The word “feminist” is used, or rather, misused, ever so frequently. Most of our misconceptions stem from ignorance of the term. Feminism, is not about those misconceptions (which we will get to, in a bit), it is a political stance, and ideology one subscribes to because it believes in equality of the sexes – social, political and economic equality. Eons of patriarchal society have made it essential that some extra effort be made towards bridging the gaps between the two sexes. Feminism, as a movement and revolution came about in ‘waves’ and each one of us is connected to it in one way or the other. Unfortunately, mostly people understand feminism through the stereotypes constructed around it and not what it actually stands for. A little learning is dangerous, and if your understanding of women and women’s rights is (mis)informed through a warped understanding of feminism, apart from affecting your personal life, it can play a crucial role in defining the work-place dynamics for you as well, and not in a positive way. So we chose to write about this touchy topic for our Office Etiquette series. Read on to find out if this is what you thought feminism was about, and stand corrected!
- It isn’t about hating men – The most popular misconception. If you are a feminist, you must hate men. Absolutely not, in fact, as stressed earlier, feminism is about “equality of both sexes” and not about the female sex superseding the male sex to reverse the politics of domination. If anything, it is about creating equal opportunities, so that both men and women have equal access towards fulfilling their aspirations.
- Yes, a man can be a feminist too – Just because the word “feminism” or “feminist” is derived from “female”, it doesn’t mean only a woman can be a feminist. This is also another ridiculous misconception stemming from ignorance. A man can be a feminist too, if he believes in equal rights for men and women and believes that it is time the world made efforts to make way for the ladies who have been intentionally pushed back so far.
- Feminism isn’t about making noise and rallies – Does the word conjure violent images of bra-burning and extreme incidents of male bashing? Well, we won’t say it is in your imagination, it really did happen. However, the very cause of this post is to say that it shouldn’t have happened because that isn’t what feminism is about. Some actions are symbolic, however, one shouldn’t be led to believe that is all that feminism is. It goes beyond symbolism, it is an ideology, a way of life, a habit where being “fair” precedes everything else.
- All feminists don’t believe in marriage: It is a myth – Marriage is a personal choice and has got nothing to do with being a feminist. This stereotype is closely related to the first one, about feminism being about hating men. Therefore, they do not believe in the institution of marriage. What feminists do not believe in is the ‘unfair’ institution of marriage, in which the woman is relegated to doing the household chores simply by virtue of being a woman, while the man takes on the world. Marriage in a feminist perspective is an equal partnership.
- All feminists are lesbians (of course it is a myth!) – Yes, because they hate men they are all lesbians. Well, thankfully there are people who do find this ridiculous, and thus there is some hope that there will be balance in the world. Of course all feminists aren’t lesbians! You choose what ideology you want to subscribe to, however your sexual orientation is definitely not a matter of choice. It is who you are. Being a feminist does not automatically make you a lesbian, or for that matter, vice versa. Both are quite independent of each other. And we’ve got to admit, shedding clarity on this fact has been especially embarrassing – to think people actually would believe this!
Branding women as “feminists” is quite a common thing, even for women to say they are feminists without understanding what it actually means isn’t any less common. By no means is this post targeted only at a male audience. Equal number of women believe in these stereotypes of what feminism means and would swear to live their lives by it. We are sorry if we come across as excessively caustic in this post, however, it is only from experiences on debates about feminism and what it entails, at the workplace that we seem to be a little wary. Next time, you “accuse” a co-worker of being a feminist, or say that you are a feminist and hence you dislike men, remember why you would come across simply as an ignorant person who doesn’t know the first thing about feminism! Being wrong about this concept can land you in a number of foot-in-the-mouth situations in your professional life, and God save you if your boss is a true-blue feminist!