What is Feminism, really?

I've seen a lot of misconceptions floating around about what it means to be a feminist. It has gotten to the point where many people who are actually feminists don't publicly identify that way because of the way they feel they will be perceived. Some people believe that feminists hate men. Some people believe that it's not possible to be a feminist and a stay-at-home mom. Some people believe that feminism is saying that women and men are the same. None of these things are true.

The dictionary definition of feminism is, "the advocacy of women's rights on the basis of the equality of the sexes." I think the "equality of the sexes" portion is key here and what seems to trip up a lot of people. what does equality mean? To me, it means that we provide equal value to society and we should not be treated like lower class citizens. It does NOT mean that women are the same as men. 

I am not the same as any other woman that I know. If i'm not even the same as other women then how could I be the same as a man? It doesn't even make sense. Everybody has their strengths and weaknesses. There are certain aspects of life that women are typically better at and there are other aspects of life that men are typically better at. However, that doesn't make one group of people better than another. We know that 4 quarters makes a dollar. We also know that 10 dimes or 20 nickels or 100 pennies make a dollar. There are many other combinations of coins that we can use to add up to the same dollar. We do not need to be the same to be seen as equal.

Recognizing that women provide equal value to society means that we need to stop viewing "women's work" as somehow less important than "men's work". This includes increasing pay in women dominated fields. We also need to pay women and men the same amount of money for the same work which should be a no-brainer but yet there is still a pay gap... We should also move away from labeling work as "women's work" and "men's work" altogether, but that's a conversation for another day (see my post on gender roles).

Feminism is also about having choices. We should have the freedom to live our lives as we see fit. Previously, women were expected to live at home with their fathers until they got married. They were then expected to stay at home and run a household and raise children. There were only certain professions that were "acceptable" for women to have. Women were not allowed to have their own bank accounts. Women were not allowed to vote. I could go on. Feminism is what brought us these rights. Feminism is what gave us the right to work outside of the home if that's what we choose to do. It doesn't mean that we HAVE to work outside of the home or that we HAVE to pay 50% of the bills or any number of other things that people think feminism is. It means that we have the choice. I'm not sure if we are ready for this conversation, but feminism also means that a man can be a stay-at-home dad while his wife works if that's what works best for their family. 

We should all be able to make the choices that work best for us and our families and we should not be shamed or looked down on for those choices. 


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