There are many people who in one breath will say that they believe in gender equality but do not consider themselves feminists. Although the definition seems very straightforward. Then why the paradox?
Feminism: the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities.
To dispel the myths, we first have to identify them. Let’s take a look…
Myth: Feminism is about fighting men, hating men, and eliminating men. Fact: Feminism is about challenging systemic inequalities and does not portray men as the enemy.
Myth: “Feminist” is the female equivalent of “chauvinist”. Fact: Feminism does not support sexism against either gender. Feminism works towards equality, not female superiority.
Myth: Feminism is “un-Asian”. Fact: Feminism works towards a society based on justice and equality… the very same ideology put forth in Singapore’s national pledge.
Myth: Feminists are opposed to marriage and motherhood. Fact: Feminists actively fight for the rights of mothers and many feminists are married and are mothers. Feminists recognize that happy families are important and believe that families are strengthened when the wellbeing of all members, male and female, are supported.
Myth: Only women can be feminists. Fact: Any person who believes in gender equality is a feminist. Many men are feminists and proud to be so.
Myth: To be a real feminist, a woman cannot be feminine or demure. Fact: Feminism is found in the substance of a person’s opinions and not her form. A woman’s love of nice dresses or high-heeled shoes does not make her less of a feminist.
Myth: If I am a sexually liberal woman, I am a feminist. Fact: Feminists respect individual, informed choices and believe there should be no double standard in judging a person’s behaviour. Every woman has the right to sexual autonomy including the ability to make decisions about when, how and with whom to conduct her sexual life. However, sexual autonomy alone does not make one a feminist. Neither does the exploitation of one’s own body for favours or advantage.
Myth: Feminists believe that women’s actions are above criticism and can always be excused because of the discrimination they have suffered. Therefore they never have to take responsibility for their behaviour. Fact: Feminists understand that equal rights translate into equal responsibility. Anyone who seeks rights must be held to the responsibilities that come with these rights. Previous discrimination may explain negative behaviour but does not excuse it.
Myth: Feminism purports that all women are disadvantaged in our society and that all men are privileged by their gender. Fact: Feminists understand that narrow gender ideals restrict both men and women and thus society as a whole. Feminism seeks to reduce and eliminate these constraining ideals.
Myth: The fact that there are some women who have a higher social and economic status than some men means inequality has been eliminated. Fact: Systematic inequalities continue to exist at every level of society. There may be female heads of Fortune 500 companies but the fact that they constitute less than 5% of the total means that barriers remain.
Myth: There is no more need for feminism: women have the vote, they have jobs. The goals have been met. Fact: These achievements are great milestones in the history of feminism, however our aim is nothing less than equal treatment and opportunity for both genders. There are still many inequalities in society’s perception of the roles of men and women. We want to build a world in which no person, because of their gender, must curtail their hopes and dreams.
This is just a starter list. You will no doubt find many more. Do feel free to post others in the comments.