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Why so many young women don’t think of themselves as feminist?

In the December issue of the journal Mobilization, sociologists reveal that the turnout figures for the 2017 Women’s March solidarity events were remarkably high, drawing 100 times the national protest average.

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2017 women’s march that followed the election of Donald Trump was one of the most prominent feminist events in recent history. Yet BBC reports that fewer than 1 in 5 women identify as feminist. Which is surprising considering the current political situation around the world and many feminist movements taking centre stage, such as #metoo movement, fight for equal parental leave for fathers and the #everydaysexism movement to name a few.

When did the term ‘feminist’ become ‘dirty’?

It appears that while the rejection of the term is prevalent, it seems that the fundamental beliefs of the feminist movement are still very much part of people’s belief system. YouGov poll in 2018 found that more than 80% of surveyed in the UK said that men and women should have equal rights in every way. Interestingly, 91% of the surveyed in Finland said that the rights of men and women should be equal, but only 17% identified as feminist.

Scarlett Curtis in her book ‘Feminists Don’t Wear Pink and Other Lies’ addresses stereotypes associated with feminism that make feminism as a label/movement unappealing to women. Feminist are often thought of man-hating, hairy armpit creatures.

Christina Scharff while researching her book ‘Repudiating Feminism: Young Women in a Neoliberal World’ found associations with ‘feminism’ as man-hating, lesbianism or lack of femininity as primary factors for rejection of the label. Majority of interviewed didn’t want to be associated with these traits and therefore have been rejecting the label.

There are other factors such as soci-economic position, age and race that also have an effect on the number of women identifying as feminist. For example, the 2018 YouGov poll suggests that lower-income women believe in equality yet are less likely to identify as feminist.

At its core, feminism stands for the advocacy of women’s rights on the ground of the equality of the sexes. It can only be speculated, but the change in the traits associated with the label could come from a multitude of reasons, one being the overreporting of radical fringe movements. The more press reports on stereotypical militant, radical feminist the less appealing the label become to young women. Thankfully, while young women might be rejecting the label, the number suggest that more and more people support the movement of equality with or without the feminist label. At the end of the day that is the most important thing.

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