The Weekly

What's the actual definition of feminism? Here's why we shouldn't be afraid of the 'F' word

Let's clear this up.

By Alex Lilly
When you think of a feminist, do you think of a bra-burning, man-hating lesbian with a megaphone? If so, you're not the only one.
Feminism has been around for a long time, but its definition tends to cause a lot of disagreement and sometimes, full blown arguments. So what does it actually mean? Let's lift the lid on the F word that shouldn't be as controversial as some deem it to be.
Put simply, feminism is about equal rights and opportunities regardless of gender whether they're social, political or economic so that everyone can reach their full potential.
Do you believe men and women should get paid the same amount for the same job? Do you believe everyone has the right to not be subjected to sexual assault or violence? Congratulations, you're a feminist!
WATCH: Meghan Markle discusses feminism and gender equality for International Women's Day. Post continues after video...
You may have also heard of intersectional feminism which sounds complicated but is really about acknowledging the relationship between gender and other forms of discrimination, like race, class, sexual orientation or whether someone has a disability, just to name a few examples. As the International Women's Development Agency put it, "The barriers faced by a middle class woman living in Melbourne are not the same as those of a queer woman living in rural Fiji."
But people continue to take issue with this F word for numerous reasons. Let's take a closer look at those.
Enough with the stigma around this F word. (Image: Getty Images)

Men and women aren't the same so equality can't ever be achieved

Physically speaking, one could argue that men and women are not the same. Men have more testosterone and are generally speaking, physically stronger than women though I bet you can think of many exceptions.
But physical strength and hormones are irrelevant when it comes to having the equal rights and opportunities. It's like saying a child with rich parents should have a better education than a child from a lower income background.
When we put these superficial differences aside and realise we are all deserving of the same rights and opportunities, awesome things can happen.
Watch Aziz Ansari on feminism. Post continues after video...

Why isn't it called equalism or humanism instead?

As the glorious Emma Watson said in her speech to the UN back in 2014, "It's not the word that is important, it's the idea and the ambition behind it."
The feminist movement was born to help women obtain the same rights as men and that 'fem' prefix is there because throughout history women have been disenfranchised and silenced. Since then we've seen lots of change and progress, but the movement's history of fighting oppression should be celebrated.
Humanism means something else entirely anyway: the definition is the belief that human needs and values are more important than religious beliefs, or the needs and desires of humans.
Instead of focusing on the word and re-branding, we need to be fighting the discrimination against women whether they're black, white, trans, queer, disabled etc. that is still going on even now.
Harry Potter star Emma Watson is one of our favourite feminists! (Image: Instagram @emmawatson)

Won't men miss out?

This question comes up a lot amongst people who don't identify as feminists. And the short answer is no.
Feminism is often associated with forceful, angry women determined to take away men's power and authority, but in reality it's about bringing women up to empower them, not bringing men down. In fact, men can benefit greatly from feminism as well.
Just as women have been defined by age-old stereotypes, so have men. Feminism means men can talk about their feelings instead of bottling them up and suffering from poor mental health. According to Beyond Blue, an average six out of every eight suicides every single day in Australia are men.
Feminism knows no bounds! (Image: Instagram @feminist)
Feminism also means the males in our lives can not feel shamed for wanting to look after their children instead of working and being the sole breadwinner or wearing pink or wanting to stay in and watch Gilmore Girls instead of State of Origin.
Feminism is not a bad, dirty word. Don't be afraid to wear it as a badge of honour as you have a whole army of us to support you along the way.