What Is Feminism And Why Does It Still Matter?
It’s 2012. It’s been 92 years since the United States government granted women the right to vote. Since then, the feminist movement has seen a few surges, perhaps most notably in the 1960’s when Betty Freidan published The Feminine Mystique and founded the National Organization for Women. Women can now break out of traditional roles as housewives and caregivers if they so choose, and are free to go to university, work (even traditionally male-dominated jobs), move up in the work force, and bring home the bacon. There’s your equality! Feminism is over! … Right?
Unfortunately, the need for feminism is far from over. Women’s rights are still attacked day in and day out. Recent political moves will tell us that:
- Virginia lawmakers passed a bill requiring women to get a trans-vaginal ultrasound before they may have an abortion.
- Arizona lawmakers passed a bill that would allow employers to refuse birth control coverage (unless said birth control is being used for something other than preventing pregnancy) to their employees if it conflicts with their moral or religious beliefs. It also allows employers to fire women who use birth control.
And then there’s Rush Limbaugh, who has many devoted listeners and followers:
“Can you imagine, if you’re her parents, how proud of Sandra Fluke you would be? Your daughter goes up to a congressional hearing conducted by the Botox-filled Nancy Pelosi and testifies she’s having so much sex she can’t afford her own birth control pills and she agrees that Obama should provide them, or the Pope.”
And of course all the anti-abortion talk:
- “An unborn child is a human life, and like every one of us, worthy of basic dignity, respect, and protection.” – Rick Santorum. He has also stated that he does not make exceptions for cases of rape.
- Many Republican legislators want to defund Planned Parenthood across the US because they perform abortions. Senator Jon Kyl of Arizona said “Everybody goes to clinics, to hospitals, to doctors, and so on. Some people go to Planned Parenthood. But you don’t have to go to Planned Parenthood to get your cholesterol or your blood pressure checked. If you want an abortion, you go to Planned Parenthood, and that’s well over 90 percent of what Planned Parenthood does.” (Abortions only account for roughly 3% of services performed at Planned Parenthood.)
- And finally, Oklahoma lawmakers passed a bill (which was recently ruled unconstitutional) that declared life begins at conception, thereby outlawing abortion services and the morning-after pill. 
So, ladies, what does all this mean for you?
It means that conservative legislators believe they can make decisions about your body and health better than you and your doctor can. It means that in their eyes, if you have sex, you’re unworthy of being treated with respect. It means that they value the life of an embryo more than they value yours. It means that they believe a fetus should be treated with dignity and respect, but not you.
And that’s where feminism comes into play.
I’m sure over the years, you’ve had plenty of people tell you that feminism is about hating men, female superiority, and women taking over the world. That isn’t true. Of course, that could be true for some feminists. But in general, that’s not true. Feminism is here to bring women full equality. Feminists are here to make sure that you and only you can make the choice to take birth control or have an abortion. It’s your body, and you have a right to make autonomous decisions about it.
But feminism doesn’t end there. Day-to-day life is still a struggle for millions, billions of women. We live in a rape culture. I want to be clear: rape culture does not mean that everyone is raping everyone else. It means that we live in a culture where sexual violence, be it physical or in language, toward women, is encouraged. Rape victims are often blamed for their own rape. Every single day I hear someone say “Well she was asking for it. She was wearing a short skirt/drinking/flirting, she deserved it.”
… Deserved it? Does anyone actually deserve to be raped? Think about that. 1 out of 6 American women have been the victim of rape or attempted rape. That’s 17.7 million women. Did those 17.7 million women actually deserve that?
Rape culture promotes misogyny (the hatred of females), both from men (external) and other women (internal). Internal misogyny is a tricky beast. It’s bad enough when men like Rush Limbaugh run around calling women sluts, but what about when it comes from other women? Other women who also presumably enjoy sex? It’s baffling.
Rape culture promotes sexual harassment. Ever been cat-called on the street? Did it make you feel uncomfortable? That’s harassment, and it’s not okay. Ever had someone comment on your body or face when you were out having fun with your friends? Harassment. We, as women, as people, were not born to be attractive. We do not exist solely to be sexual beings.
Not forgetting about sexual harassment in the workplace, which goes way beyond a co-worker groping you in your cubicle or your boss promising a promotion if you sleep with him. Comments about your skirt length, your low-cut shirt, your form-fitting dress, the size of your chest… all constitute sexual harassment. As well as coworkers talking about sexual endeavors in the workplace, hypothesizing about other people’s sexuality or sexual endeavors, or talking about who they would conceivably “do.”
Moving on, I want to mention that women still make less than 80 cents for every dollar men make, doing the same job with the same amount of experience. In 2009, the Paycheck Fairness Act was proposed. The bill would address the gender income gap and make it easier for victims of income disparity to address the situation. It was approved by the House of Representatives, but did not move past the Senate. In making that move, the United States Senate essentially told women that income disparity is their own problem.
How’s that equality working?
The feminist movement isn’t perfect. In fact, it has a history of excluding anyone who is not a white, cisgendered (someone who identifies as the gender they were assigned at birth) woman. It’s an issue that has been criticized many times, and we must make strides to include everyone. We can’t achieve gender equality if we don’t address the inequalities inside our movement.
But nonetheless, feminism is here for you. We’re not here to tell you that you have to identify as a feminist; we’re not here to tell you have you have to have an abortion, take birth control, or even be something other than a housewife. We’re here to make sure that those choices are yours and yours alone. We’re here to make sure that you aren’t dehumanized for engaging in sexual activities. We’re here to make sure that other people don’t treat you like you exist only to be attractive for them.
Yes, feminism still matters.
Opinions stated in our editorials do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Feminspire and its staff as a whole, but instead reflect the opinions of the writer.
Top image courtesy of rawstory.com
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