Women’s autonomy, sexual liberation, and a supposed “kill all men” mentality are ideas often used to villainize feminism. The word feminism is commonly misconstrued to mean women’s independence from men, and even women’s superiority. One-third of men worldwide believe that feminism does more harm than good and attacks traditional masculinity, which isn’t the goal of the movement at all, according to a global study conducted by Ipsos.
At its root, feminism is not independence nor superiority, it’s the advocacy for women’s rights, aimed at reaching equality of the sexes. Feminists’ defiant pride in aspects of womanhood that are deemed socially unacceptable is misconstrued to be harmful, instead of an attempt to normalize common feminine experiences.
A significant amount of aspects of womanhood have been stigmatized. Often men, but sometimes other women, negatively comment on other women’s body hair, periods, employment, emotions, parenting, clothing, and the vast amount of different choices that women make. This is seen as 20 percent of men globally believe that women are the inferior gender, according to Ipsos. Women who are comfortable with their body hair, talking about their periods, freely breastfeeding, etc. are often demonized for making these choices, and women who prefer to be hairless, who choose to not have children, or to stay employed when they have children, can be demonized too for not fitting the “male gaze” and acting selfishly. There is no way to win.
Men and women alike pervert the idea of feminism, only to highlight a specific type of person — the perfect woman. But feminism is supposed to be inclusive, right?
This is when feminism, a broad term, is abridged. White feminism emerges, a submovement that only focuses on one type of person. White feminism, as well as straight feminism, cisgender feminism, able-bodied feminism, etc., only presents certain faces of the movement while ignoring parts of history it doesn’t wish to consider.
White feminism does fight for women’s equality with men, but only focuses on equality for white women and fails to address the other forms of oppression, aside from gender, that other women face on account of other marginalized intersectional identities. Women of color, LGBTQ+ women, and non-able-bodied women fight for gender equality with the added possession of these identities and the discrimination that accompanies them as a result. The exclusionary nature of feminism has existed since before the original women’s rights movement and the suffragettes; women who do not fit the constructed standard of womanhood are excluded from a seemingly inclusive movement.
Though it is a tool for hate for some, feminism is a movement meant to uplift women and fight for their equality. This should be the main focus.
Berkeley High School’s curriculum often features women’s literature, history, and feminist theory that contributes to the movement and complements students’ on-campus action for inclusive feminism. Groups like the Women’s Student Union, Body Positivity Club, and Feminist Book Club, among others, work to uplift women and include all who want to participate. Students of color, men, LGBTQ+ students, and non-able-bodied students hold a place in these student clubs which helps spread the understanding of what feminism really is: an inclusive equality movement.