Feminism has helped make the world a better place for both women and men, yet it's still widely misunderstood, in part due to the perpetuation of sometimes offensive and laughable stereotypes. These ill-informed ideas divert the conversations we should be having about achieving gender equality.
Modern feminism isn't about tearing down men, it's about eradicating the misogyny and harmful gender stereotypes that affect everyone, not just women. At its core, feminism is also about equality, fairness and tolerance; the fact that people still don't grasp these principles may explain the plethora of misguided statements that always seem to accompany conversations about feminism.
Aren't we past this yet? Here are 14 things feminists are just plain tired of hearing:
1. "You hate men."
Feminists don't hate men. We just hate sexist men, as the Guardian's Jessica Valenti perfectly put it recently. But thanks to public figures like Pat Robertson, who once said feminism "is about a socialist, anti-family political movement that encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism and become lesbians" and other conservatives who regularly distort feminism, the statement has staying power.
Feminism isn't about hating or eradicating men — it's about eliminating sexism and oppression for all genders.
"Feminists want to put an end to catcalling, harassment and abuse of women," Mic's Zerlina Maxwell wrote. "But if the vast majority of abuse of all people, including that of women, is at the hands of men, are you a raging man-hater for pointing that out? Of course not."
2. "You're all lesbians."
As if this is somehow insulting — it's not — feminists' sexuality is often called into question by opponents desperately seeking a way to discredit or simply mock them. Some can't quite grasp that feminists can be attracted to men, and vice versa, and engage in heteronormative behavior.
There are plenty of feminists who identify as straight, bisexual, gay and transgender. Sexuality should be celebrated and embraced, not used to as a weapon in order to stigmatize or stereotype.
3. "You support murdering babies."
Feminism goes hand-in-hand with being for abortion rights, which anti-abortion enthusiasts like to equate with murder. But supporting abortion rights centers on the concept of choice, which includes the whole spectrum of motherhood, adoption and yes, abortion.
There's also the matter of language: A fetus is not a baby. While abortion opponents often try to assert that the moment an egg is fertilized it magically turns into a baby, this isn't true. A fetus is a stage of development for an organism, and for humans, this occurs after the end of the second month of gestation. Conversely, a baby is a human being that is already born.
This linguistic tango is often tied to feminism, because a women's right to choose has long been under legislative attack, resulting in nationwide clinic closings, state-by-state restrictions on when and how women can terminate pregnancies, and even curtailed insurance coverage of birth control. It only stands to reason that when women's bodies are legislated, feminists will stand up and cry foul; without bodily (reproductive) autonomy, there is no freedom.
4. "Feminists can't be funny."
Perhaps one reason feminists have long been mischaracterized as humorless is because the issues we deal with — violence against women, pay inequity, homo- and transphobia, and maternal profiling, to name a few — are of a very serious nature and require serious responses.
5. "Stop being so angry all the time!"
This trope is likely rooted in mostly mythical images of early feminists burning their bras in protest, but generally speaking, feminists are not more prone to anger than any other activist passionate about their area of interest. The stereotype of the angry misandrist, observes, "has been used by men and women alike to smear the movement as emotionally driven."
That said, the institutional inequality that feminists battle on a daily basis can serve as fodder for feelings of frustration, outrage and anger. And that's totally justified.
6. "Aren't we all pretty much equal now?"
In a word, no.
Sure, women have the right to vote, but we still make an average of 77 cents to a man's dollar, with black and Latina women earning 64 cents and 56 cents, respectively, for every dollar earned by a white man. Women are also disproportionately affected by violence, receive inferior health care and are seriously underrepresented in American politics.
7. "Feminism is sexist."
If by sexist, you mean egalitarian, then sure.
"Feminism is legal equality for all genders," Mic's Marcie Bianco wrote. "This newest wave of feminism is one that acknowledges a plethora of genders, both cisgender and transgender, within the two sexes. It also recognizes that equality is an idea that can only manifest in a legal realm."
In other words, feminists don't care just about women: They care about everyone having equal rights and protections under the law.
8. "Do you shave?"
The real question should be: Does it matter?
Another misguided stereotype about feminists is that we're all hairy beasts. It's superficial at best and indicative of social stigmas at worst. Society dictates that for females, body hair isn't just unnerving, it's nasty. A lot like feminism, it seems.
9. "But what about the objectification of men?"
It's true, men are objectified, too. Just ask anyone who's seen Magic Mike or gawked at 40-foot-tall posters of a mostly-naked David Beckham looming over Times Square.
But there is a major difference between how women and men are objectified. As New York Magazine explains, when men are objectified, "We don't do anything to diminish the meaningful economic and reproductive advantages men enjoy." The same cannot be said about women.
However, whenever a human being — regardless of their gender — is viewed as the sum of their body parts, it's problematic.
10. "Not all men are bad!"
There are definitely many nice, upstanding males throughout the world. But it's undeniable that men are the primary perpetrators of violence against women, which is a major focal point of the feminist movement.
According to UN Women, 120 million girls worldwide have experienced rape or other forced sexual acts, and the Guardian reports that 38% of all murders of women globally are committed by intimate partners.
11. "So, should I not open this door for you?"
Feminists are against chauvinism, not manners. By all means, hold the door open for the person behind you, regardless of their gender.
As Mic's Julianne Ross said, "Being decent to someone because you're a conscientious human being is different from being decent to someone because that someone is a delicate, helpless lady."
12. "It is that time of the month?"
Admittedly, this gem isn't lobbed specifically at feminists. Women of all political and cultural persuasions have long been mocked for their gender. As for what drives this question, it's a toss-up between ignorance and downright stupidity. A woman having a strong opinion or emotional reaction to something has nothing to do with her period, it simply means she has a strong opinion or emotional reaction. End of story.
So why is this a frequent question in the lives of women? Because some men try to use these types of gendered insults to diminish and shame women, and to make them seem weak. Apparently, distinguishing between cultural myths and biology isn't taught in school.
13. "I'm not a feminist, but I support gender equality."
Newsflash: You're a feminist.
This point relates to a deeper debate surrounding the word "feminist," which has garnered a negative connotation over the years. A 2013 Huffington Post/YouGov poll proves this: While only 20% of Americans identified themselves as feminists, a whopping 82% of respondents believed that "men and women should be social, political, and economic equals."
So why the huge disparity between a word and its definition? It's all about the branding.
"Thirty-seven percent said they consider 'feminist' to be a negative term, compared to only 26% who consider it a positive term," the Huffington Post reports. "Twenty-nine percent said it's a neutral term."
But, as singer/activist Annie Lenox said, while the word itself is loaded, it's "a great word, and there isn't an alternative. And we must go back and actually re-evaluate it and give it its full sense of value."
14. "Can men be feminists, too?"
An enthusiastic "yes" is in order here. Although feminism has primarily been a movement for women led by women, it's for everyone.
With the recent spate of male celebrities coming out of the "feminist" closet, it seems this message is catching on. Most recently, actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt took on the task of explaining why men should be feminists, capturing the hearts of feminists everywhere.
This isn't to say that men don't have to be aware of certain sensitivities if they want to join the movement. As Mic's Derrick Clifton said, male feminists should "operate with respect and understanding by taking the leads from those who have been marginalized." He continued: "Men saying they support feminism is just one small, albeit important, step in breaking down these disparities. Going forward, men need to take the next step: challenge and dismantle their preconceived notions and stereotypes of women and gender identity."