The dreaded “F-word”

Posted March 16, 2009 from India

A conversation with my cousin’s friend went something like this:

“So you won’t get married”?

“Why do you say that?”

“You work on gender and all that right?”


“So you’re a feminist aren’t you?”

“Yes I am.”

“That’s why I asked”.

I am quite amused by this interpretation of being a feminist and the rolling of the eyes and sniggers that accompany every conversation regarding feminism. Too many people, when they hear the word "Feminist" think of the bitch in the suit without an ounce of softness or femininity, bra-burning man-hater, or a woman who thinks of herself to be superior to men and therefore has no need of them. Isn’t it common to imagine a feminist as a woman who is angry at the world at large and ready to lash out at the slightest provocation?

How often have I met women, who would start a conversation with “I am not a feminist or anything…but….” and then continue with a very feministic statement regarding equal opportunities or equal pay. In fact, it would be difficult to come by one who wouldn’t want equality it all quarters. And yet, the same woman does not want to be associated with the “movement”. Due to the common misconception that the average feminist is a "feminazi" far too few young women and men choose to declare themselves feminists. There is a “fear” of the term, and a gross misunderstanding of the concept itself.

As a feminist, I believe in the equality of the genders. Feminism is, quite simply, a belief and support of the social, political and economic equality of the sexes- a movement that recognizes that the patterns of the treatment of women operate on a huge, societal level.

Not all feminists agree on why this inequality exists and how to set it right. This disagreement is what, has bred a varied body of theory and often intertwines with other disciplines.

Rather than understanding what feminism is, it is more important to first understand what it is NOT. Here are 10 common myths about feminism and feminists that perpetuate misunderstanding of the concept and the movement.

Myth 1: The Feminist Movement is a movement against men

Feminism is not about demeaning men, rather pushing forward and achieving equal rights for women, basically envisaging and advocating for a gender just society where men and women can both be equal. It is a war against what they see as the root cause of women's oppression, which is patriarchal gender relations.

Myth 2: Feminists hate men.

This myth is frequently trotted out by the exact same logic as above. It’s said that if ever women would achieve equality with men, men will cease to exist altogether. So if feminists are fighting against male dominance, it is also believed they are out to destroy men themselves. Feminism is not male bashing, by any means.

Myth 3: Feminism is “bra- burning” aggression

The infamous demonstration that gave birth to this rumor was the 1968 protest of the Miss America contest. Bras, nylons and other articles of constricting clothing were tossed in a trash can. The symbolic act of tossing those clothes into the trash can was meant as a serious critique of the modern beauty culture, of valuing women for their looks instead of their whole self. And that was about it!

Myth 4: Feminists think there’s no difference between men and women.

Very very untrue. Feminism does take in to account the difference in the sexes. It however chooses to differentiate between the differences arising out of biology and those learnt by socialization that mark what roles women and men play in the course of their lives in society.

Myth 5: Feminists hate children/ are pro abortion

One of the primary issues in feminism is women taking control of their reproductive lives, thereby implying that they hate children and don’t want to have any, or are advocates of abortion. There is a huge difference between willingly having children, and being considered baby factories, which also assumes that since women have a uterus, their primary purpose in life is to have children, as decided and demanded by society.

Myth 6: Feminists are “butch”

Also, that they don’t shave off the body hair or dress unattractively. The truth is that physical appearance is not part of major feminist ideology. Some feminists do not wear make-up, or shave. Feminists come in all forms, however, and do not fit into any stereotypes. It doesn't mean you have to stop being "feminine;" it means you stop and think about what femininity is, in the first place.

Myth 7: Feminists hate sex.

Not true, but what is true is that it’s not always recognized that when a woman says “no”, it actually means just that and has to be respected. Every human being has a right to choose when they want to have sex, with whom, and when they don’t want to have sex too. Being a feminist has nothing to do with it.

Myth 8: Feminists are lesbians

Believing in equality of the sexes has nothing to do with whom you love or what your sexual orientation is. Not all lesbians are feminists and not all feminists are lesbians. Simple as that!

Myth 9: Feminists are women who want to shirk responsibilities

Quite the opposite actually. In fact, feminists want to take more than their share of responsibility as defined by society! They want to lead fuller lives where they are able to achieve their full potential and get their due.

And the biggest myth of all…

Myth 10: Feminists are all women

Absolutely not. On a fundamental level, anyone who believes that the society needs to be more gender just, and that women and men are equal, is a feminist. Feminists do not fit the stereotype of male-bashing, overly aggressive women who scorn all men's views and alienate themselves from society. Feminists can wear pink; they can value traditions and believe in romance. Most importantly, they can be men.

Do let me know if there are more, and I can update the list. By no means, exhaustive, I just tried to list the most common ones. Discussion/ debates are more than welcome!

Comments 3

  • Jade Frank
    Mar 16, 2009
    Mar 16, 2009

    Hi Chandni,

    Welcome to PulseWire! I enjoyed reading your 10 myths on feminism. When I tell people that I am a feminist, I often get assumptions like some of these you listed. Like you - I am a feminist because I believe that women are equal and should have equal rights and equal treatment. Feminists come in all sizes, shapes, colors and walks of life!

    Warm regards, Jade

  • Dolly
    Mar 16, 2009
    Mar 16, 2009


    I love how you address all these myths about feminism! You do a fantastic job of dissecting each and every one. I know that the feminists I've met are as different as there are colors in the rainbow. The connecting thread has always been a desire to end sexism. Sometimes I feel disgruntled with the term feminist because it is so loaded, but for the most part I am proud and loud about it. I am a feminist! It was so great to read your writing; thanks for sharing it. :)


  • efe
    Mar 23, 2009
    Mar 23, 2009

    I am surprised that i am just seeing your entry? was at the home page, when i saw your entry and the title was really intriguing.Was pleasantly surprised to see that the body was not what i thought it would be .Being a feminist and having the guts to admit it is not an easy task.I had this male friend of mine who i thought was modern in his out-look and all that. We got talking one day, and i casually mentioned to him that i am a feminist.He got really upset with me and told me never to mention that word in his presence. I tried to explain more but his set expression made me give up.That was one of the attitudes i saw in him that made me realize that our friendship would remain just that. I had earlier been contemplating dating him.

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