Misconceptions of Feminism

Nevan Campos, Asst. Opinion Editor


Why is it that when the topic of feminism is brought up in conversation, the response is usually met with hostility? A negative response isn’t uncommon, and it’s usually a reaction against supposed man-hating and hypersensitive women that people assume are the basis of modern feminism. These hasty assumptions about feminists are deplorable. Feminists do not warrant the mass antagonistic criticism.

For example, if you go on YouTube and look up “feminist”, some of the most popular videos have titles with words like “triggered,” “snowflake,” and “cringe.” The thumbnails of these videos usually depict the caricature of a stereotypical feminist: overweight, skimpily dressed, with brightly dyed and crazily styled hair. One of the most famous of these videos is known as the “Hugh Mungus” video, and depicts a woman becoming offended and enraged over being “sexually assaulted” by a man telling her his name. These videos are always about one of these alleged feminists absolutely enraged over something trivial. Despite how repetitive the content of these videos are, they still manage to gain thousands of views. These videos are not the sole cause of modern feminism’s bad image, but it is certainly an easily researchable example of how the public views feminists.

It’s easy for people to assume that this is how all feminists act; not because these videos are convincing, but because they’ve turned into entertainment. It shouldn’t be taken as the basis for feminist ideology because these videos, along with other anti-feminist media, do not reflect the movement as a whole. Has anyone actually seen one of these alleged feminists get “triggered” without much provocation in real life? Either schools are devoid of feminists, or these “special snowflakes” are rarer than we are led to believe.

Not only that, but the popular caricature of the angry, loud feminist is simply incorrect. Women like actress Emma Watson and speaker Emma Sarkeesian are both well-known feminists, but they do not fit this stereotype at all. Even more radical self-proclaimed feminists like actresses Lena Dunham and Rose McGowan don’t truly make the cut for a typical “raging feminist” look. This stereotypical appearance, which doesn’t apply to some of the most visible feminists, is a completely flawed assumption to make of everyone affiliated with the movement.

Beyond stereotypes of physical appearances and hypersensitivity, one of of the biggest misconceptions people have about feminism is the belief that all feminists are out to attack men, heterosexuals, white people, and basically anyone else that isn’t a minority. One can say that this is not “true feminism,” but it’s important to realize that there are a few bad apples, as there are with any other group. There are definitely people that many common feminists do not like to be associated with.

Many other feminists do not like to claim popular feminists like Dunham due to her past accusations of racism, transphobia, and sexual assault that she admitted to in her own autobiography. McGowan is also not widely accepted by other feminists, since she is very open about her transphobic attitudes. Both Dunham and McGowan are are also are known for being TERFs, a shortened term for a trans-exclusionary radical feminist. This strain of “feminist” is adamant about keeping transgender people out of their activism and spreading violent transphobic rhetoric in feminist spaces. TERFs also are known for being open about their dislike and antagonization of men.

Unfortunately, people like Dunham are the ones who are popularized and made to seem like the poster child of all things feminism. Many feminists reject TERFs and “white feminists”, which aren’t feminists who are white, but feminists who exclude or marginalize entire groups of people. What other feminists consider true feminism is intersectional feminism, which encompasses all people of different races, genders, and classes. Feminism should be about equality for everyone. Make sure to practice what you preach.

Intersectional feminism doesn’t only focus on women’s issues, but also puts importance on other groups’ issues too. True feminism works towards ending men’s issues like machismo and removing the stigma that surrounds men who have suffered sexual assault and domestic abuse. Intersectional feminists also work towards ending homophobia, transphobia, classism, and ignorance towards those with mental illnesses. One famous example of a good intersectional feminist is ex-Disney star turned activist Rowan Blanchard.

While we can all try to advocate for “true feminism”, it can’t be denied that feminism has its flaws. Just like any other movement, feminism is not exempt from critique. As a feminist myself, I can see that critiques should always be welcome, as it is crucial to improving the movement. However, critique is not equal to caricature. The point where a critical analysis turns into insults against those affiliated with feminism is when actual arguments are replaced with hasty assumptions and jokes, it’s nothing of substance.

The misconceptions of feminism are in no doubt hurtful to the movement, and not all of it is the fault of the feminists. It is important to not simply believe everything you see online, especially things that look like slander against a whole movement. In the case of feminists, we know that these hurtful stereotypes are very rarely true.

The general public should be willing to actually learn about something before criticizing it. However, we as feminists should also be open to critique and suggestions to do better. Any social movement has room to improve, and feminism is definitely one of them.  If you are a feminist and someone is unnecessarily badmouthing feminism, don’t be afraid to step in and educate them. If they’re actually giving you valuable suggestions on how to improve the movement, listen and use that to improve yourself.