Feminism Myths That Need to Die

November 1st 2015

Everybody is talking about feminism nowadays, but there are lots of misconceptions about what it really means to be a feminist. Some of these notions are more damaging than others because they discourage people from identifying as feminist, which is really about supporting equality for women. And who doesn't want that?

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Here are some common myths about feminism that we must retire immediately.

1. Feminists are unattractive

When certain people think of feminists, they come up with images of bra burning and hairy legs and armpits and argue that feminists are ugly. But that's such an unfair description that noted feminist Jessica Valenti tweeted this in response:

The reality is that feminists come in all shapes, sizes, and appearances. A person's physical attributes do not determine whether or not that individual is a feminist.

2. Stay-at-home moms can't be feminists

Though some argue otherwise, staying at home with the kids doesn't mean you're not a feminist. The Ms. Foundation recently called for a more inclusive feminist movement with the hashtag #MyFeminismIs, and writer Heather Wood Rudulph championed the same thing in a stay-at-home-mom piece for the Huffington Post several years ago.

RELATED: #MyFeminismIs Is A Feminist Movement For Everyone

"Women who choose to go back to work after baby, or those who don't have any choice but to, are not better feminists than I am," she wrote. "And this is why feminism needs to be -- and is -- a flexible ideology. It's inclusive, because we all need it."

Rudulph also took issue with writer Elizabeth Wurtzel's Atlantic piece that argued that wealthy housewives hurt the feminist movement.

"Wurtzel's picture of a perfect feminist is this: A woman who gets an advanced degree, works in a prestigious field, never marries, and certainly doesn't stay home with children, if she decides to have them, which she probably won't," Rudulph wrote. "This antiquated vision of feminism is the real problem with the movement today, insofar as the more people who think this, the less informed participants feminism has."

3. Taking your husband's last name is anti-feminist

bride at a weddingFlickr/lindsey child - flic.kr

It's not unusual for feminists to keep their maiden names after getting married. But taking your husband's last name doesn't make you any less of a feminist.

Last year, in a piece for Verily magazine, writer and self-proclaimed feminist Mary Rose Somarriba explained her decision to take her spouse's name. "I did so because I like the sound of it," she wrote. "I like the consistency for me and my family and the fact that I will have the same last name as my children. Even though I had established a professional byline with my maiden name, I thought, 'It’s a new start.'"

Some women, such as pop sensation Beyonce, hyphenate their last names after getting married. There's no "one size fits all" choice, and there's so much more to feminism than one's last name.

4. Feminists can't love cooking or cleaning or anything domestic

FeminismFlickr/April Spreeman - flickr.com

Cooking and chores can be a lot of work, but if you like these things, you're not a bad feminist. Humans are complicated beings, and it's totally OK to enjoy making delicious food after a long day of fulfilling, intellectually stimulating work.

Research has shown that cleaning and cooking can improve one's mental health, so you shouldn't feel like you have to deprive yourself of these things to maintain your standing as a feminist.

"Homemaking and caring for the person you're making that home with and feminism are not only allowed to co-exist, they easily go hand-in-hand," Bustle's Kat George wrote earlier this year. "You're allowed to be a domestic Goddess living in cohabitated bliss while still fighting the good fight. You're just fighting it from the luxury of a freshly bleached bathroom floor and a lovingly prepared eight-hour stew."

5. Men can't be feminists

This is what a feminist looks like shirtQuestioning Gender Tumblr - tumblr.com

Not all men are uncomfortable with the notion of feminism, and some happily embrace it. "Orange Is the New Black" actor Matt McGorry is a great example of a male feminist, and he's far from alone. Consider Mic's "Flip the Script" video below.


Earlier this year, Mic senior editor and well-known feminist Elizabeth Plank met up with McGorry in Los Angeles to discusses his views on feminism. Plank said that McGorry used to be a bodybuilder and that she finds it interesting to see someone with a hypermasculine background label himself a feminist.

"You play a man's man on television, but in your free time, you read [Sheryl Sandberg's] 'Lean In,'" Plank said. "Don't you feel like you're lying to your fans?"

"I think that ... having some traits that are traditionally masculine doesn't exclude me from wanting gender equality," he said. "I don't think they're mutually exclusive things ... I think it benefits everyone [to be feminist]."

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