Feminist vs. Extremist: What’s the difference?

By JESSICA MONZO staff writer

Oprah Winfrey, Olivia Wilde, Madonna, Hillary Clinton, Angelina Jolie, Malala Yousafzai, Beyonce, and Emma Watson. What do these iconic women have in common? According to Lauren Alexis Fisher, author from Harper’s Bazaar, these women have all changed the face of feminism in their own ways. Who would automatically assume they were feminists?

Keep in mind, feminism doesn’t necessarily mean female. Danielle Radcliffe, Ian Somerhalder, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Patrick Stewart, Mark Ruffalo, David Schwimmer, John Legend, Prince Henry, Ryan Gosling, Ben Stiller, The Dalai Llama, Will Smith, Ashton Kutcher, and President Barrack Obama are all feminists, according to Alanna Vagianos, editor for The Huffington Post.

Feminism comes off as a negative, almost taboo word today that many women shy away from, for they might be seen as “too strong, too aggressive, isolating, and anti-men. Unattractive, even,” as claimed by Emma Watson in her United Kingdom speech presented Sept. 20, 2014. Why does the “f-word” spar so much negativity? Is there confusion between radical or extreme feminism (also referred to as Femi Nazism), and feminism itself?

Nicole Perez, journalism major at Cumberland County College (CCC), defines a feminist as “somebody who just stands up for women’s rights in being equal with men. I think a lot of people over think and over exaggerate what a feminist really is,” but she also understands that others view feminists as an “aggressive group of ladies. I automatically picture really tough women, but I don’t think they’re as aggressive as people make them out to be.” According to the Oxford Dictionary, the definition of feminism is “the advocacy of women’s rights on the ground of the equality of the sexes.”

Perez continues to explain the difference is between a feminist and a radical feminist. “The vibe I’m getting from an extremist is somebody who over exaggerates everything, and I don’t think feminists do that.” When Perez says “over exaggerate”, it seems like this idea could be linked to the “too strong, too aggressive, isolating, and man hating,” idea of feminism that Watson mentioned in her speech at the UN.

According to Jone Johnson Lewis, a women’s history expert, the definition of radical feminism is “a philosophy emphasizing the patriarchal roots of inequality between men and women, or, more specifically, social dominance of women by men. Radical feminism views patriarchy as dividing rights, privileges and power primarily by gender, and as a result oppressing women and privileging men.”

What about the male perspective? Elijah Corbitt, communications major at CCC, believes the definition of feminism is “fighting for equal rights between men and women,” but his initial views are that he is “annoyed. Honestly, and I mean that respectively, because when I hear the word “feminist” I think a lot of people in the feminist movement want to say men and women are the same. I don’t believe they’re the same. I think biology would support that and of course, I have religious reasons to feel that way. That’s not to say that women are inferior to men, but I don’t feel that they are the same and I don’t feel that we should try to make them the same.”

Where does this leave us? Too often people still believe that a woman’s job is to stay at home as domestic house wives. What about the women who want something different out of life? What about the women who aspire to become the CEO of a big company, who dream of becoming president, or who want to lead a single life-style and not be expected to have children? What about the rarely thought of men who want to become nurses and not be judged by others because it is a “female’s job”? What about the men who decide to be stay-at-home father’s? What about the men who deserve full custody of their children?

This is what gender equality and feminism is all about. Non-extreme feminists believe in the picture of equality among the sexes. Not all feminists are man-hating, bra burning radicals intolerant to the idea that women can still be stay-at-home mothers.

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