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.