Since the establishment of traditional gender roles, the internalized oppression of women has only been increasing over time. In addition to this, women have abandoned feminist values in a time where they are the most in need. Since the number of passionate people is low on the topic of the rights and equal treatment of women, this only further develops the internalization of sexism in today’s society. Not only should women be observing these ideals, but men should join the cause to mend the division between the genders. In the socio-economic climate of the modern era, it has become more essential to understand the importance of feminist theory.
Internalized oppression is defined as, “when a member of an oppressed group believes and acts out the stereotypes created about their group”. Relating to the internalized oppression of women, examples can include the belief you have a place in society based on your sex; denying the oppression of women; being sexist in any form; participating in rape culture; feeling your purpose in life is to please men; and believing you are lesser of a person for being a woman. It seems that sexism is the most internalized form of oppression in today’s society. A poll conducted by the Washington Post surveyed 1,122 women and 488 men on whether or not they identify themselves as feminists. From the data, 60% of women and 33% of men identified as feminists. The data amongst men is unfortunate, but not shocking. Most men avoid labeling themselves as feminists because they feel demasculinized by the word, despite masculinity being a social construct. Although the rate of self-identifying feminists among women is higher, it shows that almost half of women avoid using the label. The reason is not humbling as it relates to the enforced competition for male attention among females, which is also a social construct.
Focusing on American society, women are expected from birth that their role as a female is to find a husband and have children. The product of this is a dehumanizing urge to be competitive with other females. Competition can be a good thing when it relates to personal success (i.e. accomplishments, money, jobs), but this form of competition caters to the attention of men. Not only is this competition unnecessary as a priority, but it robs women of the opportunity to make accomplishments, maintain empowerment, and develop social independence. Using this theory, the 40% of women who were either impartial or in rejection of a feminist identity think so because they are either afraid to compromise the attention that men give them, or patriarchal society has taught them that sexism doesn’t exist.
When discussing the principles of feminism, the term “bodily autonomy” often is a large conversation worth having. Bodily autonomy refers to the natural right to one’s physical self. Examples of a removal of bodily autonomy can include unwanted surgical procedures/organ harvesting; rape; and any restriction to contraceptives including abortion. Specifically regarding birth control and abortion, these services allow a woman to have control over her own body. Before birth control was legalized in the United States, if a woman got pregnant, she was then a slave both to her husband as well as to motherhood. Today, a woman is able to make her own choices in regards to her own body, but women still face conflicts with their spouses. Amongst males, a misconception that while in the womb, the baby is half theirs has deep faults. The baby is in fact half the fathers, but only biologically. Since the fetus resides inside the mother for nine months, the baby is physically part of the mother’s body until the umbilical cord is cut. Therefore, the ethics behind abortion dictate that the termination of the pregnancy be strictly of the mother’s choice. Some will say that, legally, the choice to have an abortion should be an equal decision. This idea is invalid because the health and wellness of the mother may be at stake, so the father of the child must not involve himself in this decision.
In the beginning of the 21st century, it seemed to some that feminism had lost its place in society, or that it’s values had become outdated. The reality of this is that feminism has a trend of rising during periods of societal trauma (Property/Voting rights; sexual abuse; wage inequality) towards women. Despite these instances of trauma being an offense to the female community, the buildup of feminine rage is always what drives every feminist movement in history. In the first wave of feminism, women built up rage and motivation for not being able to vote or own land, and eventually progress was made. Recently, numerous women have been coming out as rape survivors with the intent of serving justice to their abusers. This chain of accused men (cases of Harvey Weinstein, Bill O’Reilly, Dr. Luke) gives women the hope and confidence that their voice will be heard and resolution will become of their abuse. Sometimes, progress is made by your community being challenged to a point of great reformation, but we must use the word “feminist” to make that statement.