The world is dangerous out there for everyone. But to me, as a woman, I see it as just a little bit more dangerous. Ever since I was little, my parents have raised me to not talk to strangers (both men and women) and to never go with someone besides one of them. This is common for all young children to hear. But there are some differences between boys and girls once they get older. I learned about rape, about boys calling me names, about older men that would say things to me that I should never respond to.
When I was in middle school, both boys and girls started using the words “whore,” “slut," and “b*tch." I wondered what qualified female students to be called names like that, because only the girls were ever called these names. Boys especially threw the words around ruthlessly. When I was thirteen, for the first time in my life, I was called a whore. I still remember this clearly, and how ashamed I felt. I remember looking at what I was wearing, wondering if the boy who called me that was somehow provoked by my clothing. I was wearing jeans, a flannel shirt, and a jacket. I was confused, but I know that that’s just “boys being boys.” Right?
In high school, those words were thrown around even more. My first day of freshman year, I got in trouble for violating the dress code because the straps on my dress were “too thin” and I was showing too much shoulder. I wasn’t aware that shoulders were that distracting. From then on, jokes about female stereotypes were abundant. I dated a boy who thought calling me a b*tch was ok until finally I let him know that it wasn’t and walked away. I started hearing news stories from other towns about girls being raped and the rapists getting no jail time. I learned about victim blaming, and how it seems that there’s always a way to make it the girl’s fault. I had teachers (female teachers actually) who favored boys over girls, and trusted the boys more with bigger roles than any of the girls in class. I learned more about feminism, about how important it is and why people are scared of it. I learned about the horrible ordeals that women of different races, both here and in other countries, such as the Middle East, go through, and the severe inequality around the world showed me that we need feminism.
I remember hearing about a terrorist group that kidnapped about 223 girls from a boarding school. They were targeted because women weren’t supposed to be learning, they were supposed to be marrying and having children. I remember this hitting me hard, because I could go to school without fear of being assaulted or kidnapped, like many girls around the world are. I remember thinking how lucky I was, and wishing that there was a way I could help. I still do.
Now that I’m in college, I hear men constantly using the word "bitches" as a synonym for groups of random girls. I can’t walk to a party without me and my other female friends being yelled at from passing cars. I see men trying too hard to be “real men” and not show emotion or softness. In the beginning of this year, an old teacher of mine from high school was killed by her husband, and I can’t wrap my head around how people can do something like that to a person they claim to love.
And with all of these experiences, I still believe that things have improved. I’ve been lucky not to have experienced worse things like many other women have. But we still have a long way to go. I think the video, “ Dear Daddy,” is one that everyone needs to watch- it demonstrates how we need to protect each other, not just women but men too. We need to look out for each other and stand up for the girls that are being called "whores" and "sluts," and stand up for boys who are accused of being “gay” or “pussies." It’s never been okay, and it’s time for it to stop. Words have a lot of power, just like the “Dear Daddy” video portrays.
Honestly, I believe the world is more dangerous for women because I read that in China, baby girls are abandoned in the street because families just want boys. I read about child marriage in the Middle East, and how girls aren’t allowed to go to school past a young age. I read about instances of rape, sex trafficking, and relationship abuse that are happening here, in the U.S. every single day. For many women in the world, it is undoubtedly more dangerous to be female.
But the point of feminism isn’t just to fight for women; it’s also to fight for men. Because men have problems too, and I think we tend to overlook these issues. I don’t want to blame men in general for all of these problems, because it is not all men that cause these problems. Many women also cause problems with gender inequality. It would be unfair to say that only men are the cause of sexism, just like it would be unfair to say that women are not capable of sexism or doing horrible things.
Until recently, I have focused more on issues that women are facing. But as I grow older, I'm starting to understand that in order to achieve equality, we cannot focus on just women's issues. I have struggled with this because it used to seem to me that men don't face inequality, when in fact they do, just in different ways. It's time that we address all gender issues of all races in every part of the world.
Men are also raped, abused, and laughed at. They have their own societal stereotypes that we need to get rid of, and there is pressure for them, almost just as much as women, to look a certain way. Many times, men are not allowed in homeless or domestic abuse shelters. There is pressure on men to be the "breadwinner" and it is the norm for men to not show much emotion. This isn't right.
This is why we need feminism, because we need equality.
Maybe one day boys won’t feel pressured by their friends to call girls names, or yell at them from car windows, just for the sake of being funny or tough or whatever. Maybe one day girls will stop feeling frustrated or angry at the fact that the only thing that puts them at risk or in danger is their gender.