How to Be a Better Feminist: What Exactly Does It Mean to Be a Feminist?

What makes up the female identity and what does it mean to be a woman in today’s world? In modern society, more than ever before, women are in positions of power. However, with this power stills comes the onerous double standards as a result of being a woman. We need feminism.

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However, there are many who become very uncomfortable when the term feminism is brought up because of their lack of understanding feminism as well as their fear of being associated with a radical movement. A movement that has been tarnished by patriarchy.

In other words, a global community of men outraged by the persistence of a woman’s authority, and because patriarchy is the governing society, the rest of society rejects feminism too.

In this article, we dive into the term “feminist” and try to figure out what exactly went wrong.

The Misinterpretation of Feminism

Many women are afraid to identify with the term feminism because of the negative connotations that go along with it. Feminism has been associated with angry women and “men-haters” that pose a threat to society with many people avoiding any correlation to the movement.

To put it into perspective, those who associate feminists as “men-haters” don’t want women to use their voice but rather stay quiet and put up with oppression. Women are angry that they are oppressed but don’t mistake this justifiable anger with hate, when in fact it’s about equality.

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Many people fail to understand that feminism is the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes. Which implies that there is a lack of just that. We’ve met many counterarguments in our activism asserting that women and men are equal in present-day society. But, we affirm that we’re not quite there yet.

There is still an impactful force of male-entitlement in our world that many fail to identify as anti-women. Whether it manifests in a job when your ideas are pawned off as your male counterpart’s, or whether it manifests in the authority over our bodies when our choice to have an abortion is governed for us.

So, in order to debunk the claims that women and men are equal today, we need to ask why we haven’t got there yet? What can we do?

How Do I Be a Feminist in Today’s Society?

Feminism is about equality between both women and men. We’re not really sure why this is considered a “radical” belief. It’s not a radical notion that women deserve the same equal opportunity as men. However, because it has become a battle to achieve this, it has become a radical, political, economical, and social movement.

We need to better our understanding of feminism in this day and age and listen to what women have to say about their own experience as a woman. When we hear the word feminist been thrown around today, it’s usually when people reject the label. But why?

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Being a feminist today still has the same impulse and motivation that it did during the first-wave feminism in the 19th century in the Western world when women took to the streets for women’s right to vote.

It’s important to note that although women were out on the streets 170 years ago fighting for our right to vote, and won, not every country has the same history. Not considering this is detrimental to feminism.

Consider: Feminism as a Global Movement

Today, women’s right to vote in countries such as Pakistan and Afghanistan are powerless with many women needing permission from their husbands to leave the house let alone asking permission to vote. Women are also faced with the possibility of being banned by their family members or village elders upon entering a registration center or polling station.

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Since most of the Western world has secured the right for women to vote, the fight for the right to vote has morphed into other fights for women’s rights. These include the right to our bodies, the right to equal pay, the right to education as well as career opportunities. Again, some may say that these opportunities are generally available to women but we need to acknowledge the global community of women.

Consider: Intersectional Feminism

In order to become more informed in regards to feminism, we need to recognize the intersectionality within the movement of feminism.

As we said, many anti-feminists would argue that women are not oppressed and it bothers them to have to hear about the segregation between the sexes. They argue that women do have equal opportunity today which leads to the misinformed ideology that equality has been achieved. On another note, there are also many anti-feminists who just plain don’t like women, objectifying us and degrading us. So here we have two examples of people against feminism, and they wonder why we’re angry!

In becoming a better feminist, understanding intersectionality is crucial. Intersectionality is regarded as the theoretical framework that seeks to understand discrimination and privilege through social and political identities such as gender, sex, race, class, sexuality, religion, ability, and physical appearance.

If you are a woman and you say that you have equal opportunity as men do, ask yourself, are you a woman of color? Are you LGBTQ+? What is your personal experience? It seems to be a narrow view of the privileged western man or woman to be blind to oppression.

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In response to the assumption that women are now fully politically, economically, and socially equal to men, we need to consider women as a whole.

When talking about feminism, we need to acknowledge women globally. It’s not enough to assume that every culture is on the same path of progression. Just because in Europe and North America women don’t have to deal with arranged marriages or lack of access to education, doesn’t mean that it’s not going on elsewhere.

You cannot simplify an issue by saying, “Well, it doesn’t exist in my reality so it isn’t a reality for other people.” This is privilege.

What Are the Different Types of Feminism?

When thinking about feminism, we need to consider feminism on a global scale. Thus, we need to consider the various categories of feminism.

Liberal Feminism

The definition of the term liberal means to be open to new behavior or opinions and willing to discard traditional values. So liberal feminism focuses on accommodating individual rights for women instead of directly challenging society and its system of oppressive rules. An example of liberal feminism is the suffragist movement where women fought for our right to vote. However, their fight did lead to the radical movement of feminism.

Radical Feminism

The word radical is defined as a thorough change or action affecting the fundamental nature of something. Therefore, radical feminism tackles the very ideology of the oppression of women. Radical feminism holds patriarchy and sexism accountable for the injustices against women as a whole and our rights regardless of race, age, culture, or sexual orientation.

Radical feminism grew out of the civil rights and other peace movements when people began to question and challenge the subjugation of women as well as understand where the subordination of women stemmed from. Radical feminism, therefore, influenced feminism globally.

Marxist and Socialist Feminism

Feminists, founded in Marxism and socialism, links women’s oppression
to capitalist economic systems. Many other feminists assert that this form of political power is a key reason for the subordination of women.

Marxist feminism investigates the way in which women are exploited through capitalism with specific attention given to housework and the concept of gendered labor. Marxist and social feminism essentially notices the exploitation of women in domestic slavery.

Black Feminism

Black feminism grew out of the theory of intersectionality, a term coined by American lawyer, Kimberlé Crenshaw. In her argument, Crenshaw discussed how the experience of being a black woman cannot be understood simply by the experience of being black or of being a woman. Each experience is considered independent of each other.

Black feminism teaches how being a black woman subjects you to specific societal subjugations in terms of gender, race, and class oppression.

Cultural Feminism

Cultural feminism focuses on the fundamental differences between women and men with regard to biology, personality, and behavior. This movement sheds light on the nature of women as kinder and gentler in comparison to men and that the world would benefit from women in power.

Transnational or Global Feminism

Transnational or global feminism is primarily concerned with intersectionality and recognizes that global issues affect every woman differently. This feminist movement investigates inequalities across different marginalized groups in the world.

Eco-Feminism

Ecofeminism puts emphasis on how patriarchy is not just oppressive to women but to humanity, all living creatures, and the planet as a whole. Ecofeminism views women’s rights and empowerment as beneficial to the world’s political, economical, social, and cultural sphere with all living beings in mind.

Ecofeminism is a direct example of environmental ethics. Ecofeminism draws its activism towards the interconnections between the oppression of women, other humans who are subjugated by race and class, as well as the power and control over nature and the environment.

Visionary Feminism

Visionary feminism is known for promoting “loving politics” with its focus on men’s roles in society. This movement is rooted in the appreciation and love of both women and men. Visionary feminism seeks to end patriarchy while asserting that love cannot exist in any relationship where power and control exists.

How Do I Actively Be a Better Feminist?

The points we outlined so far are a great starting point in redefining feminism for yourself. However, in order to be a better feminist, it’s important to actively redefine feminism.

However, to further add to the understanding of this radical movement, we highly recommend checking out Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s book Dear Ijeawele, or A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions.

In this book, Adichie outlines points on how to become a better feminist. So, we’ve included eight of our personal favorites because we believe everyone should know these basic guidelines for improving your definition of feminism.

1. Be a Whole Person

Do not define yourself by one role. You are more than just a mother, or just a wife, or just a career woman. Work on being well-rounded and giving yourself more credit for everything you do.

2. Neutralize Existing Gender Roles

Housework is not just the responsibility of a woman. If you live in the house, you are also responsible for contributing to the cleaning and upkeep of it. It should also never be assumed that the woman will take on the role of caregiver. Women and men need to share this responsibility and share roles equally.

3. Practice Self-Reliance

Gender roles are taught. Never tell a child they can or can’t do something based on their gender. Practice self-reliance, don’t rely on gender roles to guide you.

4. Claim and Celebrate Your Personal Power

Women do not need permission to do something. Women do not need to ask their husbands to “allow” them to do something. This notion of asking permission implies men are naturally superior and more powerful. Everyone has their own personal power to make decisions and achieve goals.

5. Stop Associating Marriage With Achievement

Oof — this is a big one. Society tells young women that they are incomplete without a man. That their existence and happiness rely on a man. Why are young girls taught to aspire to marriage? This only results in an uneven exchange in marriage with women sacrificing more. It is women who are expected to give up their last name, isn’t it? It’s problematic to teach kids that marriage is a goal in life. This teaches us that being on our own is not ok or scary.

6. Practice Authenticity, Not Likability

As women, we are subjected to and ridiculed for our likeability. We hear this often with phrases like “Smile!” “Cheer up!” When is the last time you heard someone tell a man to smile on the street by a stranger? It’s one thing to be honest and kind, but being nice isn’t a requirement.

7. Reject Biology As the Basis for Social Norms

It is not a man’s duty to be the provider because of his biology. Male physical superiority also does not entitle men to additional privileges. The idea that “It’s in your biology to be a certain way” isn’t a strong enough ground for assigning personality traits to a gender. Stop allowing biology to govern our societal expectations of us.

8. Speak Openly About Sex

Women are shamed for sex, whereas men are celebrated for it. In every culture of the world, women are ridiculed for sexual behavior. Society expects women to be sexy but not sexual. We need to unlearn the shame surrounding sex and understand that it’s degrading to link sex with humiliation, nudity, female biology, or virginity.

Are You a Feminist?

Hopefully, this article will improve your outlook on feminism or help you to become more educated on how to become a better feminist. If you’re someone who normally rejects the term feminist, maybe this has allowed you to open your mind to redefining the term for yourself.

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Women are entitled to equal opportunity. We are entitled to walk down the street without being street harassed verbally, physically, or sexually. We are entitled to not fear for our safety. We are entitled to our bodies. We are entitled to our free will. We are entitled to our authority. We are entitled to our beliefs. We are entitled to our autonomy. We are entitled to our voice.

For more discussions, check out our podcast, shifting her experience (she.) on Apple, Spotify, or wherever you listen to your podcasts. We release new episodes every Tuesday.

For more blog posts similar to this topic, check out our article, What Exactly Is A Non-Traditional Woman?

Tiana and Sophie from
shifting her experience.

We are a women’s empowerment brand with weekly podcasts and blogs created by Tiana DeNicola & Sophie Dunne. https://shiftingherexperience.com/