4 Common Questions People Ask Feminists

My friend recently asked me to answer a few questions for a research piece. Posting them here because I think these are very common questions regarding feminism that stem from SERIOUS misconceptions:

1. Does the hatred of men play a role in being a feminist?

Absolutely not. This is a common misconception that stems from a  misunderstanding of sets and subsets. Feminism is a subset of egalitarianism, which is the ideology that all human beings are equal.

The idea that feminists “hate men” represents backlash used to weaken what is actually a very powerful movement. Feminism is threatening because it challenges the status quo–a world in which men literally hold the majority of resources and power.

Remember, men are also harmed by sexism and gender roles. Our culture doesn’t only demean and trivialize women, it teaches men they mustn’t show emotion and must be all-powerful, hyper-masculine, dominant breadwinners. Feminism seeks to eradicate harmful representations of all people, not just those with a female gender identity.

Do you think feminism prescribes the imminent death of chivalry?

Chivalry is an old code of conduct used by knights in the Middle Ages. It meant taking care of all who were weak or  unable to take care of themselves.

As compassionate, thinking, breathing human beings, we all have a duty to take care of those in need. But we need to stop thinking all women are weak and cannot take care of themselves.

Men and women can still care for each other without fostering a predetermined idea of one being the “weaker sex.” The concept of chivalry has morphed into an idea that just because women now demand equality, men are no longer “supposed” to do “nice things” for women, like buy them flowers or hold doors open for them.

No one is saying you can’t express your love and gratitude for another person this way. But if you’re going to hold a door open for someone, why wouldn’t you do it for anyone, regardless of their gender? The problem arises when people think “incapable” is a woman’s default setting.

2. Do you think there really is such thing as a patriarchal family in America today? If so, do you think it will last?

Families come in all shapes and sizes in the U.S. There are many single woman households, gay and lesbian households, grandparents raising grandchildren, you name it. The idea of the traditional nuclear family is eroding as our culture changes. But there’s still a lot of work to do when it comes to creating a world where all types of families are viewed as valid, equally important pieces of our social fabric.

3. Do you think feminism is a position of defense or offense?

It can be seen as both. While feminists do try to fight back against existing ideologies that are harmful to women, in my own life, I’ve certainly been able to use feminism as a both an armor against these harmful attitudes and a tool to spread more positive messages.

It’s sad that in the past two years or so–ever since Republicans took control of the House and began pushing TONS of anti-women legislation, restricting access to birth control and abortion–feminists have had to take a more reactionary approach to changing cultural attitudes. Hopefully, with more women represented in Congress than ever before, we’ll see less need to push back against this type of legislation and more opportunity to move forward.

4. How do you think feminism plays in a role in present day marriages? Do you think the declining success rate of marriages can be attributed to women’s rights movements in any way?

No. Divorce can be attributed to our shifting cultural, economic and religious ideas. Divorce is becoming more feasible for women in large part because they’re able to make their own money. We’re also seeing a decline of strict religious ideals condemning divorce.

It’s interesting that people choose to link feminism to divorce rates–another example of people using unrelated facts to weaken, diminish, or undervalue the movement and take away its power to affect change.

If anything, feminism plays a very positive role in present-day marriages. Women are now largely able to hold jobs, share housework with their partners, and expect some level of autonomy and equal representation in a relationship. These relationships can have positive affects on children, as well, as IMO, children with feminist parents may be less negatively affected by forced gender roles and expectations.