Column: We still need feminism

Warning this column contains the F-word. It’s extreme, it’s offensive, it’s – feminism.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines the word feminism as “the theory of the political, economic and social equality of the sexes”. Wait a second, what’s so wrong with that?

Over the years the word has gained some negative connotations and, as a result, many women are choosing not to identify as feminists.

Ashamed as I am to admit it, I was once one of them. Lacking information and presented with the most extreme examples, I was one of many hesitant to adopt the feminist label.

As is common throughout history, I feared what I did not fully comprehend. It wasn’t until I signed up for Political Science 19- Women in Politics at Pierce, that I actually began to understand the word and the movement behind it.

Many people I have encountered seem to think that feminism is some new-wave movement lead by bra burning man-haters, but this is simply not the case. The term feminism dates all the way back to 1837 and was coined by French philosopher Charles Fourier.

In order to understand feminism one must first understand the history behind the movement, which began as a fight for basic human rights.

Women wanted to work, get an education and vote just like their male counterparts, so in 1848, the women’s suffrage movement was born. This is when the first women’s rights convention was held in Seneca Falls, New York.

Some might argue that it may have been necessary in the past and that today women in America have equal rights. Sadly, this is just not true. To this day, the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) still has not passed in the United States.

Introduced in Congress in 1923, the proposed amendment would make it unconstitutional for employers to discriminate on the basis of sex.

It’s also important to remember that there is a difference between a marginalized group’s legal rights and how they are actually treated by society. Think of it this way, constitutionally speaking, people of all races currently have the same rights in the U.S., but that doesn’t mean that people of color don’t face race-based discrimination on a daily basis. Even if the ERA were to pass, that doesn’t mean that women will be treated as equals by society and that is why feminism is important.

But what about the argument that feminism is anti-man?

It’s a common misconception that you have to be a woman to be a feminist. However, anyone can be a feminist. Not being a female in no way prevents a person from sharing the belief that men and women should be equal. Feminism works toward equality of the sexes, not female superiority.

I often hear that feminists are angry to which my response is, heck yes they are!

When a man can can make lewd comments about grabbing a female by her genitalia and become the next President of the United States, it sends a message to women across the country.

Feminism isn’t some antiquated idea of yesterday. The fight for the equality of the sexes is ongoing.

We still need feminism because there are currently men in power, making decisions about women’s bodies and stifling their reproductive rights.

We still need feminism because, according to the Rape Abuse and Incest National Network better known as RAINN, “one out of every six American women has been the victim of attempted or completed rape in her lifetime, but people still ask “what was she wearing?”

We still need feminism because, according to the Census Bureau’s 2009 American Community Survey (ACS), “women comprise 48 percent of the U.S. workforce, but just 24 percent of Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics or (STEM) workers.”

We still need feminism because street harassment ie. catcalling, isn’t a compliment.

We still need feminism because, around the world, women are still largely less educated, poorer and more legally disadvantaged.

We still need feminism because sex sells everything in the mainstream media but women are shamed for breastfeeding publicly.  

We still need feminism because women deserve respect, common decency and equality.

I feel that actor Ellen Page made a great point when she said, “How could it be any more obvious that we still live in a patriarchal world when feminism is a bad word?”