Feminism is a very misunderstood concept. Misconceptions and half-truths about the state of the movement abound, and the myths are often easier to find that the truth. In fact, myths about feminism are so pervasive that you might not even realize that you believe them. Whether it’s that feminists burn their bras (this myth came out of a direct action protest outside of the Miss America pageant in 1968) or that all feminists are lesbians (only some of us are), falsehoods about feminism run rampant.
And there’s a reason for this. If feminism is painted as an undesirable movement, it makes people less likely to join it, and that includes women and other people that would actually benefit from it. Upholding misconceptions about feminism also upholds the patriarchal structure of our society. So it’s not by accident that these myths are so widespread. In fact, these lies are so pervasive and insidious that they infiltrate even people within the movement, meaning that sometimes people who identify as feminists believe them, too.
But if you hope to dismantle the white supremacist, capitalist cisheteropatriarchy, the first step is to dismantle all the pesky myths that surround the feminist movement itself. Here are just a few feminist myths that people may believe.
MYTH #1: Feminism Is Only A Movement For Women
The name can be deceiving, and can lead people to assume that feminism is strictly about advancing the cause of women, but that isn’t true. The goal of feminism is to dismantle the patriarchy, and the patriarchy affects everyone — men, women, and non-binary people, alike. Of course, women, non-binary people, and femme folks are most affected by the patriarchy, but in the words of bell hooks, "feminism is for everybody."
MYTH #2: Men Can’t Be Feminists
a male feminist walks into a bar because it was set so low— The Vron Awakens (@hologramvron) December 12, 2015
Of course men can be feminists. Anyone who believes in gender justice can be a feminist. But, unfortunately, the bar for male feminists is set incredibly low because, generally, men who recognize women as human are given all kinds of cookies for being basically decent guys. But men, I know you can do better than the bare minimum of human decency.
MYTH #3: Feminists Hate Men
Feminists hate patriarchy. Feminists hate male privilege. But they don’t hate men. Remember, feminism is about systems, not individuals.
MYTH #4: Feminists Can’t Take A Joke
MYTH #5: Feminism Is About Gender Equality (And Only Gender Equality)
White Feminism is about gender equality, predominantly for white, cisgender women. But intersectional feminism is about dismantling oppressions of all kinds, including (but not limited to) sexism, racism, classism, cissexism, heterosexism, and ableism.
MYTH #6: Feminism Is About Electing Hillary Clinton To The White House
For many feminists, Hillary Clinton’s politics are decidedly unfeminist, despite the fact that she is a woman. It's more important to have a leader who believes in feminist values than who is a woman.
Myth #7: Feminism Is For Adults
Today’s feminism is being led by youth, particularly queer and trans folks of color. By people like Amandla Stenberg, Tavi Gevinson, and Malala Yousafzai. Gloria Steinem is an icon, sure, but the future of the feminist movement belongs to the people who will be there to live it. And the kids are definitely alright.
MYTH #8: Feminism Is Only About Abortion
Although reproductive justice does include access to abortion rights, the movement, started by women of color, is about so much more than that. It’s about the freedom to live free from violence, and all the ways intersecting oppressions affect all aspects of reproduction. It’s about full-spectrum reproductive health care — from abortion to birth control to birth itself and beyond. Focusing on just abortion take away from the scope of the mission of the reproductive justice movement, one that goes way beyond choice politics.