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#YSBnowRealTalk: What is “Feminism”? We Break it Down For You.


#YSBnowRealTalk: What is “Feminism”? We Break it Down For You.

From the definition, to the backlash, to celebrity feminists.

by Molly Thomson

“Feminism” is a term that elicits all manner of reactions, from grimaces of disgust to fierce nods to rolled eyes. For a word to have that kind of power, it must be linked to a strong movement—and it is. Despite many celebrities and younger generations embracing the term, feminism (in both word and movement) is somehow still quite controversial.  Be that as it may, it is also necessary, critical, and carries a lot of hope for future progress. I’m sure many (if not most) of you already know this, but this article is for those of you who may not, who want to share with a friend, or who want to know more.


According to Merriam Webster’s dictionary, feminism is defined as: “the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities.” That’s it. That’s all. So if you are not a “feminist,” you do not believe that men and women should have equal rights or opportunities. That is all that that big, scary word that so many people are afraid of means.

Why not “humanist”?

A lot of people have made the claim that they are not “feminists,” but “humanists,” because the word “feminist” carries a negative connotation. The reason that this does not make sense is because women are at a disadvantage in our society: we are paid less, underrepresented in government, tech, media, and in high-level positions, at a higher risk for sexual assault and domestic abuse, more likely to live in poverty, and have to pay more for household items, to name a few inequalities.  That does not even begin to cover micro-aggressions, or small day-to-day indignities that women face that men do not (like being told to smile on the street, or being called “honey” at work.) Therefore, the word “feminism” addresses this inequality, while the word “humanism” does not suggest that anything needs to change.

Celeb Feminists:

Fortunately, there are a LOT of these. Rowan Blanchard & Yara Shahidi (pictured above), 5H’s Lauren Jauregui, Beyonce, Ellen Page, Madonna, Hillary Clinton, Lena Dunham, Angelina Jolie, Emma Watson, John Legend, Amy Poehler, Clare Danes, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Miley Cyrus, Ashton Kutcher…the list goes on. We are not alone, and you certainly do not need to be a woman to be a feminist; support from men is so helpful.

Why is there backlash?

This is a complicated question that I cannot fully delve into in this article, but there seem to be a few reasons for backlash: either that people do not believe that women are at a disadvantage in our society, or that people believe gender roles ought to be kept in place—i.e. women should do more of the cooking and child-rearing, men should make more of the money, etc.

What you can do: 

There are a ton of feminist organizations you can donate your time or your money to! Femsplain, AAUW, Women’s Global Empowerment Fund, Alliance for International Women’s Rights, and Planned Parenthood are just a few. You can also help by listening to women when they explain their grievances, and standing up for them to make sure that they are heard. Start changing the world by calling yourself a feminist–and telling your friends to as well. Embrace the word for what it means, which is equality. 

Please tweet us @YSBnow if you have any questions about equality, progress, or smashing the patriarchy.

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