“Feminist thinking teaches us all, especially, how to love justice and freedom in ways that foster and affirm life.” –bell hooks
If Merriam-Webster defines feminism as the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes, then why is it still being misunderstood today? Is it because of a lack of understanding of the definition or because it is often associated with a small group of women (see: radical feminism in the 1960s)?
While many people often argue that feminism is irrelevant in this day and age because women, theoretically, have the same rights as men, we must remember that this applies almost exclusively to Western and developed countries. Even if we only focus on the West, stereotypes and societal expectations based on gender are still perpetuated and are harmful to women and men alike. For instance, most men are told at a very young age that they need to be tough and aggressive, and that displaying sadness or regret is wrong and shameful because it is associated with the opposite sex. By fighting against the oppression of women, feminism also seeks to question the traditional system of gender roles. That archaic system includes ideas of toxic masculinity, so in a way, feminism also helps men.
In addition to being beneficial to men, when feminism is intersectional, i.e., when it considers different systems of oppression including race, ability, social class, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, among others, it is actually a unifying movement. In other words, it looks to include all women regardless of differences between one another and it also makes us think about our own privileges, which provides us with empathy and understanding of others. These are important ideas that need to be emphasized in all areas of life, especially when we think about fighting against any kind of discrimination and oppression.
So, even when women’s issues are the movement’s main point of focus, many other different groups of people are affected in a positive way by it, which is why feminism is a movement that can be supported by anyone regardless of race, class, and yes, even sex!