Why Every Female Should Be A Feminist

Why Every Female Should Be A Feminist

Newsflash: It's not just a bunch of pro-choice, man-hating liberal women in pink hats.

The weekend of Saturday, January 21st and Sunday, January 22nd was quite monumental for women. Following the historic Women's March, social media feeds were full of feminist sentiments, photos from the march, and posts about solidarity and female pride. The outpouring of support on these two days was to be expected – millions of women marched worldwide with the mission of upholding women's rights and showing how strong we can be when we come together. What I didn't expect is what I saw the next day...

I was rather shocked to see the social media posts on Monday, January 23rd. I expected there to be a few people who did not support the Women's March (mostly because I think a lot of people misinterpreted the overall mission to solely be protesting the presidency of Donald Trump, which was part of it but not the entire goal). However, I didn't expect to see so many of my friends – my female friends, my millenial female friends – who outright don't support feminism at large.

Females who don't support feminism? I'm sorry but...this does not compute.

I'm not saying every woman needs to lay herself out on the line everyday. That's not everyone's scene, and I get that. I myself did not attend a march on Saturday. But I do support the march because it supported feminism, and I really just don't understand why any woman would not support feminism.

Let's first get this one straight, because it's a point I saw a lot of in these anti-feminist posts. Feminism is not synonymous with man-hating. It is the goal of feminism to reach equality between males and females, not female superiority. You can love your boyfriend, your husband, your male coworkers and friends – it's not about that. It's about being equal to all of those people. And newsflash: even though you might feel equal at times, on a legal level, you're not.

Secondly, feminism is not a partisan issue. Yes, I think the majority of feminists probably are Democrats, but I'm quite sure that there are plenty of Republican feminists too. And why? Because female equality affects ALL females, no matter which side of the political fence you are on.

Finally, feminism is not just about abortion. I think since this gets so much attention from the media, a lot of the time it seems like these marches and protests are only about abortion. It seems like all feminists are "pro-choice." I don't necessarily think that is true. Like I said above, just like there can be Democrat and Republican feminists, I think there can be pro-choice and pro-life feminists too. Why? Because female equality is not just about abortion.

So then, if it's not all a bunch of pro-choice, man-hating liberal women, what is feminism about? What exactly are these issues of female equality? What does feminism fight for (or against)?

Let's start out with the most obvious and probably well-known: the pay gap. According to the Institute of Women's Policy Research, women make up almost half the workforce and receive more college and graduate degrees than men. But as of 2015, female workers make only 80 cents for every one dollar earned by men – a 20 percent gap. In tracking wage trends, IWPR estimates that if the pay increase continues at the same slow pace it has been, pay equality won't be reached until 2059 – 42 years from now. As of April 2016, the World Economic Forum reported that the US currently ranks at number 28 worldwide in our wage gap, the lowest rank we've had since 2007, and behind countries like Rwanda and the Philippines with rank in the top 10. You might not believe it, but it's true. In 2017 in the United States of America, women make less money than men for doing the same work as men. Isn't pay equality something we can all get behind?

Here's another: guaranteed paid parental leave. Let's check out this research from the Pew Research Center. Did you know that while three states (California, New Jersey and Rhode Island) have state-mandated paid parental leave, the United States is the only country out of 41 countries surveyed that does not have a national paid family leave mandate? The lowest amount of paid family leave offered in any other country is about two months – while in this country, it is left to the companies to decide. Pew reports that "in almost half of two-parent households, both parents now work full-time, and in 40 percent of all families with children, the mother is the sole or primary breadwinner." With the average cost of daycare in the US being $972 a month (and higher costs of $2000 a month in places like Boston and San Francisco), we are currently in a lose-lose situation. Isn't some amount of guaranteed paid parental leave something we can all get behind?

Need more? Feminism represents cracking down on sexual assault and rape. According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, one in five women and one in 71 men will be raped at some point in their lives. More than 90 percent of sexual assault victims on college campuses do not report the assault. Rape is the most underreported crime in the country, and 63 percent of sexual assaults are not reported to the police. Even still, rape costs the United States more annually than any other crime at $127 billion, $56 billion more than murder. And when people (I use that term lightly) like Brock Turner get a slap on the wrist for sexually assaulting an unconscious woman, being released from jail three months early from his already absurdly short six month sentence, what does that say about how we handle cases of sexual violence and what support we give to its victims? Isn't cracking down on sexual assault and rape, and giving its victims support, something we can all get behind?

While we're on the topic of violence, feminism also represents cracking down on domestic violence. Domestic violence encompasses a range of offenses, including physical, sexual, and psychological abuse between current or former partners, as well as family members, including threats and stalking. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, about 20 people are physically abused by an intimate partner in the United States every minute. The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence states that on a typical day, more than 20,000 phone calls are placed to domestic violence hotlines nationwide. Women between the ages of 18 and 24 are the most commonly abused – and only 34 percent of people injured through domestic violence actually receive medical care for their injuries. Isn't cracking down on domestic violence against both women and men, and giving its victims a voice, something we can all get behind?

Look, I could go on and on. Feminism represents promoting positive body image, ending stigmas against breastfeeding, ending sexual harassment, call out catcalling, putting an end to human trafficking, and making birth control affordable. Feminism stands to stop spreading the message that women were "asking for it" because they wore a short skirt, and that girls can't wear tank tops to school because it will "distract the boys" (which is to me is just as insulting to the boys as it is unfair to the girls). Feminism hopes to improve stigmas for men too – fathers should not be discouraged from taking an active role in their children's lives, men should not be looked down on for feeling emotions. Republican or Democrat, pro-choice or pro-life, female or male, aren't these all things we can all get behind?

All this, and I haven't even mentioned the struggles that specifically face women of color, LGBTQ women or female immigrants!

Yeah, we have it good in this country as opposed to other countries, and I really understand the arguments saying that if we are standing up for women's rights, shouldn't we stand up for women's rights in places where they have far fewer rights than in the United States. I do believe that we should, and I do think that there are lots of women and men out there fighting for the rights of women worldwide. But the fact is, no matter how terrible conditions are for women in other countries, it does not diminish the issues we are facing here. Our issues are important too.

You can sit here and say you don't feel like a second class citizen because you are a female, and criticize the women who march continue to march for these rights. But don't forget – less than 100 years ago, women did not have the right to vote (and while white women were granted the right in 1920, African American women couldn't vote until the 1960's). Information regarding birth control was classified as "obscene" until 1936, and the FDA did not approve birth control pills until 1960. Sex discrimination in schools was not banned until 1972. The Equal Credit Opportunity Act, allowing women to receive credit cards in their own name, was not passed until 1974. It was 1976 when the first marital rape law was enacted, making it illegal for a husband to rape his wife. The Pregnancy Discrimination Act, which bans companies from denying or firing a woman from a job because she is or may become pregnant, was not passed until 1978. Your parents, your grandparents, and perhaps even some of you reading this article, were born in a country where the rights we have today did not exist yet!

We have these rights because of people who protested, marched, were jailed, and were subject to ridicule and hatred. Let's not forget to thank Susan B. Anthony, Alice Paul, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Eleanor Roosevelt, Gloria Steinem, Rosa Parks, Rose Schneiderman, Sarah Muller, Betty Friedan, and the countless others who have stood up for women's rights throughout the years. Hey, there were plenty of women who didn't support suffrage back in the day, and I'm sure these feminists were met with the same disdain some of my fellow millenials are showing towards modern-day feminism. But it is because of them that we get to enjoy the rights we do have today. And the work is not done.

So think a little bit before you assume feminism is so one-dimensional, and that you automatically oppose it. Feminism works to improve the lives of everyone, and there is absolutely no reason you shouldn't support it. No one is saying you have to go out and march – but don't tear down the efforts of those who do march, as it is because of them that we continue to break the barriers of sexism, and fight for the rights that make this country so great.

Cover Image Credit: CNN

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A Letter to the Girl I Was 3 Years Ago

"Strength grows in the moments when you think you can't go on but you keep going anyway."

  To the old me, 

The girl who worried too much about what other people thought of her, the girl who didn’t know what she was worth, the girl who was scared to be alone. 

I know it’s hard, you’re just starting out high school and what people think of you is SO important. You want to be accepted, you want to be liked. You alter the person you actually are, because you want to be the person everyone loves. Stop. It’s not worth it. In a couple years it won’t matter what everyone thought of you, because majority of those people wont stick around after you walk across that stage at graduation. They don’t care about you that much. Be yourself, because that is the best version you can be. You are beautiful just the way you are, you are special just the way you are. Be confident in who you are. Once you stop caring what others think, you will feel a weight lifted off of your shoulders and you will never want to go back.

And YOU, you are worth SO much, and that will be your biggest weapon one day knowing that and being confident in that. Stop letting people walk all over you and define who you are, and stop settling for less than you deserve. LOVE yourself first, CHOOSE yourself first, and everything else will fall into place. The most important relationship you can have is the one with yourself, and the one with the big Man upstairs. The mistakes you have made, and will continue to make, will never define your value as a person.  Once you discover your self value, you will know what you deserve and what you don’t deserve.

“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful. I know that full well.” –Psalm 139:13-14

I cant stress this enough: it is OK to be independent, it is OK to be alone. Honestly, you wont figure this one out for a while. You will go through relationship after relationship depending on guys for your happiness and that will be your source of self-validation, and that will get your heart broken at times. It happens, and its OK to learn from it. It is so important that you grow out of that, though. Work on yourself while you have the time, make yourself a better you for the right person that does come along, but most importantly, make yourself a better you for YOU. Be dependent on yourself and your faith for the happiness that you crave out of other people. Stop putting yourself through the heartbreaks, and just settling because you are afraid of being alone. Embrace it, and take advantage of it. 

To the girl that is the girl I used to be-

It’s never too late to realize things need to change. It’s never too late to rid yourself of the negativity, and all of the things holding you back. You got this, I believe in you. Take it from the one girl who never thought she had it in her to become stronger. 

To the old me-

I wish that I could go back and hug you and let you know that you are so loved. You are so worth it. You are so special. You CAN do this. Everything you are going through and will go through will be so worth it, and to never EVER give up no matter how much you want to at times. I wish that I could’ve told you in a few years, you will be mentally and emotionally stronger than you have ever been, and everything that you are going through is just a phase.                                                                                  Life isn't always perfect. Life isn't always easy. Life doesn't always make sense, but thats the beauty of it.

Love,

Me, today. 

  



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Walking Through Campus In The Dark Made Me Realize Girls Should Be Helping Other Girls Feel Safer

I'm forever grateful for the girls who helped me feel safe.

If you're a girl, chances are doing certain things, like walking alone in the dark, can be kind of scary.

I needed to walk from the dorms to the Greyhound station downtown to catch a 7 a.m. bus, and if you've ever lived in the Pacific Northwest in the fall, you know some mornings it isn't light until almost 8 a.m. or later. I am not a morning person and neither were any of my friends, so I knew I would probably be going alone.

There aren't a lot of people out and about that early in the morning and, being a girl in today's world, walking alone in the dark makes me nervous.

I planned on calling a cab, but when it didn't show after 20 minutes, I knew I was going to have to walk. As I started walking, I thought about all the horror stories I've heard on the news, all the times I've been harassed and followed by strangers on the street, all the places I was walking that weren't well light or were in commercial areas with businesses that weren't open. I didn't have pepper spray, I don't know a lot of self-defense, and I felt like all I could really do was keep my head down, walk fast, and hope nothing bad happened.

I was more worried than I care to admit but I didn't really have any other options.

I was walking past Gamma Phi Beta's house, with my phone flashlight on and silently counting the blocks until reached the bus station, and at about the same time, two girls were leaving the house in workout gear, like they were headed out for a run. What caught me off guard was when they asked if I was okay and why I was walking by myself. I explained that I was headed to the Greyhound station and no one else was awake, so I was on my own.

Without any hesitation, they offered to walk with me, so I wouldn't be alone.

I can't even put into words how relieved and grateful I was. If they asked if I wanted them to walk with me, I probably would have said no because I wouldn't want to mess up their plans or be a burden, but they offered.

When we were walking, it felt like walking with friends, not like two friends begrudgingly walking a stranger as a favor. We talked about majors, binge-worthy Netflix shows, classes, and when we reached the bus station downtown, we went our separate ways.

I don't remember their names and I don't know if they'll ever know how much that meant to me, but I still think about it, over a year later, and it reminds me how important it is to look out for and support other girls.

Since I feel like I never got to thank them properly, I do it the best way I know how: by paying it forward. When I have the opportunity to do something to make another girl feel safer, whether that's walking with her, checking in with her at a party, or otherwise, I think it's important to do it.

No one understands the struggles girls face just by existing in our f*cked up world quite like other girls. It is so important for all of us to do our part to support and protect our community.

If you have the opportunity to help out someone else in an uncomfortable or unsafe situation, do it. You have no idea the impact it will have.

Cover Image Credit: Unsplash

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