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Feminism 101: A Cheat Sheet on Sexism, Misogyny, Misogynoir and More

When it is all said and done, both male and female identified people need feminism.

From ‘Ain’t I a Woman’ by Sojourner Truth to “Who Run the World” by Beyonce, feminism is a word that sparks contrasting feelings globally. And depending on which country you are living in, feminism can often be dangerous. Take Malala Yousafzai, for example, a Pakistani feminist activist whose push for education, equality, and peace, conjured enough anger from a man to attempt to kill her at the age of 16, by shooting her in the face.

In America, feminism has a dividing line. Feminists ourselves often try to extend our voices on the importance of equal rights for women, yet on the other end of the spectrum, anti-feminists believe we are simply “pushing our agenda,” so anti-feminist in fact, that they managed to get an angry, sexist, racist, misogynist elected to President of the United States.

Now more than ever, society must seek to understand feminism, and the many ways anti-feminism is causing harm and taking lives. In order to end anti-feminism, we have to look at the way we define it, which includes new vocabulary that we may not be familiar with.

Sexism by definition is prejudice and discrimination based on sex — especially discrimination against women. Sexism has been insidious throughout much of human history, it has shaped our laws and the way women are allowed to exist, from the gender wage gap, to how they are allowed to dress, to even something as simple as walking outside alone.

Almost a century ago, women weren’t allowed to vote, own property, access contraception, and were often married off at a young age, with our without consent. At the turn of the century, we saw women being vocal about their feminist beliefs, a belief that simply meant they deserve the same rights as men.

Related: Misogyny Against Black and Brown Women and Femmes Is Still Celebrated

In our current time, we have begun to shift feminist language to be inclusive to all feminine-identified people, who all face the pressures of an anti-feminist society. Cissexism, for example, is a portmanteau of cisgender and sexism. It is vocabulary used to describe when cis privilege goes unchecked and is defined by the prejudice and discrimination of transgender people. Transgender and non-binary people often experience cissexism in the form of our gender identity being put into question, being questioned about our chromosome count, the focus on our genitalia, our existence being rendered as illegitimate, etc.

But even with this new term, both sexism and cissexism paints a broad picture. We often assume the best of women’s liberation, but the stark reality is that white supremacy has always juxtaposed a dividing line between white feminism and black feminism. And the women’s suffragist movement alienated women of color in the same way it does now. Definitions began to emerge focusing on the need for equal rights for women of color, such as misogynoir, a term coined by queer Black feminist Moya Bailey and heavily discussed on the womanist blog, Gradient Lair, which explains the intersection of discrimination by race and gender that are faced by black women. Transmisogynoir is its complimentary term used to explain the discrimination faced by black transgender women and black femmes.

Transmisogynoir is perhaps one of the biggest examples of anti-feminism, as black transgender women often face the heaviest and most brutal forms of hatred against women. Black transgender women face some of the highest homicide rates, suicide rates, and sexual violence, our access to safety is limited, as we face brutality by those who are supposed to protect us as well.

But women are not the only ones who face these forms of misogyny.

Prejudice and discrimination against men indeed exists and is termed misandry. But for the most party, misandry is created as a reaction to misogyny. And to a further extent, misandry is generated by misogyny. Men who face prejudice and discrimination do so out of their own discrimination against women, which limits their gender expression.  As an example, misandry is often experienced by men when their masculinity is put into question because to be seen as less masculine, or weak, an ideology perpetuated by misogyny.

When it is all said and done, both male and female identified people need feminism. It is an ignorant assumption to assume feminism is all about women’s rights and women’s rights only. It is only seen that way because for women, the bar is set so low, they are crushing under the weight.

In order to have equal rights of the sexes, we must lift up the group deemed subordinate to the same level. In a society, where we can elect a man whose catchphrase was “grab ‘em by the pussy” it is deeply important that we stop erasing, dehumanizing and turning a blind eye to misogyny.

So let’s start now. What will you do today to help liberate feminine identified people?

Featured Image: Stuart, Creative Commons


Serena is a transgender writer who focuses on culture through an LGBT+ lens. When she's not writing you can catch her obsessing over the latest episodes of Game of Thrones and Stranger Things.

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