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Kelli Scarpa
English 111
Professor Karunanayake
26 October 2014
What is a Feminist?
A Glimpse Into The Popular View of Feminism
The oppression, devaluation, and objectification of women have
continuously occurred for hundreds of years. Even though Congress passed
Womens Suffrage and Rosie the Riveter made space for women in the
workforce many years ago, the girls of the world still face the same problems.
Feminism is the belief in the complete equality of the sexes. This movement
began gaining support in the last few years, but in doing so has put the
movement under high scrutiny, both from the public and from inside the
movement as well. This publicity has given certain connotations and stereotypes
to the feminist movement, especially in popular culture in America.
What are the stereotypes?
When the average person thinks of a feminist, there are a plethora of
different images that could possibly come to mind. Some would say that feminists
are power-hungry, falsely righteous, and overzealous. Others might say that a
feminist is a middle aged, upper-middle class white woman with nothing better to
do (Goldberg 13). Yet another is the idea that all feminists are bra-burning, manhating lesbians (I Am Not a Feminist). These stereotypes and misconceptions
have been formulated for a reason, whether it is that there has been a trend of

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lesbian support of feminism or that a small group of feminists somewhere torched
their bras. But one cannot sum up the culture of an entire group of people based
on the actions of only a few. These bra burners are a minute portion of the whole
of feminism; they are extremists. However, because of the recent increase in
publicity, their story made for the most entertaining or theatric, and they became
the face of feminism.
How did they become stereotypes?
Stereotypes become the supposed norm of a group for a long list of
reasons. They are created because of ignorant people, who take everything at
face value. If you judge a book by its cover, you will never ascertain the contents,
ideas, or principles that are bound to it. If you see the tip of the iceberg and turn
away, you will never know what volumes lie beneath the water. This conceit and
ignorance is the root cause of the stereotypes that misrepresent the whole
feminist movement. They are perpetuated because they are interesting to the
public, giving outsiders something to use as criticism. If the stereotype was not
intriguing to people, it would not be perpetuated and would cease to exist. Really,
they continue to exist only because of the publics love to criticize things without
doing their homework on the topic. If people did investigate the philosophy of
feminism, we would not hear things like, Saying we need feminism cos some
women fear men is like saying we need the KKK cos some whites fear people of
color. #feminismisawful, or Fighting gender inequality with sexism towards men
is absurd and hypocritical #FeminismIsAwful, (Hupp, Evans). These critics

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would know that it is about neither of these things if they dug a little deeper and
ascertained for themselves what feminism is about.
How are these stereotypes a misrepresentation?
Feminism is not awful. It is not about complaining, about fear, or about the
hatred of men. It is not an excuse for women to bully men or to make ourselves
victims. Feminism is about the economic, political and social equality of the
sexes and is a completely necessary and relevant social justice issue. Americans
claim to live in a free country, while American women still do not receive the
same payment as men for identical jobs. Both genders are held to different
standards and expected to conform to the oppressive expectations set before
them. Around the world, women, gay men, lesbians, and even straight men are
being oppressed and discriminated against. A study by the United Nations
illustrated this horrifying truth. The sentence, Women shouldnt, when typed
into the Google search bar, brought up answers such as have rights. When
Women need to was typed into the same search engine, it was finished with
responses such as be put in their place, know their place, and be controlled
(UN Women). If these are the most popular endings to these clauses, there is a
need for feminism; a need for justice.
What is the validity of this view?
The need for justice brings about many differing opinions on how to achieve it.
There are some that will be against doing anything because they are ignorant, or
insist that there is no problem. There are some that will agree that something
needs to change and dabble in supporting a movement. There are others that will

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throw their heart and soul into a cause and give their all to make sure that a
change is seen through. A thin line exists between passion for a cause and
radicalism, and it is these extremists that create the stereotypes for the rest of
the people involved. The extremists go out and burn bras, for example. They
openly hate men and create a cause for the formation of a stereotype. They are
the kids from preschool that throw a tantrum, refusing to share a marker, and
cause everyone to miss recess. In the terms of feminism, there are people who
hate men, there are lesbians, and there are middle-aged white women. However,
not all feminists are misogynistic, middle-aged, white lesbians. These
stereotypes are not fictional events, but it is impossible to sum up an entire
ideology with a couple of all-encompassing accusations.
How do these stereotypes deter people from identifying as a feminist?
Because of the derogatory nature of these stereotypes, there are people
who believe whole-heartedly feminism, but choose not to identify as a feminist.
This means that they are completely in favor of feminism, but they refuse to show
their support under the scrutiny of the public eye. However cowardly this may
appear, these individuals are avoiding guilt by association, which is especially
important to celebrities. They would rather quietly believe in the equality of all
people and keep their popular image than to fight for a cause. This may seem
like a minor issue, after all these non-identifiers still believe in the equality of all
people, which is the end goal. But if undercover feminists dont speak up and
show their support, the group loses both unity and momentum. If we are going to
make a difference in our world, we must act as a conglomerate. Society can

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shrug off attacks from many small groups, but it cannot avoid one expansive,
cohesive, and passionate call to action. Another important component of unity is
protection; it creates a zebra effect. If everyone stands together in support of a
cause, they are less likely to be shot down, or hunted by lions. With both of these
things in mind, it is easy to see why false stereotypes and assumptions are so

Feminism is a very controversial subject at the moment. Pro-feminist and

antifeminist works alike canvas the Internet, while both groups alike are prone to
criticizing the movement. Various celebrities have started identifying with the
movement, while others deliberately choose not to identify as feminists. A likely
cause of this hesitance to choose a side is a misrepresentation of the
fundamental values of feminism. The misconceptions of feminists in the United
States today are an infectious disease spread by the misinformed and created by
parasitic extremists. This epidemic of misinterpretation is stunting the previously
vigorous growth of the feminist movement due its recent increase in publicity.