Stereotypes still hurt feminist movement

Natalie Gray

As far as we’ve come with women’s rights and the feminist movement, there are still many people holding tight to feminist stereotypes. It’s these people who are adamant about living in the past and continue to oppress women.

Traditionally, feminists are stereotyped as man-hating, lesbian, unshaven, bra-burning, sexist fembots. These outdated assumptions are ruining the true meaning of feminism and the core values of the many women and men who claim to be feminists.

“Being a feminist means respecting your body and mind,” said senior women’s studies major Yalda Mohammadi. “Feminism is about equality for men and women in all facets of life: socially, economically, politically and sexually.”

Part of the problem is many people don’t see the relevance of feminism in today’s society or in their own lives. They think women have reached the ultimate goals of feminism because we can vote, get an education, get abortions (sometimes) and get divorced. Once people realize the wage difference between men and women and the harassment women face every day, they might rethink making derogatory comments toward a feminist.

“Feminism has always been relevant,” said senior sociology major Enrique Oliva. “I usually hear the stereotype that feminists are prude man-haters. Guys tend to not like dating feminists because they are too ‘dominant’, or ‘tough.’ These are just methods to trivialize what women are trying to do when it comes to challenging the norms.”

The idea that a feminist has a one-track-mind geared at male annihilation is incredibly moronic. Thousands of women across the globe are making great strides for feminism, as well as taking care of a family, working a full-time job or going to school. Not to mention all the feminists who are happily married to men proving the point not all feminists think men are scum.

When people don’t let go of the stereotypes of feminism they are dragging women further back into a time when women were to be seen and not heard. Our media have done a fantastic job of encouraging sexist gender roles and unrealistic expectations for how a woman should look.

We are socialized into gender roles. Women are constrained to petty “female jobs” and when a woman claims to be a feminist, many associate them with power, dominance or non-submissiveness. People who are entrenched in the stereotypes of gender roles are the ones offended by powerful women.

“The media taints the reputation of feminists,” Mohammadi said. “Due to this truth, people often have an inaccurate perception of what and who feminists represent.”

Feminism isn’t about women seeking revenge on ex-boyfriends or setting lingerie on fire to prove a point. Feminism is about seeking equality, finding a voice and making sure women have the choice to decide for themselves where they work, who they marry and what they do to their bodies.

It is undeniable women have made great progress toward equality, but the feminist movement has not fulfilled all objectives just yet. Women still face wage discrimination in the workplace as well as unequal opportunity for promotions and raises. It’s nice women can now wear jeans, attend law school and medical school and enter positions of society formerly closed to them, but we cannot say women’s rights are complete when there is so much more to gain than the right to wear pants.

“Feminism has come a long way,” said lecturer in the journalism and communication studies department Timi Ross Poeppleman. “There was a time when it wasn’t even part of our everyday language. It was seen as an extreme movement against the status quo, which it was, but now it’s interesting to talk to college women and have them say they aren’t feminists yet they believe in equal rights for women.”

The first wave of feminism was all about suffrage and the second wave dealt primarily with sexual revolution. Now it seems we are in the third wave of feminism, but this wave is lacking a specific goal for what women need in order to achieve gender equality. We want to see more being done for women’s rights, but society and the media continues to encourage extreme gender roles and stereotypes, preventing us from moving forward.

“Feminism has negative connotations because certain people do not want to see change,” said senior sociology major Shanti Croom. “We live in a hegemonic society and to try to change that means going against a male dominant hierarchy. When change happens, those who are being challenged will try to make the challenger look bad.”

We need feminism because gender parity is about more than just women’s rights. We need feminism because women have the right to be judged by the integrity of their character and not by gender-based ideals. We need feminism to obliterate jokes like, “go back to the kitchen where you belong.” We need feminism because everyone can benefit from it, regardless of gender.

We’ve come so far, but we can easily slip back into bad habits by forgetting what still needs to be done for women around the world. By men and women banning together to push for change, women around the world can continue to gain freedom from the stereotypes and oppression they face every day.