Why Feminism Has a Bad Reputation

ENG 201 A2 Writing: Cause and Effect by Ellen Lapp


  1. The other day I was talking with my boyfriend about Beyonce’s song “***Flawless” and how I loved the way it sounded and the way portrayed feminism as a positive thing. He was quiet as I continued talking so I finally asked him, “Well Adam, you’re a feminist, aren’t you?” He shook his head and said, “No, I wouldn't call myself that.” I was shocked. This was coming from the man who was concerned that I wouldn’t be treated as an equal by our friend’s new male Saudi Arabian roommate due to the cultural differences, from the man who encouraged me to follow any career path I could ever imagine, and from the man who has always treated me as an equal. “I’m sorry," I said. "I always assumed you were supportive of equal opportunities for both sexes.” He quickly corrected me, “Oh, I’m all for that! I’m just not a feminist.”
  2. Beyoncé - ***Flawless ft. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  3. If you’ve never heard the term “feminism” before then you’ve been living under a rock, but I’ll catch you up real quick. Feminism is the theory of political, economic, and social equality of the sexes. This is everything Adam stands for, as well as many other men and women all over the world. So why is everyone afraid to call themselves a feminist? This term has been given a negative connotation due to its misrepresentation through extremists, society’s refusal to acknowledge unfair treatment, and the association of feminism with man-hating.
  4. Considering all we know about feminists are quotes like these and rants on TV, it's not that surprising that people don't want to be a part of this group. In fact, only 16% of men and 23% of women in the United States classify themselves as feminists (Swanson). We see radical extremists do this to all groups of people, from religion to race to sexual orientation. A small amount of people have some controversial opinions, which ends up misrepresenting the entire group altogether. Contrary to popular belief, feminists are not man-hating, aggressive, butch women who are out to destroy marriage. They are so diverse that sometimes the only thing they might have in common is being a feminist. Another misconception is that feminists are all actively fighting sexism by refusing to marry and working their way to the top at their jobs. This is just not true considering there are many stay-at-home moms that would define themselves as feminists. Anyone can be a feminist, and if people understood the true definition, almost everyone would be. Luckily, this misrepresentation is beginning to change for the better. With positive celebrity role models such as Beyonce Knowles and Emma Watson speaking out about women’s rights, the general population is learning that feminism isn’t only for aggressive misandrists.

  5. Women face inequalities socially, politically, and economically. This is just a fact. The problem is society makes these problems out to be less than what they truly are, and sometimes we even deny these problems altogether. Take the social equality of men and women in today’s culture. Currently there’s a huge debate going on at high schools all over the country over the ban of yoga pants, leggings, and even skinny jeans for female students. The thought that these articles of clothing are “distracting” for male students and even faculty members at some schools (Kutner) is the reason behind these bans. Some may argue that we are teaching young men that they have no control over sexual urges and teaching young women that their body is something to be covered up. Others, however, agree with the policies put in place, further causing inequality between the male and female students. We are ignoring the problems that this causes in young girls and we are continuing to insist that there are no inequalities between the sexes.
  6. We do this politically, as well. There are 20 females in the United States Senate compared to 80 men. Women are grossly underrepresented in our government considering they make up 50.8% of the US population (World Bank). This is due to society generally believing that women are too emotional to make important decisions, and we STILL insist that there isn’t a problem with gender inequality.
  7. Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Wage Gap
  8. The biggest problem women face that is ignored by many is the issue of unequal pay between the sexes. The statistics vary from region to region, but in 2013 among full-time workers, women were paid 78% of what men were paid (Hill). In the video above you’ll see a reporter arguing that the statistic is 96% for unmarried and childless women, which is “virtually the same” as what a man makes. This is a huge problem with the wage gap. Instead of figuring out how to solve this problem, we quantify it, comparing different studies to see just how large the gap really is, and whether it needs attention in the first place. A woman could make 99% of what a man makes for the same job, and it would still not be equal. Rounding in this situation is absolutely ridiculous, and the way we discuss these matters is causing people to believe that we don’t need feminism.
  9. Another problem with feminism’s bad reputation comes from its name. When a man hears “feminism” he might think that this movement has no benefit for himself, or that it even could be harming him by tearing down men while trying to build up women. Considering men make up about half the population of the world, they are an ally that feminism so desperately needs, and this can start with the dispelling of ideas that feminists hate men. Feminism is all for gender equality, so why would we want to harm our equals? Many people think that feminist is a synonym for misandrist, which is a person who hates men. This comes back to my first point about misrepresentation through extremists. But there are other issues that feminism truly need to address, specifically making men feel like they’re the problem. The last thing that most feminists would want to do is to make every single man feel like they’re causing the problem, because that is simply not true. It comes back to misrepresentation of the whole; a few bad men can make every guy look bad. When we speak out against domestic violence, feminists need to make an effort to not make every man feel targeted. This was a big criticism for Emma Watson’s “He for She” campaign, in which she urged men to sign a declaration against abuse towards women. She meant the best from this campaign, but it can come across to some as saying that men are the problem. In reality, feminism is doing more than anyone for men’s rights, since it is a movement about gender equality. Rape within the military is a big issue that feminists are currently speaking out against, and they are fighting to get the measures in place for both women and men to properly report problems (Dusenbary).
  10. We've all heard our parents say "life isn't fair, get used to it" plenty of times growing up. This saying has a lot of truth to it, but what happens when half of our country isn't being treated fairly? Gender equality is a real issue in our culture, and we need to stop acting like it isn't worth our attention. We can start some momentum by becoming educated on the true meaning of feminism and the true actions of feminists, and by dispelling any rumors we overhear in our daily lives. While nothing will ever be perfectly equal between the sexes, we can try to level the playing field a little bit, and this will be possible when people are comfortable calling themselves feminists.
  11. Works Cited

    Cooper, Jilly. ""I Haven't Lost My Virginity"" Radical Feminist Quotes. Web. 19 Feb. 2015. < http://www.experienceproject.com/stories/Havent-Lost-My-Virginity/1269918&gt ;.

    Dusenbary, Maya. "Sexual Assault of Men in the Military." Feministing. 1 Jan. 2012. Web. 19 Feb. 2015. < http://feministing.com/2011/04/07/sexual-assault-of-men-in-the-military/&gt ;.

    Hill, Catherine. "The Simple Truth about the Gender Pay Gap (Spring 2015)." AAUW: Empowering Women Since 1881. 1 Jan. 2015. Web. 19 Feb. 2015. < http://www.aauw.org/research/the-simple-truth-about-the-gender-pay-gap/&gt ;.

    Kutner, Jenny. "High School Bans Dangerous Threat to Male Students: Yoga Pants." Alternet. 3 Oct. 2013. Web. 19 Feb. 2015. < http://www.alternet.org/education/high-school-bans-dangerous-threat-male-students-yoga-pants&gt ;.

    "Population, Female (% of Total)." Population, Female (% of Total). The World Bank Group. Web. 19 Feb. 2015. < http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SP.POP.TOTL.FE.ZS&gt ;.
  12. Swanson, Emily. "Poll: Few Identify As Feminists, But Most Believe In Equality Of Sexes." The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 16 Apr. 2013. Web. 26 Feb. 2015. < http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/04/16/feminism-poll_n_3094917.html&gt ;.