3 Types of Fake Feminism
Updated: Oct 20, 2019
Ah, feminism. Kicking off my rebranded blog with a post that perfectly captures my decision about rebranding! #empowerment
We've all heard the term "feminism," and whatever your opinions on feminism are, our society undoubtedly has much to discuss, as do I. I've spoken to a lot of different people and had many debates about what the term means, and yet it seems difficult to dispel the misconceptions about what feminism really is.
So, I thought it might be easier to say what it is not.
1. Feminism is not "man-hating"
Perhaps the most common misconception about feminism is the "women vs. men" perspective, but feminism focuses on equality. Feminist dialogue revolves largely around women's rights because among the genders, women have been greatly underprivileged. Feminism, therefore, seeks to "balance the scales," illuminating the inequality that women have faced among many cultures throughout history. Some examples to think about are:
--Beauty standards, like the Chinese foot-binding tradition, which was performed to promote the marriage marketability of women, because small feet were believed to be attractive
--Health issues, notably mental health issues, like how the word hysteria comes from the Greek word for uterus, shadowing the belief that psychological conditions related to biological sex
--The famous wage gap; consider that in nursing, a female-dominated profession, male nurses are paid $6000 more annually than their female counterparts
(http://mediakit.nurse.com/blog/nurse-com-releases-nursing-salary-research-report/) side note: There’s a few explanations as to why male nurses make more, including the specialties they choose, but this had been a recurring trend for many years. According to recent reports, however, the gap has gotten better.
However, that is not to say that men are free from inequality. "Feminists" who fight for women's rights but hate men are not feminists. It is important to discuss the toxic masculinity and male expectations that still exist in many cultures. For example:
--Why is it more "acceptable" (I use that term loosely) for a woman to hit a man, but not for a man to hit a woman? Feminists believe it is important to note this double standard. We must hold all people, regardless of gender or biological sex, accountable for their actions. In the more serious context of rape and sexual assault, we heavily focus on helping the female victim and male perpetrator (when there is also the male victim and female perpetrator). This often leaves the male victim fall through the cracks, questioning his masculinity because "how could he let a woman take advantage of him?"
--Expression of emotion, especially in the context of mental health. Many men have been told to "Be a man" at some point in their lives, oftentimes when they cry or express "unmanly" emotions. That expression, however, can be healthy and therapeutic. Feminists believe that men should be given a safe space to express their emotions as freely as women do.
--Body image. We see many campaigns for women to embrace their bodies, encompassing the large spectrum of body types. However, we must also acknowledge the toxicity in marketing and advertising that men face. The majority of men do not have chiseled abs and sharp jawlines. Many men also experience body image disorders like anorexia, but they are more often forgotten in these campaigns to "love yourself" or "love your bodies." Feminists believe that representation of what "real men look like" should be given the same amount of attention given to what "real women look like."
In short, all genders (including transgender, non-binary, and everything else in between) experience injustices, and feminism seeks equality amongst everyone.
2. Feminism is not "slut-shaming"
The coined term "slut-shaming" is a new addition to our modern vocabulary, so it is important to understand what it really means. From Oxford Dictionaries:
n. The action or fact of stigmatizing a woman for engaging in behaviour judged to be promiscuous or sexually provocative.
This behavior can range from the clothes a woman chooses to wear to her decision to engage in casual sex. Feminists believe that a woman's sexuality should not be judged nor can assumptions be made about her behavior. If a woman wears clothes considered to be conventionally "sexy," it does not justify calling her a "slut" and the words from a long list of inappropriate insults. (And if we take these assumptions a step further, does not justify rape: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/11/15/world/europe/ireland-underwear-rape-case-protest.html)
In fact, I would argue that the term "slut," which is slang for a prostitute, shouldn't be used at all. In my opinion, I don't think anyone deserves to be called such a word. I’d also argue that it is often forgotten that sex workers are also people, too, because society judges them for their actions. Regardless of your beliefs surrounding sex, these individuals still deserve respect, and assumptions cannot be made about them either. It’s also important to remember that feminism is not anti-religion either and that the opposition of belief systems does not necessarily push for the elimination of them.
Anyhow, women who identify as feminists and proceed to judge and criticize other women for their decisions with sexuality are not feminists. On that note, many women are also guilty for tearing down other women for things besides sexuality or purposely ignoring another woman's accomplishments because of jealousy (which reflects internalized misogyny, and I've bookmarked this topic for another day). Feminism is about building each other up and acknowledging our own biases and opinions.
I'd like to use a quote from Mean Girls, which I think sums up this section pretty well:
"...you all have got to stop calling each other sluts and whores. It just makes it okay for guys to call you sluts and whores." -Ms. Norbury, portrayed by Tina Fey
3. Feminism is not “minority-alienating”
It's important to note that there are many layers to privilege and oppression. A white, American, middle-class woman is not going to face the same level of oppression encountered by a woman of Indian descent living below the poverty line.
There‘a a term called White Feminism. To put it simply, white feminism ignores the experiences that people of color face. It is not, however, attacking feminists who are white, but instead highlighting their higher level of privilege. White women face systemic prejudices and oppression as well, but being white, they are also part of the majority. Women of color encounter discrimination not only because they are women, but also because they are part of the minority race. We can also add on another layer that individuals in the LGBTQ community face unique discrimination outside of their race or ethnicity.
This may be demonstrated by the differing perspectives on women feminists. When a straight Caucasian woman speaks out against the injustices she faces on a daily basis, she may be better well received because she represents the majority. However, minority women often face labels such as the "angry black girl," the "crazy Latina," or worse yet, disregarded in their identity as a woman, as with trans women.
If you’ve ever seen Netflix’s Orange is the New Black, it can give more context into understanding what white feminism is. The show features a female ensemble cast, but in its early seasons focused more on Piper Chapman, a white, middle-class woman who commits a crime and is sent to prison. Because of Piper’s background she is initially treated differently and arguably, better, by the guards, such as Sam Healy. Healy has his own issues, which I won’t get into here, but he supports an “Us vs. Them” mindset and uses Piper as the model citizen for the prisoners. In later seasons, Piper continually is worried and feeling sorry for herself, largely remaining oblivious to the experiences of other prisoners who are women of color, including race wars, police brutality, and the specific abuses they face, i.e. white feminism.
In our real world, it is easier to tell the stories of minority women—notably Sophia Burset, a black trans woman—when they are packaged up into the accepted norm of a white, middle-class woman as the main character. If Sophia were the protagonist, it would not reach as wide of an audience, most likely being categorized as Black Television or LGBTQ Television. Piper Chapman therefore symbolizes a sort of Trojan horse for television to give minority women a platform, and in that sense is actually intersectional feminism, not white feminism.
So, people part of majority subpopulations who speak out about the oppression they face but ignore, stay silent about, or deny the experiences of minority populations are not feminists. You can't identify as a feminist--as a person advocating for the equality amongst all people--while invalidating the forms of feminism experienced by groups different from you.
Furthermore, it is important to remember that an oppressed person can still have privilege.
We all have some level of privilege, like those of us who have access to the internet and are able to read this blog. By analyzing our individual oppressions and privileges together, we become more self-aware and cognizant in our relationships with other people.
So, there’s a difference between being a “white feminist” and a feminist who is white. A “white feminist” is not a feminist, while a feminist who is white advocates for the same change that a feminist who is Asian advocates for. They are both feminists. The difference between them is how misogyny and other factors at play specifically affect them and their lives.
To sum it up: to be a feminist means to support equality, regardless of your gender, lifestyle, religion, background, etc. You can be feminist if you’re a white, straight woman, a black, gay man, a non-conforming, mixed race individual, or an Asian trans man. And you can fight for others who are different from you, regardless of who you are.
Let me know your own thoughts and opinions!
Want to learn more about feminism? Check out my favorite podcasts!
1. Strong Opinions, Loosely Held
2. Small Doses with Amanda Seales