Are you a feminist?
Considering five misconceptions about feminism

  • Title:

    Freedom Feminism
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Article Highlights

  • Are you a feminist? Considering 5 common misconceptions.

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  • 70 percent of women rejected the label “feminist.” Find out why. @CHSommers

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  • The success of Western feminism provides a road map for women’s movements in the developing world.

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Are you a feminist?
Considering five misconceptions about feminism

CLAIM:

 

REALITY:

 

Feminism has become a marginal movement that is irrelevant to the concerns of contemporary men and women.

 

It is true that in recent surveys, 70 percent of women rejected the label “feminist.” Fair or not, in the public mind, feminism is associated with hardline gender politics and male-averse attitudes. But the current marginal state of feminism should not be taken as an argument for its demise; rather, it should be taken as a call for reform. A moderate, judicious, male-respecting alternative, which I call “freedom feminism,” could greatly help women both in the United States and throughout the world.

 

 

CLAIM:

 

REALITY:

Western women won their rights because of activism by progressives and radicals.

 

Women’s emancipation is both a progressive and conservative achievement. During its formative period in the 18th and 19th centuries, the women’s movement had both a radical “egalitarian school” as well as a conservative “maternal school.” The egalitarian school is well known today: suffragist leaders Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony are familiar names. But the maternal school has been lost to history. Its early leaders, including Hannah More and Frances Willard, were influential writers and educators who galvanized the women of their times. A successful feminist movement needs both a conservative and liberal wing.

 

CLAIM:

 

REALITY:

Feminists, by definition, are pro-women and male-averse.

 

The current women’s lobby thinks of men as a rival camp. Not only are men denigrated, but their problems are also ignored or explained away. A reformed women’s movement would acknowledge that the health, education, and welfare of males are pressing public issues. Our fates are inextricably tied—if one sex is in trouble, so is the other. Freedom feminism is not at war with femininity or masculinity, and it does not view men and women as warring tribes. Put simply, freedom feminism affirms for women what it affirms for everyone: dignity, fairness, and liberty.

 

CLAIM:

 

REALITY:

All who accept the term “feminist” must subscribe to the same political views.

 

Freedom feminists can be liberal, conservative, or libertarian. What freedom feminists must share is respect for considered differences of opinion and choice, insistence that debate and scholarship be reasoned and evidence-based, commitment to improving the lives of women, recognition that the sexes are equal but different, and devotion to Enlightenment democratic principles.

 

CLAIM:

 

REALITY:

Feminism has completed its work, and now the movement is irrelevant.

 

The equal citizenship and social status that Western women have won should not be taken for granted. We need to understand how the women’s movement succeeded in order to preserve and build on its achievements. Across the developing world, women are struggling to survive in the face of genuine oppression. Western women have a responsibility to help and much to offer. The success of Western feminism provides a tried-and-true road map for women’s movements in the developing world.

 

 

Based on Freedom Feminism: Its Surprising History and Why it Matters Today by Christina Hoff Sommers (AEI Press, 2013)
   
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About the Author

 

Christina Hoff
Sommers

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