05/20/2013 10:06 am ET Updated Jul 20, 2013

Defining the 'F-Word': A Seemingly Bundle of Contradictions


The word "feminism" may illicit blank stares, the classic misconception of a slovenly aesthetic of unkempt women mulling about their hatred for men, the ubiquitous "Well, you have it so good now" attitude (completely rescinding the efforts of those previous), and the all too familiar, "I'm not a feminist but..." (culture shock: you are in fact a feminist!). The negative connotation of feminism has the term perceived as a complete misnomer for its cause. A cultural stereotype perceives feminists as pro-woman, anti-man, lesbian, body hair loving, bra-burning, belligerent women, who fight for a cause far past. However, this stereotype is quite far from the truth.

At the core of feminism is equality. This equality spans from the realm of social to political, to economic equality for both men and women. Equality is not a blanketed term; equality is equality. Feminism is often perceived as an ideology founded upon the belief of pro-woman and anti-man. In actuality, in feminism, everybody wins, male and female. The anti-man myth has been ingrained in the stereotype of feminist culture; feminism is not misandry: men can be feminists too, feminism is for everybody!

Feminism is about choice. Many common misconceptions of feminism paint feminists as women disconnected from the societal norms of grooming and pride in their appearance because they are "anti-man." Being a feminist, and ultimately, being human renders people the choice of how they will present themselves. One can be feminine and a feminist, and not be anti-feminine (say that five times fast). Physical presentation spans beyond the quintessential stereotype of "pleasing" a man; how one presents themselves disembarks into the realm of self esteem, self expression, and journey to selfhood: fashion and feminism are not mortal enemies, in fact, the two lounge and sip iced tea on a quaint veranda at frequent.

Contrary to popular belief, feminism is not an obsolete platitude of modern culture, feminism is still relevant. Susan B. Anthony once said, "Our job is not to make young women grateful. It is to make them ungrateful so they keep going. Gratitude never radicalized anybody."

"Feminism" is not a scary word, and identifying as one does not make you any of the aforementioned stereotypes: feminism is for everyone. The definition of feminism cannot be packed neatly into a box: if you are for equal rights, then you are a feminist, whether you identify as one or not. As Tavi Gevinson put it, "You're doing something just by identifying yourself as [a feminist] because you're changing the stereotype."