It is officially March, which is Women's History Month and to kick it off right this past Wednesday, March 8th, was International Women's Day. It was a day where women around the world could celebrate what it means to be a woman, to remember the women who have fought for us to be where we are today, to realize how far we have come, to see how far we still have to go and to recognize that there are so many women out there, just like us, fighting for the same things. International Women's Day was a day to celebrate all women. White women. Women of color. Straight women. Gay women. Cis-gender women. Transgender women. Feminist women. Non-feminist women. All women no matter what shape, form, or fashion you have.
As a feminist, I spent International Women's Day doing all I could to remind women to feel empowered and support women in their efforts to make a change. I wore red to stand in solidarity with the women participating in the "A Day Without Women" protest, donated to Planned Parenthood, and thought about what it meant for me to be a feminist. I also spent a lot of the day seeing people all over social media who were completely against the entire day. I saw plenty of men asking "We're supposed to be equal but I don't see any International Men's Day? When is that? Does that even exist?" (November 19th), I saw tons of people completely against the protest happening that day, and more than anything I saw people who completely think feminism is a load of bull.
Now I get it, feminism may not be your cup of tea. It may not be a movement that you actively want to stand behind and that is completely okay. We all are fighting our own battles, but if you are going to fight against feminism please PLEASE know what you are fighting against. You are fighting against gender equality. That means fighting against people being able to acknowledge that men can be domestic abuse victims and victims of rape the same way that women are. You are fighting against women being seen as equal in the workforce. Feminism is working for both genders believe it or not and when I say gender equality that is what we mean. Now even though feminists are all fighting for the same end goal, we all find different aspects of the battle more important to us. Because of this fact, I decided to ask several of my Facebook friends that identified as feminists 3 very important questions. "What do you want? What are you fighting for? Why does it matter to you?" These were the responses.
Kendall Swanson, 18 - “I'm fighting for the rights of not only me, but future generations of girls who shouldn't be subjected to the sexism that our generation and past have endured. I want 'throwing like a girl' not to be an insult. That being femme isn’t a weakness but a strength and cunning attribute that you should be proud of.”
Isabella Fank, 19 - “Feminism is synonymous with equality. I am fighting for an unbiased society because when I have children I do not want negative gender stereotypes to hinder their growth. I do not want my daughter to be taught to be weak just because she is a part of the "fairer sex," and I do not want my son to think he has to be strong and can't share his emotions because he has to be a man. Feminism matters to me because I expect equal opportunities for all genders and will accept nothing less.”
Aubrey Anderson, 20 - “What I want is to be respected for my individual attributes. I want my intelligence to not be questioned because I am a woman, I want to be paid the same as my male counterparts, and I want all women everywhere to have the right to choose what to do with their lives and their bodies. I am fighting for myself, the women in my family-- both past, present, and future-- and even women on an entirely different continent. I want everyone to take responsibility for their actions and for their words and actions to really mean something.”
Ashley White, 20 - "I would like how people view rape to change. A lot of people do not understand that no means no when it comes to sexual activity. Doesn't matter if you went as far as taking a guy to your room. If no was said several times then that means to stop. I started getting counseling about a year and a half and I love the counseling center on campus and try to be more vocal about getting help. Letting people know that it is really okay to get help and that you don't have to fight the battle alone. Women go through more than people realize and yet we are still seen as weak and feeble. People should realize that women endure more than meets the eye and most of the time we do it alone and that makes us even stronger. We do it alone because we do not want to seem even weaker than what the world has portrayed us as.
Lauren Rosenthal, 20 - “A lot of people try to argue that there is no need for feminism in this day and age and that women have equal rights to men. "Women can vote, and get equal pay for the most part," is usually the response I get when I mention being a feminist. And while they are correct in some ways, women still have a long way to go before escaping complete oppression. The reason I am passionate for women's rights is because of the behind the scenes issues that most people don't even realize are happening. For example, benevolent sexism is a big issue in many school, work and professional environments. This is an issue that some men might not realize they're participating in and some women may not realize they fall victim to. But it can be so detrimental to the ways that women view themselves and how men view women.
What I hope to gain from my women's advocacy is to change how people think about and view women. Not necessarily to gain women more freedom or rights, but to change the way women are viewed. Not only do I care for women, though, I care for men and their emotions and mental well being as well. Part of feminism, at least liberal feminism, is the belief that all are equal. Therefore, I hope that through feminism, someday men will be able to be more emotional and be themselves more without fear of being too "feminine," or unfortunately, being called "gay."
I hope that when I have children, I can raise my son in a world where he is not frowned upon for choosing to play with a baby doll over a truck, and my daughter can love the color blue without being told it's a "boy color." I hope that my daughter can feel safe walking alone, without fear of being attacked or raped. And I hope that my son would be kind to all women and to stand up for women in all sorts of different situations.
I guess overall, I hope that through my actions and women's rights advocacy, I can help do my part to make the world a more equal, excepting, and loving place to be.”
Alana Johnson, 21 - "Honestly, what I want is the basic equality things and everything but I also want men to see women as people. There are so many men out there that see women as less and a lot of women just accept that. I fight so that not only can I walk outside at night without being terrified but also so that women know that they're worth so much. And that extends towards not just women. I mean for anyone really that feels like they're lesser than someone else. Be it male, female, or non-binary. It's important to me that people remember that feminism isn't just about elevating people's view of everyone but making that view the same view that everyone is seen with. I want everyone to see that down to a cellular level were all so similar that there's no reason to think of anyone as lesser.”
Ayana Williams, 21 - “I'm fighting for women to be whatever they want to be. I don't want my little sister or any other little girl growing up in a world where they feel stifled by everyone else's expectations. I'm fighting for women to have autonomy of their bodies and their sexuality. It is no one else's business what a woman decides to do with or how to dress her own body. I'm fighting for women to stop being reduced to their bodies or the gender roles associated with them. I don't want "when are you gonna get married/ have kids?" to be the first thing out of anyone's mouth to a woman. Women are not here as objects to be whatever you want or give you babies upon command. I'm fighting because there are too many hidden figures in history and not enough women in the forefront that advocate for feminism in the present. Everyone should have the freedom to dress how they want, pursue their interests, and above all explore themselves without society trying to force feed them traditional gender roles and misogyny in the process. Even if I did not have my own reasons, I will support other women because I'm a woman, ain't I?”
Margret Gramke, 21 - "I want to see more women in leadership roles. I want to see women take charge and not be called 'bossy' or 'aggressive,' when the men who exhibit the same qualities are said to have 'leadership material' or 'a take charge attitude.' I would like to see women unite and stand together, and stop treating each other as competition. Personally, I am fighting for the right of choice, and the right for all women to have choice. Be that in your personal life, your professional life, or emotionally. I am fighting for the right of choice, and the right to access necessary services to enable and empower women. It matters to me because by age six, little girls believe brilliance is a boys only thing. It matters to me because of stigma against sexual assault survivors is still something we're combating. That it can be blamed on the woman because 'her skirt was too short.' It matters to me because when women are raised up, society is raised up."
Lauren Eason, 22 - “I am inspired frequently by how far women have come even in just my lifetime. In moving forward, I hope for expectations about what is "normal" for a man or woman to disappear. If a woman wants to join the military, not get married, or go into a STEM field that shouldn't be considered odd. If a man wants to stay at home with his kids, join a dance class, or wear makeup, that shouldn't be considered noteworthy. Gender norms perpetuated by society have profound effects on the gender pay gap, what professions men and women seek, and how we handle issues like sexual assault. Anytime I take on a leadership role or think about career choices I'm making I realize that my gender has an effect on my potential for success. I think feminism and its pursuit for equality is an important conversation to have and that those who don't consider themselves feminists are in reality just deeply misunderstanding the term and the movement. I hope for a future where the rate of women and men in career fields approaches 50/50. I hope for a day when trans women and men don't have to fight for people to accept them for who they are. I hope for a day when women in their twenty's aren't considered employment risks because they may have children soon. The feminist movement has made strides but the progress must continue on. I am most thankful for the strong women in my life who have inspired me to take risks and defy expectations.”
These are all very different women. They are from different colleges, different majors, different races, different sexualities, different backgrounds, but the one thing every one of them has in common is that they are women and all agree that even though women have come so far, we are all very far from complete gender equality. I wanted to give other women a chance to voice what feminism means to them but even more than that I wanted to take a moment to educate everyone who doesn't understand why we still need feminism or why a woman would want to be a feminist in the first place. I wanted to let everyone know what we are all still fighting for and why we care. If you don't identify as a feminist that is okay, we are still feminist and we fight for you whether you think it's necessary or not. Before you go and say what we are fighting for doesn't matter or worse doesn't exist take a moment to talk to a feminist and see the difference we are really trying to make.