5 Things Dov Charney (And You?) Might Have Wrong About Feminism

So, this was a potential article idea I had previously.  I know a lot of young women out there are hesitant to embrace the term “feminist” for a lot of reasons, so I figured, hey, I might be able to clear up some pretty common misconceptions/myths about feminism for some of you out there.

I’d put it on the backburner, but then I saw this.  The ad may be fake, but apparently the quote is real.

Wow, Dov Charney!  Thank you for mansplaining feminism to me!  Even better, thank you for mansplaining it INCORRECTLYEspecially after it’s been made pretty clear you don’t know jack or SHIT about feminism.  But, hey, at least it’s not QUITE as bad as when you wrongly blamed women for domestic violence.  Seriously, are you trying to end up the next poster boy for Privilege Denying Dude?

So. Let’s talk about some of the myths behind feminism this, shall we?

Myth #1: Feminism/Feminists only care about women.

This is so very not true.  Feminism as a movement is about equality and is also a movement against patriarchal opinions that drive society.  What this means is, feminism tries to get rid of the idea of things being “for boys” and “for girls.”  Which, yeah, means that they try to get rid of the idea of, say, “Being the primary breadwinner in a household is for MEN.”  But at the same time, the idea is to also get rid of “Staying at home with/caring for your kids is for WOMEN.” 

Patriarchal ideas don’t just hold down women.  They hold down men by strictly defining what we’re “allowed” to like/want/do/think/say.  You know how men get harassed/bullied over their gender and/or sexual identity because they like “girl things?”  Yeah, see, true feminism doesn’t like stuff like that.  Gender and gender stereotyping harm men and women.  So feminism, which stands against gender stereotyping, is trying to prevent something that hurts men and women.

Men can be feminists as well, for the record.

Myth #2: Modern feminism is JUST about abortion.

HUGELY false statement.  While that does come into play because of body control issues, feminism also covers topics like: sex and sexual education, the media, equal pay, healthcare, living wages, female circumcision, domestic abuse, education, sizeism, sexual harassment and assault, war, childcare, gay rights and more.  Pretty much anywhere gender is an issue (and that’s, unfortunately, pretty much EVERYWHERE) feminism is relevant.

Photo by cathredfern on Flickr, some rights reserved.

Myth #3: Feminism is restrictive.

Oh, Dov Charney.  I don’t know what to  say to you.  Seriously.  I’ve read over your statement multiple times and, frankly, I still don’t know what you’re trying to say

But I know that other people, including author Stephenie Meyer, have called feminism “restrictive” claiming that feminists have set ideas of what does and doesn’t define a feminist.  While I can’t speak for ALL feminists (we’ll get into that later), I can say that a lot of feminists will roll their eyes at that suggestion.

There’s a long list of things that, supposedly, feminists don’t want women to do, including: wear skirts, wear make-up, get married, have babies, be stay at home moms, be virgins, have sex (notice that wonderful contradiction?), and more.

Look, the idea behind feminism is, in fact, choice.  The idea that a woman shouldn’t HAVE to do something because a male or a male-driven society tells her to.  Feminism isn’t about how women SHOULDN’T stay at home to take care of their children…it’s about giving a woman the right to choose whether she does or not.  It’s about not saying a woman is only beautiful if she dresses a certain way or wears make-up.  It’s about a woman having the right to decided if/when she’ll have children and having access to birth control methods both before and during marriage if she so chooses. 

Feminism is about freedom from patriarchal control.  Feminism, ideally, should be the opposite of restrictive.  But that idea and other obviously get twisted here and there, and there’s sometimes a good reason for that.  Read on to see what I mean.

Myth #4: There is a feminist hive-mind.

Oh. Oh, that’s just laughable.

Feminists constantly disagree on things.  Especially when you look at second wave feminism versus third wave feminism versus…wait, is there a fourth wave or have we done away with the term “wave” by now?  I’m not even really sure.

There’s feminists who are pro and anti-sex.  Feminists who are pro and anti porn.  Feminists who are pro and anti raunch culture. Recently, during the Julian Assange rape accusations, we’ve seen MAJOR disagreements from feminists over whether the crime should count as rape or not. 

Photo by Natashalcd on Flickr.  Some rights reserved.

We don’t all agree.  We don’t all get along.  There’s a lot of internal debate within feminist circles.  Sometimes, unfortunately, it really hurts the movement as a whole because there’s not a lot of agreeing to disagree, and often it stalls change and outreach to young people.

Myth #5: Feminism is perfect.

No movement is perfect.  No social or political idea is perfect.  It is a human creation, and humans are, inevitably, falliable.  With feminism, it also has it’s issues: it’s been accused of being largely inaccessible to anyone who’s not a white middle class cis woman, and I won’t totally disagree that in the past that’s been true.  Hell, even I have at least one major issue with modern feminism.

As much as I am proud to call myself a feminist, a lot of the the feminist ideas surrounding transexual rights bug the HELL out of me and manage to completely confuse me.  I don’t understand why a movement of people who don’t want to be defined by our genitals are so quick to not allow people into our movement OR OUR GENDER, because of their genitals.  It makes no sense to me.

But I’m aware of the problems within feminism.  I’m also aware that, if I abandon the term feminist despite everything I believe in, I open it up to a group of women who, despite having what are clearly anti-woman intentions, are trying to co-opt the term for political reasons (Hi, Sarah Palin, looking at you and your whole “why don’t we make rape victims pay for their own rape kits?” policy).  I would rather work to change the movement I belong to and believe in than jump ship and let THEM take it over.

Photo by Jay Morrison on Flickr, some rights reserved.

So that’s my say in the matter.  Really, feminism is pretty damn cool and if you do a little reading you might find out you agree with more of the movement’s ideas than you think.  Don’t listen to the propaganda handed to you, don’t be afraid of getting labeled with the “F” word.  Read, research, listen and most of all THINK.  There’s probably a feminist within you somewhere, it’s about time to let it out.

For more reading, you should DEFINITELY check out Jessica Valenti’s book Full Frontal Feminism: A Young Woman’s Guide to Why Feminism Matters, as well as her website Feministing and Jezebel.com, another modern feminist website that deals with fashion, celebrities and politics.