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"Gross oversimplification time! What did we get from first-wave feminism? The right to vote, among other things. What did we get from second-wave feminism? The right to have sex indiscriminately, among other things."Feminism tends to take one of two forms when depicted in the media: Angry, scary bra-burners and vague declarations of Girl Power. Of course, in reality, feminism is a much more complicated movement. A good comparison to feminism is a major religion like Christianity. They've both got one essential message, but there are many divisions and subgroups with different views on how to interpret/act on on that message, and some of them don't get along so well. There are literally dozens of different factions within the feminist movement, which split off of each other due to disagreements over everything from abortion rights to the pairing of feminism with racial/gay/whathaveyou rights movements to how big of a problem gender discrimination really is in the first place. There are pretty much only three concepts you can count on any mixed group of feminists agreeing on:
— The Nostalgia Chick
A History of FeminismIn one sense, feminism is truly ancient. You can find women asserting themselves as independent and equal as far back as the sixth century BC (the poet Sappho), which might make feminism Older Than Dirt. You can also find works that are unmistakably feminist in many times and places, such as the Arthurian Romance Silence, from 14th century France, which features a female protagonist with a distinctly subversive name (as a girl she was given the name Eufemie by her mother, which not only means "Alas! Woman!" but also "euphemism", or a way of speaking around a subject rather than directly to it), which might make feminism Older Than Print. You also find notable feminists involved in the American Revolution, such as the iconoclast Thomas Paine and Abigail Adams (who was quite upset that her husband, future president John Adams, didn't follow her advice and make sure women were given decent representation in the Constitution), although they, of course, didn't call themselves feminists. There were also writers such as Mary Wollstonecraft and Olympe de Gourges who wrote early feminist essays and criticized the Enlightenment thinkers and radicals of the day for usually ignoring women's rights; de Gourges even proposed giving all women the right to vote, possibly the first prominent call for women's suffrage. In the end, feminism is agreed to have begun as an organized and self-aware movement in the second half of the 19th century. In the United States, it grew out of, among other things, the tradition of women's open involvement in politics (as moral leaders and teachers) and drew on the long tradition not only of women political activists, but also women writers, poets, and philosophers. Historians generally agree that feminism per se began with the Seneca Falls Convention of 1848 in upstate New York. There was still some progress prior to Seneca Falls, though - equal education for women had already been a major issue for a few decades, and property rights for women had been pushed a number of times. As one should expect of a philosophical, political, and social movement with more than 150 years of history, feminism has evolved since its beginnings. It has grown, developed, and responded to changes in politics and culture. Feminism has also simply learned as some of the brightest lights in the world have studied gender and its relationship with the rest of the human experience, exploring ideas and building a vocabulary to better understand them. As such, feminism is usually divided into three waves.
Common Myths and Misconceptions About Feminism
All feminists are women.By and large, the answer is no; basically every feminist will agree that men should forward the cause of feminism, or at least not obstruct it. However, the extent to which they should forward it will differ, depending on who you ask. Some female feminists claim that, just as it's possible for straight people to be in favor of same-sex marriage, or for non-Jews to be against anti-Semitism, it is very much possible for men to identify as feminist. Some well-known men who identify as feminists or have expressed feminist ideals include Alan Alda, Joss Whedon, Kurt Cobain, Hayao Miyazaki, Henrik Ibsen, John Stuart Mill, Linkara and most of his male colleagues, Frederick Douglass, and L. Frank Baum. Even Dr. Eggman has been described as a feminist in the Sonic Heroes instruction manual. Having said that, there is a competing school of thought that says while men can (and should) support feminism, they shouldn't be feminists, because feminism is (or should be) fundamentally about women solving their own problems without looking to men to do it for them. According to this school, being a feminist is a little like having N-Word Privileges: unless you have shared in the oppression of a particular group, you can't really understand that group. Men in this school tend to describe themselves as "pro-feminist" instead, and are called "male allies" by the viewpoint's women. Like N-Word Privileges, this idea is acknowledged to be a Double Standard in and of itself, but those who hold it consider it a justified one: the alternative as they see it is to let men be Know-Nothing Know-It-Alls on the subject.
All feminists are lesbians.Lesbians have been an important part of the feminist movement pretty much from day one — prominent lesbian or bisexual feminists include Andrea Dworkin, Valerie Solanas, Simone de Beauvoir, Judith Butler, Julia Serano, Camille Paglia and Mary Daly. However, many feminists are straight women—in fact, it's likely that most are, if for no other reason that homosexuals are believed to make up only 10% of the population. There are also male feminists and/or feminist allies (straight, bisexual, gay and asexual), asexual feminists, transgender feminists, and feminists of any other sexuality and gender identity you can think of. There have been a few feminist writers — especially during the 1970's, before the movement had made as many gains as it had today — who suggested that it might not be possible to have a truly egalitarian heterosexual relationship as long as sexism remained pervasive in society. This was fiercely debated even at the time, though, and it was certainly never mainstream feminist dogma that feminism carried a moral obligation to swear off sex with men.
All feminists are hairy-legged, makeup-shunnin', boot-wearin' brutes.As much as feminists dislike the "women must be dainty and pretty" messages that society/media blast at them, for most, it's the must part that they object to. Some feminists choose to avoid or reject mainstream beauty ideals as a statement of protest, and there are some who adhere to a Real Women Don't Wear Dresses philosophy. There are others who argue that valuing traditionally masculine behavior (like being unconcerned about looks) over traditionally feminine behavior (like wearing dresses and makeup) is ultimately pretty anti-feminist in itself. Most modern mainstream feminists just think men and women should be equally free to decide for themselves how much effort they care to put into their appearance.
Feminism was invented in the 1970s.The movement first gained coherence in The Seventies, yes... But go back to any place and time where there has been widespread discrimination against women (namely, All of Them), and you will find feminism—or, at least, something that looks like feminism if you squint hard enough. The word "feminism" dates back to 1895; the entire "suffragette" movement, in which American women campaigned for the right to vote, took place in 1905; and Christine de Pizan was writing feminist works as far back as the early 15th century. If you believe that men can be feminists and that one does not need to describe oneself as a feminist to be one, then the very first might well be Euripides, which would make feminism Older Than Feudalism. (On the other hand, some of his contemporaries called him misogynistic even by Ancient Greek standards.)
Feminists think men and women are 100% identical.Most feminists would agree that there are overall differences between the sexes. While sentiments like "men on average have two thirds (or 60 to 100%) greater muscular strength in the upper body" can lead to arguments if stated/interpreted wrongly, the majority of feminists would concede that, yes, most males have most females beat in raw physical strength. What really grinds a feminist's gears are suggestions that:
Feminists are frigid, hate sex, and want to stop anyone from enjoying porn or fanservice.Feminists have a problem with porn tropes that promote a degrading or hateful view of women ("Not If They Enjoyed It" Rationalization, Sex Slave, the "Rape Is Love" trope that ran afoul of 5P, etc), and with the ways the porn industry exploits a lot of the women who work for it. Some (again, this was a more popular position in the 1970's than it is today) do think porn inherently objectifies women and is therefore always misogynisticnote . Other feminists, though, think what the world actually needs is better porn — porn that presents sex as something where both partners' desires are equally important; Gloria Steinem uses the terms "pornography" and "erotica" to differentiate between the two. There's more of a consensus on fanservice: feminists generally claim not to be against seeing sexy ladies in media, but don't like how often this leads to objectification, with Character Development deferred in favor of Male Gaze. (Whether this actually holds up in practice varies from feminist to feminist.) In any case, most feminists enjoy sex just fine, and those who don't are typically at least okay with the idea of it. There's even a whole faction of the movement, called Sex-Positive Feminism, that focuses on working to promote positive and empowering views of sexuality, and feminists who work in the sex industry who consider the work that they do to be empowering and advocate for feminism and the world at large to be more open-minded about sex work.
Feminists hate men, think women are better than men, and think women should have more power than men.Women who seriously blame men for everything are known to academics as "misandrists", to readers of this wiki as Straw Feminists, and to mainstream modern feminists as "wrong". Most feminists don't think sexism is primarily something all individual men do to all individual women; the problem as most see it is patriarchy. Culture is insidious: women can, and frequently do, act in ways that support patriarchy; and men can and do fight it. The point of feminism (as much as such a vast and highly fragmented movement can be said to have a point) is to raise women to the level of rights/respect that men have had for centuries, not to drag men down to subhuman levels as some cosmic act of revenge. Note that this has not always been the case: feminism goes in waves, and there have been times in which open hatred for men has been common among feminists as opposed to a radical fringe position. Even today, it is all-too-easy to fall into the trap of assuming that because women have traditionally had less power in many situations, it is therefore always appropriate to divest men of power and invest it in women instead. But in modern feminism, at least on paper, this is less a core tenet of the movement and more an excess that some feminists are guilty of.
Feminists think women are the only ones who are hurt by sexism, and don't care about men's problems.It's pretty uncontroversial in feminist circles to point out that patriarchy hurts men in plenty of ways. It's also uncontroversial to argue that it hurts women more on the whole, but this can lead to Flame Wars, which (like any sane person) most feminists would rather skip in favor of just actually doing something about the original problem. A lot of feminists specifically focus on the ways men's oppression and women's oppression are linked — for instance, many argue that companies need to start granting paternity leave both so that fathers can have the chance to bond with their kids, and so that women aren't automatically assumed to be responsible for child care. One of the ways in which this stereotype has more recently reared its head on the Internet is when feminist blogs and websites have mocking rules against "what about teh menz?" discussions. See, when feminism became a thing in the 70s, a (originally pro-feminist) counterpart movement sprung up called the "Men's rights movement," which argues that patriarchy hurts men in plenty of ways (again, not controversial; feminists agree), and additionally that feminism has gone too far (yes controversial; please do not discuss it here). Add in the Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory and the sad realities of the Vocal Minority, and the term "Men's Rights Activist" is taken - sometimes wrongly - to apply to real-life Straw Masculists, people who are misogynistic and supportive of male privilege and the double standards it enforces. Because of this association, feminists tend to be cautious about how much of that viewpoint they allow into their discussions. And even when sane, normal, feminist-ascribing men are involved in the discussion, there is also an ideological point to be made. Though (again) it is not controversial to point out that patriarchy hurts men, it changes the tone of a discussion when a man makes that point. It is all-too-easy to fallaciously infer that he doesn't really care about women's problems unless he is personally affected by them... which, in addition to being a pretty lousy attitude, would go squarely against the whole point of feminism.
Feminists burn bras.Back in The Sixties, there were some public demonstrations in which feminists threw bras, high heels, and other fashion-related items into trash cans to protest unrealistic standards of beauty. A newspaper headline compared these actions to men burning draft cards during The Vietnam War. The two ideas got jumbled together in the public consciousness, and the myth of bra-burning continues to this day. Some individual feminists almost certainly did this on a smaller, local scale, but there are no records of mass, well-publicized instances of bra-burning (as there are with men burning their draft cards), and it does not seem to have been a common demonstration tactic.
Feminists are angry, bitter harpies.In a Venn diagram, the circle of angry, bitter harpies and the circle of feminists overlap but are not identical. While there are some feminists that are angry, bitter harpies, correlation does not imply causation.