My perception of feminism when I was in high school in the mid-noughties was that it was for girls who were overly serious and didn't shave their legs. And that I fundamentally wasn't one of them.

I had no conscious intake of this information from the world around me, which makes the opinion I'd gained on something I knew nothing about concerning. There I was, 14-years-old with my cow-licked fringe and train-track braces, saying ‘I'm more of a boy's girl, they're just easier to be friends with’. I instinctively recoiled from the term feminist like an EasyJet flight recoils from being on time, with no recollection on where I'd got that viewpoint until nearly 20 years later.

This negative depiction of feminism has been subconsciously drip-fed through the media since the start of the 20th century, during the first feminist movement and fight for suffrage. Any woman taking part in the Suffragette Movement was depicted as aggressive, unattractive, and undesirable, which, during a time where a woman's life depended on the finances of a husband, was the main way the media and men running the country attempted to keep their patriarchal structures in place.

The world has obviously progressed a lot since then, but the ghosts of the whole ‘you're a feminist so you're ugly and are going to die alone’ schtick still lingers, and there remains many people who see feminism as something bad, even if they don't entirely know why. Just the other month, a friend of mine said he worked with a brilliant woman who was ‘a feminist, but really lovely’. Another friend (yes, I have more than one) said not long ago, ‘I'm not a feminist, I just believe in equality’. Which, ironically, is exactly what makes her a feminist.

So, I think it's time to shed some light on what feminism actually is and debunk some long-outdated myths.

A Short History of Feminism (In Western Countries)

First wave: 1848-1920

The first wave of feminism focused on legal rights, specifically the right to vote, and was largely dominated by the beliefs and interests of white middle-class women. In 1928, women in the UK were granted equal voting rights thanks to the Suffragette movement, but your good-old home country the Isle of Man was actually a bit of a trendsetter back in ye olde days. We might not have a Nando's yet, but we did give some women the vote before anyone else in 1881.

Second wave: 1963-1980s

Second wave feminism focused on a few different things: • Expanding gender roles - women should be allowed to be more than just mothers and wives.

• Reproductive health, abortion rights, bodily autonomy.

• Financial independence - credit cards were only available to women whose husband co-signed one.

• Equality in the Workplace - until 1978, it was legal to fire a woman for getting pregnant. Also, a focus on better pay and legal protections against harassment and discrimination.

• Domestic Violence - before the 1970s, marital rape was legal. By 1993, it was a crime nationwide. So up until the year Jurassic Park came out men could still legally rape their wives.

Third wave: 1990s

Third-wave feminists encouraged women to express their sexuality and individuality. This was an era that sought to be more inclusive when it came to race and gender.

Fourth wave: Present day

In addition to holding powerful men accountable for their actions, (Eg. The #metoo movement), fourth-wave feminists are turning their attention to the systems that allow misconduct to occur. They continue to grapple with intersectionality, and how the feminist movement can be inclusive regardless of sexuality, race, class and gender.

Now that we've dabbled in a brief history, let's dibble in the different types of feminism.

Different Types of Feminism

There are a lot of different types of feminism, but the big ones people have usually heard of are:

Mainstream/Liberal feminism

Often predominantly white, middle-class women, liberal feminists mainly focus on achieving equality between the sexes through social, political, and legal means.

Radical feminism

Radical feminists believe women's oppression is the result of the patriarchy and that the only way to end this oppression is to overthrow it.

A sidenote to tell you about the patriarchy in case anyone isn't sure what the term means. It's much more than men wearing spurs, drinking beer, and riding horses- Ken in Barbie. The patriarchy is a system where men control a disproportionately large share of social, economic, political and religious power.

Radical feminism often portrays women as universally good and men as universally bad, and has been accused of man-hating and being unaccepting of trans women.

Intersectional Feminism

This is a more recent type of feminism focused on the fact that systems of oppression impact people differently based on their race, class, ability, sexuality, and other characteristics. While mainstream feminism may focus primarily on gender or sex, intersectional feminism understands that oppression is an interlocking system.

Now. Onto the debunking of some myths, starting with an important question:

What Actually is Feminism?

Simply put: Feminism is about all genders, regardless of race, class, ability, and sexuality having equal rights and opportunities.

Myth: Feminism isn't for men

Feminism is a levelling of the playing field by raising others up, not bringing men down. Unless you're the Harvey Weinsten kind. Then you will eventually get toppled like the eye of Sauron in The Lord of the Rings. Actually, that’s probably not a great example.. He produced The Lord of the Rings. Although, apparently one of the orc masks was designed to look like Harvey Weinsten as an F you to the guy so I’m going to keep the reference.

The patriarchy doesn't only work against the best interests of women. It pressures men to suppress their vulnerability and conform to outdated stereotypes of what a ‘real man’ should be. Often it includes bottling up emotions and being shamed with phrases like ‘don't be a girl’ when you don't. Nice double blow for both men and women.

These standards keep men from seeking healthcare when needed and can have fatal repercussions, with (predominantly middle-aged) male suicide rates being three times higher than women in the Isle of Man. The patriarchy hurts men too.

Plus, guys, pretty much all of you have mothers, sisters, daughters, aunts, or friends who are female. Wouldn't you want them to have access to the same opportunities and rights as you? This includes the right to feel safe in all environments. Your female allies shouldn't have to walk home at night holding their keys between their fingers ‘just in case.’

Myth: Feminists are Butch Lesbians, Irrationally Angry, Ugly Women Who Can't Get Boyfriends

Firstly, I don't think lesbians care about getting a boyfriend. The rest is so early 1900s. Get with the times.

Myth: Feminists burn bras

I remember unknowingly knowing this so-called fact during school. Turns out, it didn’t actually happen. It all stemmed from a demonstration at the Miss America contest in 1968. There was a ‘Freedom Trash Can’ women threw underwear into but rumours spread like wildfire (ironically) about it being burned. But mission accomplished, that rumour took the spotlight as the main thing the public remembered, overcasting the real reasons people were protesting the contest, which included the lack of women of colour to ever make the final.

Myth: Feminists can't wear makeup, or watch porn, or wear pink etc.

Feminism gives women the choice to be just as multi-faceted as all human beings.

You can be a feminist and love being a stay at home mum. You can be a feminist girl boss who loves a bit of submission in the bedroom. You can be a feminist who loves ‘girly’ things and cooking your husband a good meal. You can be a feminist who’s an advocate for women’s rights but also bitches about other women from time to time. You can be a feminist while simultaneously despising the pressures of the male gaze to ‘look nice’ all the time and enjoy using make up to ‘look nice’ for yourself and, admittedly, sometimes for the male gaze. We live in a flawed system that overlaps in so many ways. Despite the media often saying if you’re a feminist you have to cater your life in a certain way and be held to a certain set of standards, the whole point of feminism is that you have the choice to be whoever you want to be. So long as you're making your own choices, no matter how much they may contradict one another, the choices alone are what matters.

Hopefully this has shed some light on feminism and taken the edge off the false narrative surrounding it. I personally still have my cow licked fringe and shave my legs like I did at fourteen, but can now say I fundamentally am a feminist.