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Feminism loses credibility amid misconceptions

INTO THE FIRE

Columnist

Published: Monday, March 19, 2012

Updated: Monday, March 19, 2012 22:03

This past week was Feminist Coming Out Week. I’m not a feminist, but if I were, I probably wouldn’t burn my bras—they’re expensive.

I wouldn’t be a hippie or a conspirator.

And as a general rule, I would shave my armpits. I’m not a feminist, but if I were, I would also be particularly upset at the variety of misconceptions that have contaminated the label from overexposure in mainstream culture.

Each new generation brings another wave of misrepresentations, which blurs the meaning and diminishes the power of feminism, especially among those that claim to identify with the label.

So, how about the basics? Feminists fight to ensure that women have the same equal rights and liberties as men.

Though the term has evolved over the years, the fight has always been for some form of equality, whether it be social, political, economic or all three.

While most believe feminism first emerged during the bra-burning, free-love-hippies era, perhaps one of the earliest collective movements toward women’s rights was the fight for suffrage in the early 20th century.

Feminism then continued into the ’60s, battling the pressures to conform to the image of the 1950s model housewife, where it evolved into the modern hodgepodge movement it is today. There’s something certainly humbling about seeing where the fight for equality started and how it has disintegrated in recent years.

Now, instead, we have radio host, political commentator and regular idiot Rush Limbaugh comparing feminists to Nazis (“feminazis”) because of their pro-choice attitude toward abortion.

But Limbaugh isn’t the only one ostracizing feminists. Recently, Republican Party candidate Rick Santorum was asked in an interview about his 2005 book, It Takes a Family, where he refers to “radical feminists” causing the demise of the idea of the stay-at-home mom.

He leads the crusade against radical feminists, which he believes diminish the importance of the soccer mom in favor of the working mom.

There seems to be a universal hatred of feminists, and why shouldn’t there be? From the definitions presented by Limbaugh and Santorum, they’re annoying, they’re ruining the fundamental character of our society, and they’re indoctrinating others to do the same.

On the surface, these reasons seem to form the common perception of feminists.

These seem to be the reasons many are unwilling to identify with the term. But the problem is that nobody knows what this term means anymore.

It’s a cliché, a lost movement or a catch-all phrase for every individual fighting for gender equality.

Over the years, the general perception of the token feminist has devolved to represent a group of individuals who cry wolf at the mention of discrimination and hate men—just for good measure. While there are certainly many variations of this prototype, the general gist is that nobody really wants to listen to a feminist because everybody thinks they already know what he or she is going to say.

These stereotypes have become embedded in our society and continually detract from the initial spirit of women fighting for suffrage and against the oppressive powers of
the corset.

We seem to have forgotten about the unassuming beginnings of the battle for women’s rights.

Feminism has now grown to include every issue our politically correct society feels necessary to involve, from race to class, age and ethnicity.

To create the impression of inclusivity because it marries so well with gender equality, the brand has expanded to include everything under the sun.

But by trying to fit these issues under the umbrella of one “ism,” feminism has effectively lost its identity. As it now means something different to each person, the struggle is devolving into the semantics of the definition of the word rather than the cause. As the trouble with grouping any number of people under one name, each feminist has a different agenda, and no one really knows what they’re fighting for anymore.

We need to reassess what this fight is for by beginning to understand the evolving image of the feminist.

While I don’t believe there’s anything inherently wrong with their message, the movement itself has become a disorganized cacophony of half-truths and misconceptions.

While the movement itself does maintain and evoke some of these stereotypes to a degree, these misrepresentations are also perpetuated by our own weariness at hearing about women’s rights and issues.

Gender equality will never be fully achieved in the idealized way the movement advocates; however, this is an issue that should not be glossed over and clouded by misconceptions and stereotypes.

Instead, perhaps separating the cause from the now misconstrued feminist movement will better facilitate equality.

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