Opinion: Men, boys misinterpret feminism

Feminism seems to be one of those topics that is just known. Ask anyone what it means, and they’ll say “the fight for women’s equality.” Ask for some examples, and people will respond with topics like “equal pay,” “voting rights” and other common ideas they’ve seen in the media. However, there’s so much more to this idea of women’s equality than people — more specifically guys — seem to misunderstand. 

Recently, I was in church class and the topic of discussion was the bias we have seen in our society. When the topic of women’s empowerment came up, the class went silent waiting for me and the only other girl in class to speak up and say something first. The eight boys were, understandably, cautious and afraid of being contradictory. That was until one of them stated that feminism seemed to fight for women, but also degraded men and added unnecessary dramatics. 

To say I was offended would be an understatement. As the co-president of a feminism club at school and an active advocate, I was angry that anybody could say that. Yet, I realized despite all the slideshows we have presented in school, we never actually discussed the definition of feminism and the role of a feminist. 

Most people find their definition of ideas online through social media platforms. Looking from my classmates’ point of view, I started to understand it wasn’t entirely their fault for being ignorant, but it was actually due to the lack of education they are given. None of them knew what period poverty or the tampon tax was. 

I acknowledge that sometimes feminism can be toxic with its hate directed toward men, but there’s a reason for the extremes some women take. For years, women have demanded rights and change in a peaceful way, but what has that accomplished? They ask for 10 things and are granted one, if that. Simply asking for something to be done has proven fruitless and has resulted in “girlboss feminism,” where bitter feelings have taken over. 

As women make it into higher positions in the corporate and political world, they are seen as feminists and girlbosses who have “made it.” Women like Margaret Thatcher, who was the first female British Prime minister, and Sophia Amoruso, who founded a clothing brand, are praised for their success and their names are associated with the ideal “girlboss.” However, this type of feminism is centered around the actions of individuals who are inspiring and liberating just because they are women. They have done what only men could have done and are cutthroat – but how many women were never mentioned or were stepped on for them to rise up? Feminism is not about being successful or fighting against other women, both worldwide and in our own communities, whom we are supposedly representing. 

Real feminism is breaking down barriers, respecting the diverse cultures and experiences and empowering women to realize their own rights. It’s not about hating or being better than men, but simply having the choice and opportunities to get where you want to go. Empowerment is about standing together and providing women with opportunities to earn their seats at the table. 

I’ve been a blind follower of girlboss feminism, idolizing certain women and wanting to achieve the fame and success they have before realizing that’s not what being a feminist means. Therefore, it would be hypocritical for me to say these guys were wrong in their misinterpretation of feminism as an idea that demeans men when really it is having the choice to live any life you want to live.