Marketing Wave’s Head of Communications
Brand & Content Department Member
International Women’s Day brings us together to celebrate women’s achievements, raise awareness about women’s equality and lobby for accelerated gender parity. Every year, when this day comes, it feels like we are all on the same page regarding the right and need for equality. We might get this feeling because the voice of change becomes the loudest, but when this voice is silenced by the ordinariness of day-to-day life, others arise and that’s when we realize the panorama is not exactly as we thought: somehow, many people still hate feminism. But why?
“Femin-” comes from the latin root word “femina”, meaning woman, and “-ism” is a suffix derived from the greek “ισμός” (or “ismós”).
The suffix “-ism” can have multiple meanings, but for this purpose only two are important to highlight:
When trying to recall words ending in “-ism”, it’s very likely that the first ones to pop up are terms like “racism”, “sexism”, etc. In fact, we commonly associate words ending with this suffix with some form of inequality (which fits the first definition), but interpreting “feminism” the same way would be a step towards misunderstanding this social movement (as its meaning fits the second one).
In 2018, a GenForward survey on US millennials’ perception of this doctrine got unbelievable results:
Notice how the first two answers (identifying as a feminist, and supporting women’s rights), despite being equivalent, present extremely discrepant results across all races and ethnicities under study.
After all, why don’t people identify themselves as feminists, although clearly standing in favor of gender equality?
The truth is that some still perceive feminism as the female equivalent to male chauvinism, although…
… Whilst …
In Portuguese, there’s actually a word to designate female chauvinism (the belief that women are morally superior to men). It’s called “femismo”, but unfortunately not only isn’t this word commonly used, as there is no direct translation to English. Probably if there was, people wouldn’t tend to confuse it with “feminism”, as they represent precisely the opposite.
In short, one could say that the term itself (and how it is easily misunderstood) is responsible for a huge part of some people’s despise for this movement, but the truth is that there are many more critical reasons behind it:
1. Feminism has been associated with strong, forceful and assertive women and society tends to punish this kind of behavior (check out the following study for more).
2. Many people fear that feminism will mean that men will eventually lose out – power, influence, impact, authority, and control, and economic opportunities.
3. Many people believe that feminists want to control the world and put men down.
4. Many people fear that feminism will overturn time-honored traditions, religious beliefs and established gender roles, and that feels scary and wrong.
5. Many people fear that feminism will bring about negative shifts in relationships, marriage, society, culture, power and authority dynamics, as well as business, job and economic opportunities if and when women are on an equal footing with men.
Feminism is certainly the most controversial ‘F’ word of them all, but it should be a word that inspires love, rather than hate and an extreme need for dissociation, as this is not a movement for women, by women, and made up of women in opposition of men, as many still think.
Emma Watson, a UN Women’s Goodwill Ambassador, once said “If you stand for equality you’re a feminist. I’m sorry to tell you, but you are a feminist”.
So… are you?
Ism. (n.d.). In Merriam Webster. Retrieved March 5, 2021, from https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/ism
Scharff, C. (2019, February 6). Why so many young women don’t call themselves feminist. BBC News. https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-politics-47006912
Male Chauvinism. (n.d.). In Cambridge Dictionary. Retrieved March 5, 2021, from https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/male-chauvinism
Feminism. (n.d.). In Cambridge Dictionary. Retrieved March 5, 2021, from https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/feminism
- Caprino, K. (2017, March 9). What Is Feminism, And Why Do So Many Women And Men Hate It? Forbes. https://www.forbes.com/sites/kathycaprino/2017/03/08/what-is-feminism-and-why-do-so-many-women-and-men-hate-it/?sh=6ff078c07e8e
- Potter, M. (2018, May 29). The Etymology Of “Feminism” – Media Theory and Criticism 2017. Medium. https://medium.com/media-theory-and-criticism-2017/the-etymology-of-feminism-4ca3caec9ad0
- IWD 2021 campaign theme: #ChooseToChallenge. (n.d.). International Women’s Day. Retrieved March 5, 2021, from https://www.internationalwomensday.com/Theme