Dispelling A Myth About Feminism

by Laura Moldoveanu

55% of people believe that gender inequality exists, yet far fewer support or identify as feminist (Beaver, 2022). In fact, one-third of men believe that feminism does more harm than good. A common misconception is that feminism promotes misandry or is anti-man. In this article views on feminism versus gender equality are analyzed to examine whether this idea is a fact or a harmful myth.

Firstly, let us clear up the most basic definitions. Feminism, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, is the “Advocacy of equality of the sexes and the establishment of the political, social, and economic rights of the female sex”. Merriam-Webster states feminism is the “belief in and advocacy of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes expressed especially through organized activity on behalf of women’s rights and interests”. A simple Google search brings up that feminism is “the advocacy of women’s rights on the basis of the equality of the sexes”. Nowhere in any of these entries are the ideas of anti-manness, female superiority, hate, misandry, etc.

A 2020 Pew Research Center survey of American women found that 61% agree that the term “feminist” describes them to some extent, but only 19% say that it describes them very well (Barroso, 2020). At the same time, 45% see it as polarizing and 30% as outdated, with an intersectional lens finding that almost half of white adults view feminism in a somewhat negative light as opposed to around a third of Black or Hispanic adults (Barroso, 2020) . Interestingly, another study done by the Pew Research Center asking people about their views on gender equality found much more favourable results: 69% of women who self-identify as non-feminist say that it is important for women to have equal rights with men (Minkin, 2020).

A common theme between all three definitions outlined above is supporting women’s rights and equality between the sexes, which is exactly what the majority of “non-feminists” say that they support. So where does this disconnect come from? One thought to keep in mind is that the dictionary definition may not necessarily reflect what feminism means in practice, right? Therefore, it is key to delve deeper into the attitudes of feminists themselves and their thoughts about men.

Both feminists and non-feminists alike hold the assumption that feminists harbour negative attitudes toward men (Elsesser, 2023). This belief is unfounded. A study in the journal Psychology of Women Quarterly found that both feminists and non-feminists largely hold positive opinions about men (Hopkins-Doyle et al., 2023). Feminists held similar views towards men as men did towards themselves (Hopkins-Doyle et al., 2023). Despite this, feminists themselves believed that their peers generally held negative perceptions towards men even if they did not. This misconception is clearly very persistent even though it was found to be false.

At its core, regardless of what some might spin the concept of feminism into meaning, feminism supports gender equality which is a sentiment many non-feminists support too. Just because someone who identifies as a feminist holds negative feelings about men it does not mean that this is a feminist ideal. Even if a person does not self-identify as a feminist, it is very possible that they actually agree with its basis. More nuanced critiques on the feminist movement are infinitely acceptable and useful, but this one is misguided. In clearing up the myth that feminism equates to misandry, more positive dialogue between its supporters and opposers can become possible and room for constructive discussion is achieved.

Works Cited

Barroso, A. (2020, July 7). 61% of U.S. women say ‘feminist’ describes them well; many see feminism as empowering, polarizing. Pew Research Center. https://www.pewresearch.org/short-reads/2020/07/07/61-of-u-s-women-say-feminist-d escribes-them-well-many-see-feminism-as-empowering-polarizing/

Beaver, K. (2022, March 4). One in three men believe feminism does more harm than good. Ipsos Group. https://www.ipsos.com/en/one-three-men-believe-feminism-does-more-harm-good

Elsesser, K. (2023, Nov. 7). Feminists don’t hate men, according to new research. Forbes. https://www.forbes.com/sites/kimelsesser/2023/11/27/feminists-dont-hate-men-accord ing-to-new-research/?sh=6ac64cef4df8

“Feminism (n), sense 3”. (2023, July). Oxford English Dictionary. https://doi.org/10.1093/OED/6092042326.

“Feminism”. (n.d.). Merriam-Webster.com dictionary. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/feminism

Hopkins-Doyle, A., et al. (2024). The Misandry Myth: An Inaccurate Stereotype About Feminists’ Attitudes Toward Men. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 48(1), 8-37. https://doi.org/10.1177/03616843231202708

Minkin, R. (2020, July 14). Most Americans support gender equality, even if they don’t identify as feminists. Pew Research Center. https://www.pewresearch.org/short-reads/2020/07/14/most-americans-support-gender -equality-even-if-they-dont-identify-as-feminists/

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