A dirty f-word, the skeleton in society’s metaphorical closet, social suicide, will likely get you labeled a man-hater, both a taboo and a rising trend – this is how many people define feminism. Before getting into my argument, let me clarify the definition of feminism according to Webster: “the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities.”
Hearing this, one might ask, “Why don’t they call it peopleism then?” Well, why is the human race referred to as mankind? Why is the root word of human, man? Saying that feminism is a movement for females because of the prefix fem, is like saying mankind is only for men. The fact is, women have been and currently are treated unfairly both at home and at work. As recently as the mid-1960s, women had limited legal rights. They could be fired for getting pregnant, couldn’t have a credit card, and couldn’t file for divorce, even in cases of domestic violence or rape. The feminist movement was created because of unfair treatment of women, but these are not solely women’s issues. Feminism is for all people.
Some say that feminism is no longer needed, that women have equal rights now, but examining our society makes it apparent that feminism is necessary now more than ever. The fact that women make 78 cents to every man’s dollar even after laws like the Paycheck Fairness Act and Equal Pay Act were passed in 1963 is unacceptable. In 2016, equality has yet to be achieved.
Feminism is still critical today because of rape culture. Take, for example, the 2012 Steubenville High School rape case in Ohio. An intoxicated minor was gang raped and photographed by her peers, and the photos were posted on social media. After an investigation and trial, two boys were convicted and received minimal sentences. Meanwhile the girl was publicly humiliated and degraded.
Females who speak up about rape are mocked. Reading about rape in a classroom full of teenagers, there are uncomfortable shifting eyes and unruly giggles. In seventh-grade health class, my teacher stood in front of the room and discussed how her daughter was sexually taken advantage of, and a boy responded, “Shouldn’t she be happy a guy risked time in jail for her?” Variations of this sordid joke can be found all over social media.
Everywhere I look I see a society crippled with the inability to treat women as equals. I am 15 years old, in an upper-class, well-educated school district; why should I need feminism? I need feminism because I am not taken seriously when I talk about my experiences with emotionally traumatizing relationships. I need feminism because in 2013 when I participated in a national engineering competition, people said the only reason my team won was because my group was two-thirds female. As if my 800-plus hours of work, tears, and commitment meant nothing. None of the all-male engineering team logged more than 500 hours of work.
I need feminism because my school’s co-ed weight room has a dress code for female workout attire to “prevent distracting the boys” instead of educating them on proper manners. Spandex shorts are part of the uniform for both the track team and the volleyball team. Olympic-level runners wear Spandex. However, due to the over-sexualization of female bodies in the media, I am not permitted to wear my regulation uniform when I use the gym, because it will somehow impair the boys’ productivity.
I need feminism because of how men get glorified for having sex and women get degraded. Girls are not given permission in society to openly talk about sex, or to openly pursue sex. Women are told to wait for a male to initiate and to always be cautious.
I need feminism because boys who put effort into their appearance or are involved with theater are called homosexuals and are mocked in the hallways. When people hear of a male nurse, there are raised eyebrows. A man who wants to work with children is considered bizarre. Males who are nurturing are seen as strange and unnatural – even dangerous – and that is just as unacceptable as the gender stereotypes about women. In divorce cases, more than 80 percent of the time, a mother will receive custody of the children, even if the father is more qualified to care for them, according to DivorceNet.com. That is a feminist issue.
I need feminism because my curfew is an hour earlier than my male friends’ because my parents think it’s unsafe for their girl to be out at night.
I need feminism because men and women do not have equal rights, and it’s more acceptable for me to verbally attack another woman than fight for my rights.
I need feminism because it’s the twenty-first century, and I will not quietly listen to people degrade issues that are so relevant in our society.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.