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Fact check: what ‘feminism’ really means

Most people have a pretty set image when they think of the word “feminism,” but it turns out that misconceptions about the term are common with both critics and self-proclaimed feminists.

Feminism is defined as “the advocacy for women’s rights on the basis of equality of the sexes.” Nowhere does it support or condone sexism of any form. However, many think that all feminists are “feminazis” that promote women while hating on all men.

One important thing to note is that feminism does not endorse the idea that women are superior to men. People often define feminists as people who believe this is true, but they are actually talking about misandrists.

Misandry is the lesser-known counterpart to the more well-known term “misogyny.” While misogyny is defined by a hatred of or discrimination toward women, misandry is the hatred of men. Some so-called feminists are actually misandrists claiming to be working toward equality.

Freshman Durga Mannam says, “Feminism means ‘women’s rights are important,’ not ‘men are stupid.’ Women in the feminist movement want to fight for their rights and be treated equally, not to make men look bad.”

However, while true feminism condemns sexism, misandrists are sexist toward men by generalizing all men as uncivilized, unintelligent, sex-crazed, and hyper-masculine. They often hold double standards and claim that women are inherently superior to men.

Though it might be difficult to tell feminists and misandrists apart, key differences in their philosophies separate the two groups. Misandrists, despite claiming to work against sexism, actually perpetuate it. This works against feminism because it goes against its true message, which says that everyone is equal regardless of gender.

Freshman Pavithra Veera says, “You shouldn’t judge feminism because of a small percentage of extremists. Women who say that men are inferior are the reason feminists aren’t taken seriously.”

Another thing people forget is the feminist belief that women should be treated equally in all areas of life. Equality between the sexes also involves equality in things that can have a negative impact on women.

For example, men are required to sign up for the draft in the US by their 26th birthday. Failure to do so for any reason can lead to harsh punishments such as being forced to pay a heavy fine or go to jail for up to five years. It could even stop people from becoming naturalized citizens. There are only two exceptions to this rule: people with non-immigrant visas and women. Feminism states that women should also have to register for the draft or face the harsh punishments for not signing up along with men.

Some similar cases can be found in the justice system. One example of this is how men are more likely to receive harsher punishments for sexual abuse than women for crimes of the same degree. Women found guilty of child abuse almost always receive alternate punishment options like counseling and therapy while men usually receive jail time. Feminism states that this disparity should be lessened so women are not “let off the hook” when a man would not.

All of this ties into the last point that many forget about what feminism is really meant to be: acceptance and equality for all women, regardless of race, sexuality, religion, or anything in between. Feminism is meant to empower women of all backgrounds, not put down or belittle others for any reason. Women’s rights should not come at the expense of males’, and that is something both feminists and non-feminists can agree on.

In the end, feminism is about equality and acceptance. Chances are, if you believe that everyone deserves basic rights, you’re a feminist, too.

What do you think should be done to let more people know what feminism really means?

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