Feminism -— this word that has consistently sparked controversy in modern society with poignant issues such as abortion, the rise of men’s rights activists and body positivity marking the current wave of feminism. For some, it has gained the reputation of being a men-hating, sensitive and out-of-touch movement. For others, it remains a highly necessary movement aiming to transform existing power structures and provide equal access to opportunities. Nevertheless, many men and women still refrain from identifying themselves as feminists, rather than calling themselves “equalists.” Polling done by the Fawcett Society found that fewer than one in five young women in the UK would call themselves a feminist, despite the country’s history of powerful feminist movements. This, however, does not suggest that most women desire to uphold the current patriarchy, since 65 percent of the respondents said that they believed in gender equality. They simply refrained from describing themselves as feminists. This discrepancy raises an interesting question: Why do most people who believe in gender equality still fear the word feminism? 


If we look at the ideas associated with the word, and its significance nowadays, we can get closer to understanding why so-called “equalists” are seemingly more prevalent than feminists. Dr Christina Scharff, a lecturer in gender, media and culture at King’s College London conducted a study where she interviewed a diverse group of young German and British women about their views on feminism. 


She found that some of the women interviewed associated the term “feminism” with misandry, lesbianism or a lack of femininity which fuelled their rejection of the label “feminist.” Men often take this rejection of standard gender roles as an affront to their masculinity, and therefore developed a negative attitude towards feminism. The majority of women stated they feared they would be associated with these traits, despite many stressing they were not homophobic and homosexual. Thus, while the idea of equality becomes more and more accepted in public discourse, it is clear that the label “feminist”

holds negative connotations in society, evoking radicality and hatred for many. 


Drawing from personal experience, many of my friends and family members support equality, but associate feminists with blue-haired girls who scream “free the nipple” on a Saturday morning. In addition, “feminism” becomes interchangeably used with “wokeism,” which for many symbolizes a degradation in society. Ideas that feminists hate men, want to abolish gender, or rewrite the modern language often dominate perceptions of modern feminism, especially as cable news broadcasts will often focus solely on the most loud and controversial feminists. Furthermore, social media and its attention economy systematically push more provocative and extreme content through its algorithms, which frame feminism as out of touch and nonsensical. 


This allows the discourse to turn to the so-called absurdity of feminism, silencing serious issues such as sexual harassment, body shaming, rape culture, and the gender pay gap that the fourth wave of feminism aims to tackle. These problems have been proven to persist in our society, sticking out like dark splotches in any national statistics. According to the French Ministry of the Interior, every three days, a woman is killed in an instance of domestic abuse. When it comes to employment, only 37 percent of French senior civil service members are women, lagging behind other countries such as South Africa and Brazil. The numbers are clear, true equality is nowhere near being achieved. Women still have to fight for equal rights in all spheres of life. Just because some progress is being made does not signify the end of the war. Just because corporations pride themselves on promoting equality by mandating a one-hour virtual training against sexual abuse or putting a pink ribbon on their logos during October, it does not mean that real equality has been achieved. A training is not enough. A logo is not enough. We need uncomfortable conversations about inequality, men stepping down from positions of power when accused of sexist and sexual violence, education about women’s history and real funds and attention to help the victims of gender-based violence.


Instead, a few ridiculous individuals who label themself as feminists are cherry-picked to dismantle a much-needed movement. The conversation is redirected toward the “irrationality” of feminism, allowing men in power to silence discourse around ongoing gender problems and uphold the gender status quo. These are real issues that continue to threaten the physical and economic safety of women to this day. Being a feminist does not mean hating men, it means believing in women’s innate right to equality. If you support that, then you support a feminist future.


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