hard to understand how a movement based solely on the fight for equality can be so heavily misunderstood.

For me, being a feminist has always felt empowering, positive and essential. Yet, I’ve encountered a lot of contempt towards the word. I’ve seen faces turn away in disgust when I mention it or a positive conversation about women’s rights turn into a huge debate about why feminism is a “bad choice of word.”

So, who are we really then, us feminists?

We’re certainly not man haters, that’s for sure. Feminism is a movement for the equality of the sexes, therefore “man hating” and “feminism”, by definition, simply do not fit together. There is no hatred in equality.

Quite simply, we are people who have been deeply hurt. We are women, men, transgendered, non-binary, gay, lesbian, heterosexual, bi sexual and a sexual people who have been deeply hurt by patriarchy.

Our bones are wrapped up in skin of all different shades, cushioned by flesh of varying shapes and sizes. We’re young, we’re old, some of our bodies are healthy, some are not. We’re spiritual, we’re religious, we’re atheist. We’re rich, we’re poor, we’re somewhere in between. And yes, we’re angry.

We’re angry because we’re in pain or are sick of seeing others being mistreated. We’re angry because it hurts to know that young girls are still being forced into unwanted marriages. We’re angry because 1 in 4 women experience domestic violence and on average two women a week are killed by a current or former male partner. We’re angry because of female genital mutilation, because of the unfair pay gap between men and women, because of street harassment, because of the fear women carry of sexual abuse. We’re angry because of how many girls and women are abused and raped and how many rapists never even face trial.

feminism

We come from a place of love. We don’t want girls to have to grow up scared and we don’t want boys to have to grow up being feared.

When I say the word “feminism,” I see faces fall and hear the snap judgement “man hater.” These two words cut through me. They cut through me because in my feminism, I am walking alongside men and alongside people from all sides of the gender spectrum who are working together to make the world a fairer place. The idea that any of us could hate one another is absurd.

I need feminism. Without it I wouldn’t be able to do all the things I love, to travel the world alone as a woman, to write this without using a male pseudonym. And we all need feminism so that every woman in the world can have the same freedoms. For me, for women, and for all people across the globe, feminism is a lifeline.

It saddens me that so many people relate negative connotations to the word. In our feminist movement, we need to leave the doors open to invite people from all walks of life to talk about their personal experiences and discuss where all forms of stereotypes really come from.

I hope that through honest conversations, open communication and non-judgement, we can start to bridge the gaps of misunderstanding between people and realise that we can all work towards the same goal. Feminism and man hating can never be on the same team, so let’s not fall out over a single word but embrace the movement for equality that it stands for.

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