Every time I hear people casually making sexist jokes I cringe. The everyday ignorance of Americans on the issue of gender studies is appalling, and yet nonetheless all-throughout school students are repeatedly instilled with the same material about the Civil Rights Movement. Everyone can tell you who Martin Luther King Jr. is but in your average classroom it's pretty frequent that at least half have never heard of Gloria Steinem (depicted below). And why? Because when Americans think of feminism they think of radical, man-hating lesbians that are to be taken with little regard.
Feminism is NOT about hating men and is not a lunatic lesbian conspiracy, regardless of what Urban Dictionary says. Feminism is essentially the belief that women are equal to men and deserve their respective equal rights. It did not begin in the 1960s with a bunch of barbaric, rabid women burning bras like the ignorant masses proliferate to every consecutive generation. In fact, feminism's First-Wave in American history is defined as, centrally speaking, the fervent movement for women's suffrage in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Second-Wave would be the revulsion toward the "Good Wife" concept in the '50s and, far more progressively, in the heated '60s. Third-Wave is technically still current, having begun roughly in the '80s and '90s to continue the fight for equality in modern day.
Now that those very basic categories have been illuminated, let's overview some of the most misconceived specifications about Feminism: The movement should never have been slandered as a female-exclusive, anti-male campaign; in fact, ideally everyone should be a feminist who passionately believes women and men should be protected as equals under the law. Now, in all fairness, that is not to say there isn't a taint of feminist activists who are guilty of gender bias, who, for example, believe women should have equal job opportunities but should be excluded from the war drafts. HOWEVER, there are flaws in every movement, including the African American Civil Rights Movement that is so uniformly commended with every ounce of politically correctness. What's crucial to understand, however, is that the first and second wave of feminists emerged in a time of rampant feminine oppression, and their opponent was the patriarchal body that had always catalyzed women's bondage (and still is). Feminists reject the patriarchal values that perpetuate an exclusively male-dominated world, and posit automatic resentment for every social "norm" degrading women to subhuman statuses. The antagonist of first-wave was the patriarchal body that stripped them of the basic right to vote; in second-wave, the antagonist was the same patriarchal body that, daringly after its desperation for working women during World War II, was telling women to be obedient housewives the minute the war ended. Alas, in third-wave, the antagonist faced today is that same patriarchal barricade that - despite the Equal Pay Act of 1964 and the Lily Ledbetter Act of 2009 - is slow to stop averaging hard-working women 79 cent to the man's dollar.
Today, unfortunately due to the misconceptions slandering feminism, many women are very reluctant to identify themselves as feminists, as those "man-haters." There are countless important issues that marginalize women's rights, which everyday deserves to be discorded by an operational resistance. How else will we rectify the error of gender stigmas and equalize society?! Among America's first-wave of feminists, extraordinaires such as Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton were namely forefronts; in second-wave feminism, geniuses like Gloria Steinem and Betty Friedian inspired American women everywhere; now, somehow, in such a disappointing contrast, third-wave feminism on-goes but this time unfortunately I'm left asking desperately, where are the single-handed, FEMINIST-FOCUSED leaders, the extraordinaires? Feminism faces a society confused by centuries and centuries of female oppression, and that's a tough fight. The most crucial concept that all wise feminists must theorize is this one exhortation: no matter whether it's a minor or major inequality that's alive and dissident, it's ALWAYS unacceptable and ALWAYS worth ending. If everyone grasped a cogent understanding and belief in that sentence alone, maybe we'd finally destroy the disgust of inequality.