Feminism is defined in the English dictionary as “the advocacy of women's rights on the basis of the equality of the sexes.” It seems to have gotten off track and acquired a negative connotation. Some people view it as women wanting superiority over men, to stand on the higher ground, or to flip the hierarchy. My response to those remarks is: how can we wish stand on higher ground when we aren’t even on equal ground?

Women were granted the right to vote with the 19th Amendment’s ratification in 1920. Despite President Kennedy’s attempt to enforce equal pay in 1963, there is still a wage gap between men and women in modern day. As of this year, women make about 80 cents to every dollar a man makes. That means that a woman can do the same exact job as a man, both doing it to 100% of their ability, but the woman will only earn 4/5ths of what the man earns. Women have made major progress since the feminist movements have begun, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t still countless things left to achieve. The gender gap exists all over the world. In Malta, a man can kidnap a woman and if he chooses to marry her, he is not subject to prosecution. Young girls are often forced into sex slavery or prostitution. In many countries, laws do not even exist to guard women from domestic violence. To less extremes, but just as important, two-thirds of illiterate people in the world are women; many girls are not only not allowed to finish school but often not even allowed to enroll in the first place; women are paid less worldwide than men – yes, still.

If those statistics don’t force you to think about the issue that is occurring right in front of our eyes, maybe a first hand experience will. Karla Jacinto, a Mexican native, told CNN her story. After experiencing an abusive childhood, she was lured into sex trafficking and was raped 43,200 times during her time as a victim. It’s impossible to read her terrible story, and many of the others just like hers, without cringing. We feel sad and uncomfortable just reading it, imagine how they feel. These women get no respect, they have no rights. These issues need to be properly addressed, all over the world.

In our own country, which is viewed as one of the more developed, progressive, and democratic countries in the world, gender inequality is very visible. As of 2017, women only took up about 1/5th of the United States Congress. Only 6 of the country’s 50 governors are female. A woman had never been nominated for Presidency by a major party until 2016 when Hillary Clinton tackled that milestone. The United States is the only country left in the developed world that does not guarantee women paid maternity leave. There are many instances of sexual assault against men and women every day. Of the instances where women are the victims and they choose to report it, they are often subject to unfair and invalid questions such as “What were you wearing?” and “How much had you had to drink?” The inequality that exists in government and in our legal system is unacceptable.

If all these numbers have been too much, I will make the concept of feminism more visual. In the beginning, women began at the bottom of the ladder while men began in the middle, halfway up. It seems unfair already, doesn’t it? Over time, as headway has been made, both women and men move up the ladder. Men got to the top. We can imagine they are standing on a glass sheet. To them, that sheet is the floor, but to all the women that are left on the ladder, it is the ceiling. It’s only a matter of time, while women continue to climb up the ladder, until that glass ceiling is shattered. That is the future. Men and women standing next to one another, equal. The future is female. The future is equality. The future is us.

Thank you to the women who took the first, and hardest, steps to begin major movements for feminism. Thank you to everyone who fight for women’s rights every single day. Thank you to the future generation who will not stop until there is gender equality worldwide. “Here’s to strong women. May we know them. May we be them. May we raise them” (Unknown).