While I don’t see myself as an all-knowing oracle of feminism, I will try to answer some of your most burning questions about everything from bra-burning to gender roles.

1. What is feminism?

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie has given possibly the best answer for this question – “Feminism: a person who believes in the social, political and economic equality of the sexes.”

2. Do feminists hate men?

Nope.  Feminists are not anti-men whatsoever.

3. So feminists believe in equality for all?

Correct!

4. Can men be feminists?

Most certainly.  Feminism is for everyone.

5. Do feminists think that girls are better than boys?

Not at all. Feminists believe in equality, not superiority.

6. What are the different waves of feminism?

First-wave feminism (19th and early 20th century) focused on gaining political power, especially the right to vote.  Second-wave feminism (20th century) focused on cultural and political inequalities.  Third-wave feminism (21st century) also focuses on inequality and other minorities’’ struggles.

7. Who are some important feminists in history?

Coco Chanel, Betty Freidan, Gloria Steinem, Bell Hooks, Barbara Walters, Yoko Ono, Coretta Scott King, Maya Angelou, Diane Von Furstenberg, Hillary Clinton, Oprah Winfrey, Ellen Page, Angelina Jolie, Sheryl Sandberg, Olivia Wilde, Malala Yousafzai, Beyonce, and Emma Watson are just a handful of feminists who have impacted the movement.

8. What is misogyny?

Misogyny means hatred or dislike of, or prejudice against women.

9. What is sexism?

Sexism is prejudice or discrimination based on a person’s sex.  Sexism affects both men and women, but primarily women.

10. What is the difference between sexism and misogyny?

According to finallyfeminism101.com, sexism is an “impersonal bias against the competence and influence of women.”  Examples of sexism are “girls aren’t good at science and math” or “women should have kids, not a career.”  Misogyny is a “more personal and emotional prejudice, resulting in contempt, scorn, and dismissiveness towards women.”  Misogyny is dehumanizing, whereas sexism isn’t necessarily so.

11. What are gender roles?

Gender roles are social norms or behaviors that men and women are “supposed to” follow.  Some examples are that girls play with dolls and boys play with trucks, or that women stay home and men be the breadwinners of the family. Gender roles affect both men and women negatively.

12. What is the “Patriarchy”?

Patriarchy is a social system based on elitism and privilege.  Basically, patriarchy is the tradition of giving men power over women, simply because they are men and they are in charge so they make the rules.

13. What is “Reproductive Freedom”?

I believe this quote from Lisa Tuttle’s The Encyclopedia of Feminism (1986) sums it up best:

“Defined by feminists in the 1970s as a basic human right, it includes the right to abortion and birth control, but implies much more. To be realized, reproductive freedom must include not only woman’s right to choose childbirth, abortion, sterilization or birth control, but also her right to make those choices freely, without pressure from individual men, doctors, governmental or religious authorities. It is a key issue for women, since without it the other freedoms we appear to have, such as the right to education, jobs and equal pay, may prove illusory. Provisions of childcare, medical treatment, and society’s attitude towards children are also involved.”

14. What is “internalized sexism”?

Internalized sexism is women hating women.  It is the “involuntary internalization by women of the sexist messages that are present in their societies and cultures.”  Every time another girl calls another girl a slut, bitch, whore, etc., it is because of this internalized sexism.  Every time a girl doesn’t speak up because she has been told by society that her words don’t matter – that is internalized sexism.

15. How can I avoid internalized sexism?

Knowing that it exists is the first step.  Sometimes I’ll catch myself when I call one of my friends a slut jokingly, and I’ll feel terribly guilty about it.  Understanding that it is nothing you have done voluntarily, that it is ingrained in you by society, is also important.  Becoming aware of these things is the only way to avoid them.  Rid those shaming words from your vocabulary and focus on lifting other girls up! We’re all in this together after all.

16. What is “rape culture”?

A rape culture is a “complex of beliefs that encourages male sexual aggression and supports violence against women.”  It tells women to protect themselves against sexual violence instead of telling men to not sexually abuse women.  It tells women that if you were raped it was probably your fault for what you were wearing.  Rape culture dismisses rapists by saying, “boys will be boys” or “she was asking for it.”  Rape culture is one of the main ideas that feminists fight against, because it is victim blaming and it shames rape victims while putting no blame on their attackers.

17. What is “victim blaming”?

See above.

18. What is “slut-shaming”?

Slut-shaming is “shaming and/or attacking a woman or a girl for being sexual, having one or more sexual partners, acknowledging sexual feelings, and/or acting on sexual feelings.”  Slut-shaming comes out of the patriarchal idea that a woman should feel guilty or inferior about their sexual activities.  This is a complete double standard, because while women are sluts if they have sex with multiple partners, men are seen as studs if they have sex with multiple partners.

19. What is the “Gender Pay Gap”?

The gender pay gap generally refers to the “observed inequity in earnings, whereby men earn significantly more than women both on average and when performing the same job, although there are also discussions of gender gaps in representation in certain areas of society such as education and politics.”  The line “women make 77 cents to every man’s dollar” is still true to this day.

20. What is “the glass ceiling”?

The “glass ceiling” is a political concept to describe “the seen, yet unreachable barrier that keeps minorities and women from rising to the upper rungs of the corporate ladder, regardless of their qualifications or achievements.”  Nowadays it is used to describe the struggles of both women and minority men who struggle to reach high-ranking positions.

21. What is “the male gaze”?

Laura Mulvey, who introduced this concept, explains it through the film industry.  The camera puts the audience into the perspective of the heterosexual male – it focuses on a woman’s body.  Because of this, the man emerges as the dominant power.  The female gaze is when women see themselves through this lens – they may conform to social norms to appease men.

22. Why are feminists so obsessed with “Free the Nipple” and similar campaigns?

Women are sexualized from a young age.  Breasts are a secondary sex characteristic used to feed babies, but for men, they are only there for pleasure.  The fact that women are looked down upon for breastfeeding in public – aka the purpose of breasts – is absolutely awful.  As for “Free the Nipple,” feminists want the freedom to be topless, just like men can be.  Both men and women have breasts, but one is censored while the other is not.

23. Aren’t feminists just man-haters/anti-family/bra-burning lesbians/hairy legged makeup haters?

Ah, stereotypes.

24. Why do we still need feminism?

Legal equality (i.e. right to vote) does not equal social equality.  The fight for women’s rights continues on both political and social levels.

~Lauren