Last year in Spanish class, my professor was lecturing on a story we had recently read. I'm not entirely sure how, but the subject of feminism came up. I remember her asking us to raise our hands if we considered ourselves feminists. In a classroom of about 20 students, only 3 or 4 raised their hands. I was not one of them. Sure, I thought that there should be greater equality between men and women, but at that point in time, if I heard the word “feminist” I instantly thought of a group of women standing outside of some building protesting women’s rights. To me, being a feminist meant being an extreme supporter of women's rights and working actively towards achieving them. Therefore, I didn’t think I should’ve considered myself a feminist. This notion I had of the word “feminist” quickly changed after that one Spanish class, and I can now proudly say that yes, I consider myself a feminist.
Here’s the thing: you don’t have to protest or join a club in order to consider yourself a feminist. Being a feminist simply means that you believe men and women should have equal rights, equal treatment, and equal opportunity. It doesn’t mean that women should be placed above men. Below are several reasons why feminism is important.
1. Because no woman should be cat-called while walking down the street.
I had never experienced this personally until this past semester. During my time abroad, my friends and I got stared at and cat-called numerous times. We would be walking down the street and groups of men would just stare at us up and down. Let me tell you, it gets old really fast. I hated feeling their eyes on me just because I was a girl and I hated that this behavior is accepted of men just because it’s something they have been doing for ages.
2. Because there is no reason whatsoever why women shouldn’t be able to earn as much money as men do.
It is absolutely ridiculous that women earn around 77 cents for every dollar that a man earns. This truly baffles me. What makes a man more prepared or capable than a woman? Why must a man earn more money than a woman while doing the exact same job or having the same education?
3. Because a woman should be able to wear whatever the hell she wants without being called a slut or a prude.
I must admit, I’ve done this before. Sometimes I’ll see the way a woman is dressed and think, “Wow. She is leaving nothing to the imagination. She should really cover up.” The second I do, I realize what I’m doing and vow to never do it again. A woman should have the right to dress however she wants. If she feels good in the tight black dress, then so be it. If she wants to walk around in sweats and not shave her legs, that's okay, too. We shouldn’t have to feel restricted to certain types of clothes just because we don’t want to be called sluts or prudes. And just because a woman is wearing a certain outfit doesn't mean she is “asking for it.” What’s even sadder is that many times, women are the first to say these comments about other women.
Image courtesy of The Huffington Post
4. Because nowadays, women are taught how to prevent being raped instead of teaching men not to rape.
From a young age, women are taught to be careful to the point of paranoia. Now, whenever I go out, I always keep my eyes open. I know not to go home with strange men and to always keep an eye on my drink. I even carry around pepper spray, and I’m not the first woman to do so, nor will I be the last. However, I don’t see men being taught not to touch a woman without permission or not to slip things into their drinks. And, when a woman is raped, she is asked things like, “What were you wearing?” or “where you drunk?,” but if a man is raped none of these questions surface.
5. Because women should be allowed to decide what happens to their bodies without being judged for it.
The debate on abortion is ongoing. While abortions on pregnancies up to 12 weeks along have been legal since 1973, there are still protests and efforts made to make them illegal again. If you are anti-abortion, that’s fine. But women should still have the option and shouldn’t be judged for the decision that they make.
6. Because we are living in the freaking 21st century!
In the United States, women were allowed the right to vote in 1919 and abortions have been legal since 1973. However, women have been fighting for equal rights since the 19th century. Why is it then that two centuries have passed and there still isn't full equality?
7. Because gender stereotypes affect everyone.
Men are expected to be “macho.” They are taught as boys to “be a man” or are told to “man up” when certain situations arise. If a man cries or asks for help, he is seen as weak. From a young age, we are taught that boys play with cars and girls play with dolls, and if a boy is caught playing with a doll or a girl wants to play with a basketball he is thought of as a “sissy” and she is seen as “boyish,” respectively. Men are supposed to be aggressive and women are supposed to be submissive. A man hitting a woman is seen in a different light than a woman hitting a man. However, it is because of this entire mentality that equal rights are far from happening any time soon.
Image courtesy of vitaminw.co