While the historic Women’s Marches highlight a growing sense of urgency to fight for gender equality, it’s not surprising that feminism has remained in the spotlight. And yet, even in 2018, there are basic questions about feminism that continue to confound people. Questions that are surprisingly quaint, awkward or — in some cases — knowingly facetious, so people end up Googling them.
But why ask the internet when you can ask real-life feminists? Here, we’ve rounded up some of the most-Googled myths about feminism and put them to some of our favourite feminist writers and thinkers. After all, who better to answer those burning questions than women who deal with them in their everyday lives?
Why are feminists so angry?
Clementine Ford, Author of Fight Like A Girl, Daily Life columnist:
The trope of the angry feminist has proved a useful bogey monster for those invested in keeping women in a state of inequality. Women’s anger is pathologised as hysterical, irrational, illogical — we’re supposed to be Cool Girls, laughing along at our inherent weakness and maintaining the bonds of male power. But anger is not only a strength in women, it’s also a legitimate response to the oppression we’ve been subjected to for millennia.
If women are angry, it’s because we have good reason to be — we’re subjected to significant levels of violence – sexual, family, maternal, reproductive – and workplace and labour inequalities. The real mystery is how we’ve managed to stop ourselves being consumed by this justifiable rage and instead have found ways to temper it — with love, kindness, and the continued embrace of men who may not be perpetrating this violence against us, but are certainly beneficiaries of the inequality it maintains. I always say that women have every reason to be angry. If you’re not angry, you’re not paying attention.
Do feminists hate men?
Natalie Kon-Yu, Creative writer, editor and academic:
The idea of the man-hating feminist is one of the most dangerous myths about feminism. What feminists actually hate are the systems of oppression which allow inequality to flourish. In fact, men are arguably oppressed by these same systems, too.
The idea that men are strong and women are weak, for example, allows no wriggle room for either gender. It’s a rigid box that traps both and doesn’t allow for factors such as race, class, sexuality, sexual identity and levels of ability. It’s also a profoundly stupid thing to say, as though humans are fixed into one category and women and men must always be oppositional. We’re so much more complex than that.
Why do feminists not shave?
Natalie Reilly, Daily Life Columnist and Beauty Editor:
The simplest answer as to why feminists might not shave under their arms or legs (or bikini lines or face) is because men don’t have to. Nobody recoils if they see a man with hairy legs. And if men don’t have to, why should we? Social conditioning — via advertising — has led us to believe we’ll feel better with hairless skin. (Words like ‘silky’ and ‘soft’ are used ad nauseum) But it’s also an accepted fact that, especially in the cooler months, hair removal is not a woman’s highest priority.
And yet, I still choose to remove hair from my body. My rationale is that the feminism I subscribe to is not a fundamentalist one. In other words, I don’t believe hairless legs make me less of a feminist. I see it as a minor issue in a world where women are still struggling to obtain basic healthcare, education and freedom from violence, rape and even death.
I believe in equality, and as more men come under societal pressure to remove hair from their chests, their backs and even their bikini lines, I feel like hey, it’s almost within our grasp, so why stop now?
Does a feminist have to be female?
Amy Middleton, Publisher of Archer Magazine:
To me, feminism means acknowledging that the power structures associated with patriarchy fall somewhere between unfair and unbearable for most people. This essential feminist belief can be held by anyone, regardless of gender.
Importantly, though, those who identify as female, femme, transgender or non-binary, along with anyone else who doesn’t directly benefit from patriarchy, need more space, more volume, and more decision-making power.
The greatest feminists are those who use their privilege to create platforms for those who are less heard. In other words, the people in power who know when to shut the hell up, and listen to those who are being oppressed.
Do feminists get married?
Maeve Marsden, Writer, Producer and Artistic Director of Lady Sings It Better:
The issue here isn’t whether feminists get married — obviously they do — or if marriage itself is a feminist act. There’s no doubt the institution of marriage has historically been tied to the subjugation of women and much of that history is still embedded in the traditions we uphold today. I’m always flummoxed when I see women take their husband’s name, vow to honour and obey them, get “given away” by their fathers… All of these traditions are in contradiction with what I consider to be feminism.
What does a feminist believe in?
Mehreen Faruqi, Greens NSW MP:
Being a feminist is not a theoretical concept for me, but something that is relevant every single day of my life. In my workplace — the Upper House of NSW Parliament — women currently make up only 9* out of 42 members and that’s a gender imbalance we should all be very uncomfortable with.
I also find myself at the intricate crossroads of being Muslim, migrant and a woman of colour. Facing this ‘triple whammy’ has been liberating and empowering, in a personal and professional capacity. For me, it’s been about embracing a broad, diverse and inclusive feminism based on the realisation that the crossover of gender, race, class and culture particularly affects marginalised groups of women.
The challenging and furiously frustrating truth is that our pace towards equality of opportunity and outcomes for all women has been slow and is getting slower. That is why we must see through the façade that all is well, and continue to be unapologetically feminist.
Will feminism hurt your career?
Tracey Spicer, Journalist, Broadcaster and Author of The Good Girl Stripped Bare:
Of course feminism will hurt your career! Fighting for women’s rights will do absolutely nothing to end the gender pay gap, combat sexual harassment in the workplace, or pave the way for more women in leadership. In fact, if we become pregnant, we should quit our jobs immediately to make way for a real worker — preferably a man. We’re better off just giving up, popping on an apron, kicking off our shoes, and fixing the hubby a nice gin and tonic after a hard day at the office. That’s what I did when I was ‘boned’ after spitting out a couple of sprogs. I finally realised feminism was a nasty F-word and decided to become an ally of the patriarchy.*
*Actually, this is bulls—t. I took action against the bastards and it was the best thing I ever did. They certainly thought twice before ‘boning’ another mother in the workplace, as I outline in my book. And — incredibly — my career continues to flourish. Thank you, feminism!
*UPDATE: There are now 10 women in the NSW Upper House, as at February 2018. Thanks again, feminism!