The True Meaning of Feminism


What comes to mind when you hear the word feminism? Or, better put, how do you feel when you hear it? To many people, especially those with little knowledge of it, the word feminism brings up images of angry women, burning their bras and leaving their families. It also conjures up heated topics such as abortion and birth control. Women, as well as men, are all too often turned off by the seemingly “radical” notions of feminism. What many people fail to realize though is the true meaning of the concept. Simply put, feminism is the movement to achieve equality between the genders. Feminism acts Feminists act to secure political, workplace, and sexual rights for women. Sure, some see feminism as an attack against men, or even an attack on our “traditional” society, but they must come to realize that the main motive behind it all is simply equal opportunity.


Why, might someone someone might ask, are women in the twenty first century still “fighting” for equality? Women have had the right to vote for decades now, and compared to women a hundred years ago, they have tons of rights! True, but there are still issues today, in the year two-thousand and five, that pose threats to women’s rights and equality in our society. The issue of pro-choice verses versus pro-life affects everyone, not just women, in today’s society. Feminists strive to protect women’s right to choose; their right to have control over the decisions they make concerning their own bodies. Unfortunately, some people today have twisted the meaning of the right to “choose” into the right to murder. This misconception has aided in the fouling of the word feminism/ feminist. In reality, feminism does not strive to kill off unwanted, unborn babies, like many conservative and religiously-oriented groups want people to think. The right to choose is more than just the right to choose abortion- it’s the right to reproductive freedom. Reproductive freedom, which includes the right to safe abortions, also includes the freedom to have a baby, the right to practice abstinence, the right to use protection, and the freedom of choosing adoption. Feminism works to protect a woman’s rights concerning herself and the decisions she wishes to make. Along with the misinterpretations of feminist’s motives, there is also misunderstanding about the attitude of feminists.


All too often, the term feminist is used synonymously as a word for “man hater”. Although there are exceptions, this belief about the attitude of feminists is largely untrue. Feminism is not a movement against men; it is also not a movement meant to attack or overpower men. (You could even add that men can be feminists, or at least nothing said so far would counter sucha claim.) It is a movement working to removing the equality gap between the genders. Today, women still face equality issues in the workplace and in politics. In the workplace, there is the problem of lower pay, and even harassment. As for politics, women, while making great strides in this area, are still a minority in our government. It is important to have equal strength and representation in those areas so as to see that everyone’s (especially women’s) safety, rights, and opportunities are not jeopardized. A major factor that often jeopardizes women’s safety and well being though is violence towards them, which unfortunately often comes from men.


Ending violence against women is another important issue which the feminism movement is working towards. While ending all violence against women all together is highly unrealistic, it’s the effort and reduction of it that counts in the long run. The feminist movement has helped to bring up terrible issues such as sexual abuse, rape, and other forms of brutality towards women. The importance of getting these issues known is that now women have better access to help and resources than they used to. Today there is also more information and education about how to prevent such violence from even occurring. Feminism has helped to empower women-- again, not to overpower men-- but to better handle life’s many situations.


Feminism-- does it still seem like such a bitter, man-hating word? Hopefully not-- because hatred should not be at all associated with the concept. While there may be hatred focused towards the concept, from those with differing views and beliefs, hatred is not something that feminism projects. Feminism gets most of its criticism from those with conservative, traditional, and religious backgrounds. People in those categories tend to hold beliefs such that women are purposely “created” less equal to men, in order to serve them and be their wives; wives, to give birth to and raise their children. In our ever changing and modernized world of today, beliefs such as the latter are totally unrealistic, and the feminism movement has helped to prove it.


Overall, the concept of feminism means exactly what the dictionary says: “the movement to win political, economic, and social equality for women.” But it’s the views and definitions that others, less informed about it, attach to it which ultimately cloud its true meaning. The clouding of feminism’s true meaning allows for further bending of what it really stands for. Feminism is a powerful movement, but not one that wishes to conquer and take over the world. It simply strives to protect and better the lives of women, which in turn can help everyone out.