The Inherit Misogyny of Modern Feminism

Feminism, stop promoting the patriarchy and calling it our fight


Meet psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud. You may have heard of him; he’s been around the block. If you are a psychology major, women’s or gender studies major, or studying the humanities, you’re probably familiar with the renowned world-changing scholar who taught things like this:

“The woman who refuses to see her sexual organs as mere wood chips, designed to make the man’s life more comfortable, is in danger of becoming a lesbian.” (As summarized nicely by the book Sexy Bodies: The Strange Carnalities of Feminism.)

And said things like:

“Women oppose change, receive passively, and add nothing of their own.” (From a 1925 work by Freud entitled “The Psychical Consequences of the Anatomic Distinction Between the Sexes.”)

Or, more infamously, presented the wonderful idea of “penis envy,” a stage of self-proclaimed “normal” child development in which a young female “realizes she does not possess a penis, and experiences an envy of the male, which account[s] for much of female behaviour.” (Definition courtesy of the British Psychological Society.)

Right. That’s the reason young girls get depressed.

We do not have enough pages to unpack all of that. Thankfully, there are thousands of psychologists, scholars, psychoanalysts, and feminists who are doing the brutal work of dismantling the skewed views of femininity and women as failed men that Freud embedded in the study of human psychology.

But what if I told you that modern feminism actually supports this guy, poisoned by these base ideas?

Modern feminism does more to support the entrenched patriarchy than it does to dismantle it, by portraying and encouraging masculinity and traditional male gender roles as the highest level of equal human achievement — the standard that the modern, dareIsay feminist, woman should be striving to meet.

The problem lies with this encouraged masculinity coming at the expense of femininity, and offering only those two options for identity.

In doing this, modern feminism actively degrades a huge population of female-identifying people, villainizes femininity, and furthers the ages-old narrative that Freud swore was only natural: that women are nothing more than failed men.

A note, before proceeding. References to femininity and masculinity will be as theoretical concepts of typical gender presentations, adjectives and nouns. Any use of the terms “female” and “male,” “woman” and “man,” do not exclusively refer a cisgender individual but to any who identify as either, and will be the only two genders in the focus of this piece to narrow the scope of the piece.

There has been, even since the very beginning of the feminist movement, an ironic presence of anti-woman ideas. In Mary Wollstonecraft’s A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, a work widely recognized as the birth of contemporary feminism, woman is equated to femininity, but then femininity is equated to negative traits — simply because they are not male traits. Even in a piece that did so much to begin the fight to elevate women, the author still wrote that the “desire of being always women” is the “very consciousness which degrades the sex.”

Notions of this still bleed into modern feminism. Put simply, modern feminism upholds masculine superiority as the level women need to reach. Paired with placing the majority of the responsibility of gaining gender equality on the female population, in which we need to fight, speak up, work harder and be stronger, this reinforces a patriarchal society.


Traditional gender roles have placed men as the breadwinners, the fighters and successful and supreme members of society. No sources should be needed to prove that — just look to history. Look at the gender ratio of nearly every country’s leading government officials. Or even smaller, the richest people alive; the number of CEOs and successful business-people. The ratios are still skewed incredibly male.

Feminism has opened the door to encourage women to fight for those positions as well, and thankfully, we are slowly but surely beginning to reap the rewards of that fight as females move into those roles, too. However, if we’re not careful, this push for “successful women” is simultaneously, and most likely unknowingly, supporting the present patriarchy.

Dr. Kim Earhart, a history professor at Mt. SAC specializing in women’s history, spoke on the topic and spoke to the importance of the groundbreaking election of Kamala Harris as the first female vice president. “It is at least that model of possibility: now my daughter knows she can be this,” she said. “But my son knows it now too, and I think that’s just as important.”

“We have to show little girls they can do this,” she added, “but it’s also just as important for little boys to know that little girls can do it, so that we’re all trying to create this change together. Otherwise it feels like one half of us is always trying to make the change with a few advocates, as opposed to all of us together.”

Yes. If only this was understood everywhere.

Unfortunately, instead of fighting for a world in which men and women find common ground, respect, and true equality and equity, the fight has been largely pushed onto the females, demanding that they aspire and work to reach the success that men have already achieved. Instead of fighting for men to become gentler, more compassionate, and focus less on capitalistic dominance, feminism pushes that the “strong woman” of the 21st century is a woman who takes pride in being a bitch, doesn’t screw around with niceties like “Thank you!” or “Have a great day” in her emails, and aggressively exudes sexy dominance while she rocks a suit and heels day after day (#girlboss).

Who is ultimately benefiting from this kind of agenda?

This narrative, this fight, only reinforces the belief that the patriarchy instills in male typicality: that men are the superior sex, are inherently better than women, and that women, as Freud taught, envy their manhood.

Feminism is agreeing with that — even furthering it — when it preaches only the strong woman as the masculine woman. The moment this narrative is encouraged without being paired with an equally as pro-feminine and non-conforming argument, a woman is, just as Freud wanted us to believe, nothing more than a castrated, failed man.

One step forward in the name of gender equality is turning into two subtle steps backwards.

This hopefully unwanted aspect of feminism is producing a doubly difficult, disregarded fight: the fight of mothers, feminine women, non-confrontational women, women who due to many different circumstances cannot become those all-powerful CEOs, and women who are all around or in any way non-masculine.

The plight facing those groups changes and turns feminism, something that is “for everyone,” into something working against them.

Non-masculine women naturally make up a huge population of female-identifying people today — and notably, it was only recently that femininity stopped being the highest social achievement for women on most fronts. Suddenly gentleness and docility are signs of weakness, make-up, heels, and long hair are for pleasing men, marriage to a man is anti-feminist, and modesty, kindness and motherhood are shunned to make way for badass boss-bitches and an equivalency of sexuality to femininity.

Those are male standards; male traits, in the world we live in now. We have to recognize that, and ensure that we are pairing proclamations of those traits in a female being empowering (which, of course, they absolutely can be) with equal proclamations of femininity, softness, kindness, domesticity, and self-sacrifice — or any non-conforming gender presentation — as just as empowering.

Feminism is something that should be for everyone. That is the mantra the movement has shouted, but if only the most extreme, one-sided idea of feminism is being supported, we need to make sure we are recognizing what we are doing. Who are we excluding by promoting the “strong woman is a masculine woman” narrative and calling it feminist? Calling it progressive? What of the mothers, supporting families, creating and raising the next generation? Women who enjoy and celebrate their femininity? What of the women around the world devoted to their faith? Women happily working for charities and doing non-profit work? What of the women who are not as sex-positive, for any reason, as media likes to profit from?

Dr. Barbara Taylor, a historian specializing in gender studies, asks perfectly: “Just who is being hated when something called Woman is hated: the mother, the lover, the wife, the whore, the castrating bitch, or the Amazon man-woman?”

There is no one definition of woman, just as there can be no one definition of man, or human. But the one title that is certainly false is the one that Freud poisoned the world with: failed men.

Women are not failed men.

Masculine women are women, feminine women are women, non-conforming women are women. Women, under any definition, are not castrated males who need to strive to become as masculine as possible in order to be considered “strong.”

Feminism, please, stop promoting the patriarchy and calling it our fight.