January 13, 2017

Joely Mitchell

Being a feminist can be exhausting.

Not only do you have the massive responsibility of trying to achieve gender equality, but you’re constantly forced to defend the movement as if it’s so much to ask that men and women be treated equally.

For a long time, feminism has been considered a bad word. The negative perceptions of the movement – that feminists are crazy, hairy (hey, there’s nothing wrong with a bit of hair), bra-burning man-haters – have made it hard for women and men to identify as feminists.

So how do we overcome these stereotypes and change public perceptions of feminism? Well, we stand up for the movement. We bust myths, educate people, and shed light on inequalities. Unfortunately, this is probably easier said than done. There are so many ignorant arguments against feminism that have become ingrained in society. So to help you out, we’ve put together a list of rebuttals you can use against all of the haterzzz.

“I don’t believe in feminism, I believe in gender equality”

The people who use this argument are usually the same sort of people who identify as ‘humanists’ rather than feminists. Try not to get too mad at these sorts of people, they’re just ignorant. They’re probably not aware that feminism is all about achieving gender equality, not making women more superior than men. Your best approach is to educate them. Get out a dictionary and show them that the definition of feminism is all about gender equality – that’s the end goal. ‘But why is the movement called feminism, not gender equality or humanism?’ they’ll probably say. Your response: ‘I could ask you the exact same thing about the words human, person and history’. Then *mic drop* and walk away.

“It’s ridiculous that feminists from privileged countries complain about cat calling when some women from third-world countries can’t even leave the house without their husband”

That’s just like saying ‘I ate two pieces of cake, but one was significantly bigger than the other, so the smaller one doesn’t count’. As much as we’d all love it if the smaller bit of cake didn’t count, it definitely did, no ifs or buts about it. Worse forms of oppression don’t make lesser forms of oppression redundant. You’re allowed to say that cat calling isn’t okay, you’re allowed to say that you should be paid the same wage as your male counterparts, and you’re allowed to stand up for yourself and your rights. Whatever is going on around the world does not change that. It’s also quite racist to assume that women aren’t working towards equality in their own country in culturally specific ways.

“But not all men are that bad”

The person who said this probably stopped listening to what you were saying as soon as you said ‘men’, and has been busting to interject and tell you not to generalise all men since you began talking. This is a typical tactic used to detract from the feminist argument. Because now instead of having a mature debate, you’re forced to stop and reassure the person that not all men are bad. How to respond? Ask the person what’s more important – defending women’s rights (you know, equal pay and other things alike) or defending the reputation of all men.

“Feminists are man-haters”

Okay so it’s not okay to generalise all men, but it is okay to generalise all feminists? Feminism is multi-faceted. Its end goal is to break down the societal barriers that depict genders in certain ways. There’s an equally sad story about a man who feels as though he can’t take paternal leave to look after his newborn child, or a young, teenage boy who is too frightened to show his emotions because he’s been told that ‘boys don’t cry’. Feminists have tackled issues such as family court reform and male rape (inside and outside of prison). Sexism harms men too. Feminists don’t hate men; they hate the patriarchy.

“Feminism restricts choices”

No, it does the opposite. Feminism expands choices by assuming we can and should try what we want. Despite misconceptions, feminists have no opposition to women who want to be stay-at-home mums. Feminists embrace choice. You should be able to be whatever you want, whether that be a CEO of a company, an electrician, or the caregiver of your children. Feminists don’t restrict choices, they restrict privilege.

Unfortunately, the list goes on. It goes on longer than this Truth4Youth article can cater for. So, our last bit of advice is to be confident. If you are confident in what you believe in, I can assure you, you will be a force to be reckoned with.

-Joely Mitchell

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