The word “feminism” today seems to hold a much more convoluted meaning than what it once represented. Coined by Frenchman, Charles Fourier, in the late 19th century, the term originated from the French word “feminisme" and was initially introduced in association with a growing movement toward equal legal and political rights for women. It was originally intended to combat the overbearing patriarchy that held women under its thumb as literal possessions of men.
At the time, women could not own property, vote, work, or make decisions for themselves. They were spoken for by their fathers until they wed, and then by their husbands. Women were not allowed to possess their own agency, and therefore had no freedom of will.
The early suffragettes and first wave feminism rallied, and in 1902, Australia became the first country in the world to allow women the rights to BOTH vote and serve in parliament. It was another 18 years before the United States ratified their constitution and granted women the right to vote in 1920.
Since that initial wave of feminism, two more have taken place, the third still occurring as I type these words. With each wave comes a growing sentiment that feminism no longer represents a simple request for women to be treated equally, but instead paints advocates of feminism as rabid, man-hating beasts, frothing at the mouth to replace men in society with women.
Feminazi. That’s the derogatory term that is most widely used when referring to "radical" feminists who have the nerve to believe that women should have the same fundamental rights as their male counterparts. You know, like equal pay for equal work, not being sexually objectified, not constantly be sexually harassed or assaulted, and not having to be afraid to walk alone after dark.
Within several western nations, there is a growing anti-feminist movement that, surprisingly, counts many beneficiaries of feminism within its ranks. Women all around the world, but primarily in majority white industrialised nations, are taking offence to being associated with feminism. These anti-feminists genuinely believe the feminist movement allows women to play the "victim" role in society, and as victims, they hold no responsibility for speaking up for themselves. Instead, they argue, victims ask society to punish those who might cause them offence.
They further believe that they don’t need feminism because they are more privileged than any women that have come before them. They have the right to vote, own property, work, serve in government, and haven’t personally been violated by sexual harassment or assault – what more could they ask for? They’re not convinced the number of women around the world in abusive situations, sold into human trafficking, and treated worse than livestock in countries like Afghanistan are in need of such a concept as equality.
The other segment of the anti-feminist movement is, in large part, the men who see feminists as raging dykes who simply want to replace them in the world. They refuse to acknowledge the continued repression and victimisation of women throughout society and have begun a "Meninism” countermovement. Although the concept was initially started under the guise of parody, it has gained steam as a full-fledged men’s rights movement.
Refreshingly though, there is yet another movement gaining traction. Men, proudly calling themselves feminists, are taking to the streets (literally) in protest of the way women continue to be treated in the 21st century. And there are beloved young celebrities like Emma Watson who are speaking out on massive public forums and demonstrating that feminism isn't a hatred of men, and it really is nothing more than a request to be entitled to the same basic human rights they receive.
The topics of feminism and women’s equality are ones that likely will not see resolution any time in the near future. When misogynistic men of power and wealth, such as Donald Trump, are elected take the helm of a country whose economy and trends literally affect the entire rest of the world, the true ideals feminism represents are set back decades. It will take another generation or two of male children being raised with the right morals to undo the damage done by the latest surge in anti-feminist sentiment.