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What Is Radical Feminism?

Radical feminism is actually just a term to disempower, really.

Feminism, for reasons beyond my understanding, is a touchy subject. I remember when I told a date that I was a feminist. (Yes, I dropped the "F word" during a date, deal with it.) 

The first thing that the guy did was tell me that I had "better not be one of those radical feminists" like Gloria Steinem. The second thing he did was ask me where I was going, after I downed his whiskey shot and made my way towards the door. 

When you hear the phrase "radical feminism," it has an inexplicably negative connotation. I'm here to explain why radical feminism really doesn't exist, and why people are using it as a term to disempower and shame people who believe in equality for all. 

First, we need to accurately define feminism before we talk about radicalism.

Feminism, at its core, is mainly about four things:

  • It's against the oppression of women, transpeople, and nonbinary people.
  • It's about having body positivity and equal expectations of all genders.
  • It's about sex-positivity and ensuring equal rights for all despite sexual orientation, weight, race, or gender.
  • It's about ensuring that all people have control over what happens to their bodies.

In other words, it's about making sure that we all have the same rights regardless of gender. It's the concept that we are all humans and should be treated equally.

Realistically, being a feminist means that you're not being a jerk and are willing to allow people to define their bodies, sexuality, and gender as they see fit. That's all it means. 

Now, let's talk about radicalism.

Radicalism in its most official terminology is seen as a political term and focuses on movements that require extreme, sweeping change in laws. To a point, feminism does require law changes in order to protect all parties. However, much of feminism is about expanding knowledge and not being a jerk. 

Feminism, though it has political roots, is mostly a social thing. It's the idea that you call people out when they're doing something morally wrong. That being said, there are enclaves of feminists who have strong left leanings, including Marxist feminists and socialist feminists.

Political radicalism can be both a right-wing and left-wing issue. Though the official definition is about sweeping political change, the truth is that it's taken on a different connotation. These days, radicalism is virtually synonymous with extremism. 

In a political sense, most radicals suggest violent upheavals and revolutions.

If you take a look at how most radical movements go, it's widespread protests, riots, and violence. That has not really been the case with most feminists. Sure, we may participate in a women's march or two, but it's primarily a nonviolent movement. 

The funny thing is that feminism is actually one of the most non-violent movements in the United States right now. Sexist groups like certain men's rights organizations, on the other hand, have been strongly associated with doxxing attacks, rape threats, and school shootings. 

Feminism hasn't changed things rapidly, either.

Radicalism also suggests extremely rapid change that leaves a country very different. The revolutionaries that took over Iran during the 70s were radicals that literally changed the entire country into something unrecognizable over a span of years. 

Radical feminism would probably involve mandatory equal wage laws, removing laws preventing religious excuses for doctors to refuse patients, as well as a draft that involves people of all genders within a matter of a year. 

It took feminism about 90 years to get to where we are now, and we still have a long way to go. Not very radical, is it?

Now, let's put those two definitions together and see what the problem is.

We've defined both feminism and radicalism. With radicalism being extremism, and feminism being about gender equality...that means that radical feminism means a desire for all people to be extremely equal.

That doesn't make much sense, does it? You're either equal or you're not. Expecting respect and autonomy is common sense. There's nothing "extreme" about wanting to be treated as a full-fledged human being. 

Moreover, if equality and mutual respect is such a radical concept, what does that say about our society as a whole?

There's nothing extreme about treating others with respect. There's nothing extreme about allowing people to make decisions regarding their own bodies and what happens to them.  There's also nothing extreme about being willing to let people do what they want as long as they are not hurting anyone. 

Those are basic tenets of feminism. The fact that people think that's extreme should be cause for concern. The fact that others feel threatened by feminism speaks volumes about how far we still have to go. 

Now, let's think about the tropes involving radical feminism.

When people think of radical feminism, they think of man-hating women who want to "cull the male population." They may also think of transgender people who want to, "drink cishet tears."

They assume that it means that a woman can't get laid and is angry at the world because of it. Or, they assume it's a "precious snowflake" who wants to be different by being argumentative. 

Real talk—there are people like that who claim to be feminists. However, people who are like that aren't feminists. Rather, they are sexists. They are sexist because they are discriminating against men rather than trying to work for equal rights. 

So, the question remains why so many people assume that reverse sexism equals radical feminism.

This isn't surprising if you think about it. Anti-male sexists claim to be feminists—and they give most other feminists a bad name. However, they are a very small minority of the movement. 

The real truth is that the term "radical feminism" has become a smear campaign by people who do not want to see gender equality among transpeople, men, and women. It's a campaign that was started and perpetuated by people who have something to gain from seeing inequality. 

The fact that people see feminism as a threat is also very telling about the mindsets of many in our country.

It's insane how many people use terms like "man-hater" and "radical feminist" as a slur. It's sad to see that "radical feminism" turned into such a word of shame among so many people.

It's worrying to think about what this means for the people who hate feminism. Hatred and playing the blame game are key indicators of poor mental health.

When you have to rely on keeping others down to push others up, chances are that you are not a very emotionally well-off person. Chances are that you're using women and transpeople as a scapegoat for something else that is lacking in your life. 

So, let's stop using the term, okay?

Radical feminism is feminism—but marketed as a threat rather than the solution that it is. As long as you want equality, respect, and autonomy, you're a feminist. That's all there really is to it. 

Read next: For the Tomboy
Sasha Konikovo
Sasha Konikovo

Born in the Ukraine and currently a citizen of New York City, Sasha Konikovo has become obsessed with makeup, fashion, and anything that keeps her svelte figure looking sharp. She hopes to marry a billionaire and have a lifestyle like Paris Hilton soon enough.

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What Is Radical Feminism?
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