By Kristen Linsalata
This article may cause me to lose a couple of friends…but let’s get on with it.
International Women’s Day, a day that began in the early 1900’s during the fight for women’s suffrage, is celebrated every year on March 8. Before the day even arrived, I could envision the Internet forums exploding with people stating “we don’t really need feminism anymore” because “women aren’t expected to be stay at home mothers.” After all, we have laws in the West that prohibit discrimination based on one’s gender and sex. It isn’t really a problem anymore, right?
The aforementioned comments aren’t even the ones that boil my blood. The comments that really get to me are the ones that perpetuate misinformation about feminists –- the very people that have been striving for gender equality for generations. In the West, one can hear
it almost everywhere now that women have attained a mere semblance of what is called gender equality. “Feminists complain too much.” “They hate men.” “They want women to be treated as if they are superior to men.” “Feminists are just a bunch of ball busters.”
I’ve even heard and seen women stating that they don’t need feminism, and that they are actually against it, which is, in my opinion, a slap in the face to the very feminists who have, in some cases, sacrificed their lives so that they could have the opportunities that the feminists never had.
I’ve learned that sometimes people don’t know what they don’t know. In this case, these so-called “anti-feminists” don’t know how wrong they truly are.
Globally, 62 million girls are not in school, according to the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). Over 1.65 billion women and girls around the world live on $2.00 a day, according to a Huffington Post article, “These Sobering Statistics Will Make You Realize Why Girls Need Their Own Day,” on October 3, 2014. One in three girls are married before the age of 18 in low and middle-income countries.
Approximately, 800 women die every day from preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth. Approximately, 1,920,000 women and girls around the world are victims of human trafficking –an overwhelming 80 percent of the total, according to the article. There are 511,000,000 illiterate women and girls across the globe. Thirty-five percent of women worldwide have been subjected to physical or sexual violence, according to the article.
While women in the US and other industrialized countries are not, for the most part, subject to these horrible realities, they are still subject to discrimination based upon their sex – in terms of income equality/wages. In 2013, among full-time, year-round workers, women were paid 78 percent of what men were paid, according to the American Association of University Women (AAUW). Women in every state of the United States experience the gender wage gap, but some states are worse than others, according to AAUW.
Most of the time, the gender wage gap is blamed on women. Women get pregnant, have children, and aren’t as willing to travel, and put in the amount of hours needed to receive raises, right? Wrong. The pay gap also exists among women without any children. AAUW found that among full-time workers one year after college graduation –nearly all of whom were childless –women were paid just 82 percent of what their male counterparts were paid.
The irony here is that females outpace males in college enrollment, according to a Pew Research Center analysis, “Women’s college enrollment gains leave men behind,” by Marko Hugo Lopez and Ana Gonzalez-Barrera on March 6, 2014. Women are almost 60 percent of the annual university graduates and more than 70 percent of the 2010 high school valedictorians, according to the analysis. In addition, 60 percent of master’s degrees and 52 percent of doctorates are being awarded to women in the United States. Yet, young women will take home, on average across all professions, just 78 percent of what their male colleagues do.
While we aren’t exactly where we should be in terms of gender equality, the progress that we have made has been accomplished due to feministic efforts. However, it seems as though you tend to lose people’s attention as soon as you even mention the word “feminism.” The word seems to have been bastardized in the media, and although the word literally means “the advocacy of women’s rights on the grounds of political, social, and economic equality to men,” it now carries a connotation of “man-hating.”
Emma Watson, an award-winning actress and United Nations Women Goodwill Ambassador, addressed the misinformation about the word “feminism” and made attempts to galvanize as many men and boys as possible toadvocate for gender equality in a speech at the United Nations on September 20, 2014.
Watson urged citizens of the world to look past the word “feminism” and to respect and support the motivation behind it because gender inequality doesn’t only affect women, but also men. She said that men’s roles as parents are valued less than women’s by society, that young men who suffer from mental illness are reluctant to ask for help for fear of their masculinity being diminished, and that many men develop a distorted sense of what “success” is for a man.
What if men don’t step forward to advocate for women? The consequences, Watson believes, will be astronomical. “15.5 million girls
will be married in the next 16 years as children. And at current rates it won’t be until 2086 before all rural African girls will be able to receive a secondary education.”
The word “feminism” itself? Not so important, according to Watson. What is important is the initiative behind the feminist movement where men can stand up and make a difference in their own lives and the lives of women.
“I want men to take up this mantle,” Watson said. “So their daughters, sisters and mothers can be free from prejudice but also so that their sons have permission to be vulnerable and human too—reclaim those parts of themselves they abandoned and in doing so be a more true and complete version of themselves.”
So if you are not a feminist or a feminist supporter, I strongly urge you to reconsider. Because I am a feminist, I respect your ability to choose. I hope that you will believe in equality for both men and women. Perhaps, if anything at all, this article has reminded you of the vast inequality that women and men face in today’s world, andthat it isn’t just a thing of the past. Feminism is equality. If you are a woman, please don’t collaborate in your own oppression. If you are a man, please don’t contribute to the oppression of yourself, and others. Please don’t let misinformation persist any longer, and get behind the movement that believes in equality for all sexes.
“You can’t marginalize more than half of the globe’s population and expect to see any meaningful solutions to the problems that ail the world.” –Helene D. Gayle