Do Not Give Up on The Word Feminism


Erin Lobovsky, Contributing Writer

Feminist…angry, hysterical, man-hating, sex-hating, loud, hairy, lesbian, woman. Stereotypes about feminists established over time, have led to a continued belief by many that feminism is connected to “anger” and negativity.  Unfortunately, negative connotations relating to feminism have become something few try to challenge.

So often it’s said that, “not all men are sexist,” and obviously this is fair—there is no truth to the idea that every person in a group behaves a certain way. But why is it so easy to say, “not all men are bad men” but it’s not as easy to say, “not all feminists are angry, hysterical, etc.?” It has become easier just to say, “I don’t consider myself a feminist because of the negative connotations.” Yes, there are so many negative connotations, but the question I constantly ask myself is why can’t people gain the confidence in themselves, and the definition, to call themselves a feminist, and know the meaning? 

What is a feminist? A simple Google search of the word “feminism” will direct you to this definition: “Feminism is the advocacy of women’s rights on the basis of the equality of the sexes.” It is such a simple definition for an extremely controversial topic. 

For a quick history, the feminist movement has come in waves. The first wave commenced in 1848 during the Seneca Falls Convention. This was the first women’s rights movement in the United States, and it launched the women’s suffrage movement which would guarantee women the right to vote. The second wave of feminism was more of a “rebellious” era which took place in the 1960s. During this time, organizations such as NOW (National Organization of Women) and Ms. Magazine allowed women’s voices to be heard in the media. Unlike first wave feminism, the second wave launched an environment where women openly discussed topics such as women’s oppression, gender roles, family roles, and more. Third wave feminism started in the 1990s and topics included sexual harassment in the workplace, as well as how intersectionality, race, class, and racism have played a role in the feminist movement. This wave has also been marked by women openly expressing their individuality, sexuality and gender. 

Fourth wave, or present day, feminism is more difficult to define. The use of technology and the media makes it far easier to disseminate information. Simple hashtags, such as #MeToo, have attracted and connected tens of millions of followers. This movement has amplified women’s voices in ways never seen before. For example, women have started holding powerful men accountable for previous actions, such as sexual assault. Many view the fourth wave as a continuation of third wave feminism, in the sense that the ideas of intersectionality, sexuality, class and gender are still the main focus. 

While this background is based on what has happened in the United States, there are women all over the world working for the rights of women on issues less common in America including sex trafficking, forced prostitution, equal opportunity to education, independence from their husbands, etc.

I believe that past feminists have been taken for granted. Our rights didn’t occur overnight. There have been years of hard work and waves of fighting for equality, and we still haven’t reached the final destination. Maybe there is some truth to the “angry feminist.” But, isn’t it that anger and frustration that gave women the right to vote?  Or, the fight for equal pay?  Or, the right to a safe working environment? I could go on and on and on. I find that avoiding the word “feminist” is cowardly. Women in the past fought for the word “feminism”and giving up on it because of some negative connotation is the last thing society needs now. 

Simply ask yourself, “do I believe in rights for women?” and if your head replies, “of course,” then say with confidence, “I am a feminist.” Go plainly off the definition and overpower negative connotations with truth. It doesn’t need to be confusing or something to fact check. Do not give up on the word FEMINISM.