Feminism 101

What is feminism?

Feminism is a movement that advocates for gender equality. The goal of feminism is for all people to be treated equally. What differentiates feminism from other social movements is the focus on gender and how it relates to the oppression of women, as well as people with non-binary gender identities and expressions.

Why does feminism matter?

Sex and gender are used as justification for treating women (and non-cis and non-binary people) differently than men. This includes acts of violence (acid attacks, rape, female genital mutilation), acts of discrimination (harassment, restricted reproductive rights, glass ceiling), and acts of bias (slut shaming, wage gap, objectification). Feminism matters because the movement is working to dismantle these oppressive structures. Feminists want everyone to be paid equally, everyone to walk the streets at night without fear of violence or rape, and for everyone to be treated equally, no matter their gender.

Is feminism different than humanism?


Feminism specifically focuses on gender as a reason for inequality. Since women (and non-cis and non-binary people) have historically been treated worse than men, we need to focus on giving rights to this marginalized group of people to achieve full equality. Many people choose to say they’re feminists because saying you’re a humanist/equalist erases this disparity. Historically, women’s contributions have been erased or ignored. By emphasizing the words female and femme in the word feminism, the movement attempts to reclaim this history and devote an entire movement to women’s liberation.

What is patriarchy?

The patriarchy is the name for the system that privileges men. In this system, men hold most or all of the power, and it is difficult or impossible for women to reach the same status as men. The patriarchy does not mean a small group of men are sitting in a room actively making decisions to oppress women. Rather, it’s a name for a system that historically has given men more rights than women. These rights can be obvious (not letting women own land or vote, dismissing/ignoring rape reports) or more subtle (devaluing female-dominated jobs, presenting women as sex objects in media/advertisements).

I’m a woman, but I don’t feel oppressed; why should I care about feminism?

Being a feminist doesn’t mean you “feel oppressed.” It simply means that you want gender equality. You may not have noticed outright sexism towards you, but a lot of sexism is subtle. Street harassment, being valued for your looks over your brains, sexual assault/rape, and employment discrimination are all examples of sexism. Also, just because you haven’t experienced something doesn’t mean that other women haven’t– choosing not to support gender equality because you don’t feel like it helps you is kind of a selfish thing to do.


A concept created by black feminists and coined by Kimberlé Crenshaw that describes the way our identities, as well as systems of oppression, overlap. Feminism has historically excluded marginalized women and situated the issues relevant to privileged women at the center of feminist activism. To avoid this, making our feminism intersectional is absolutely necessary. Intersectionality acknowledges the way that things like racism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, etc. can intersect with sexism and disproportionately affect women with marginalized identities. – Marina Watanabe

Do feminists hate men?


Nope. Feminists are frustrated with the patriarchy, but that does not mean feminists do not like men. Individual men do not represent the patriarchy as a whole. And men can be feminists, too: Men have been part of the feminist movement since it began. Don’t forget that most heterosexual feminist women date/marry/have children with men, so hating men would make all of that a little difficult. Also, just in case you’re wondering, feminist women also do not want women to be superior to men, do not want to kill all men, do not want a society with only women, etc. We just want equality.

Can men be feminists?

“Definitely! Feminism is for everybody. Men who are feminists just need to be sure they acknowledge the privilege they have and are using that privilege to help bring attention to and support the movement. As a man, you can listen to women’s concerns, challenge your male privilege, and hold other men accountable. In feminist spaces, it’s best for men to take the backseat and actively listen to women’s concerns while thinking of productive ways to challenge their own privilege while lending support to the movement.” – by Jamie Utt and Jenika McCrayer