There has been an uproar over feminism lately–and ironically it has mostly come from women. Apparently, some young women today don’t want to be called feminists because they consider it to be a negtaive thing. They also seem to believe that there is no need for feminism, mainly because, they think it does more harm than good. Honestly, I’m really having a hard time comprehending this. When did feminism become such a terrible thing? And why are so many young women today publicly and proudly shunning feminism? I respect that everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but this just doesn’t make much sense to me. Don’t these young women realize that without the feminist movement, our generation of women wouldn’t have the opportunities and the rights we currently enjoy?
We’re living in a much different time today than we were 40 years ago. Millennial women aren’t like other generations of women before us, largely due to the fact that we absolutely have had more opportunities than any other generation of women. And it was the brave and determined women (and men) of previous generations who gave us these rights and opportunities. Their tireless fight for gender equality made it possible for us to be the most educated generation of women ever, and the first generation in which the women are more highly educated than the men. The pay gap has also closed among men and women in the Millennial Generation, taking it to the smallest it has ever been in history. This is a big deal, ladies, and a very, very good thing.
So now that the vast majority of Millennials are adults in their 20’s and early 30’s, the feminist torch is being passed to us. It’s now our turn to take this movement and make it our own, and that is exactly what we need to do. We need to give feminism a 21st century facelift. But before I elaborate on that, I want to first dissect the reasons why there has been a recent backlash against feminism from Millennial women.
Let’s start by discussing what feminism actually is. At its core, feminism simply is a social movement that aims to establish gender equality and to eliminate sexism. However–and I really don’t understand why–some young women believe that feminism’s actual goal is to take rights away from men to in order to empower women, and they also believe that if you’re a feminist that automatically makes you anti-men. Um, no. That’s just ridiculous. Feminism isn’t fighting against anything–it is fighting for something. A little something called equality. You may have heard of it. It’s kind of the backbone of our democracy–you know, that idea that all men are created equal. And while women may have been considered second class citizens when this famous phrase was penned in the Declaration of Independence, I think we can all agree that times have changed slightly in the 238 years since then. So it isn’t just men that are created equal; men and women are created equal.
Women gaining equality in no way takes away from the rights of men, and it would be anti-feminist to advocate for stripping anyone of their rights. A more equal society is better for everyone, men included. If you’re a woman who thinks that feminism is bad because it somehow disenfranchises men, then you’re an extremely ignorant of what feminism actually is. And from what I’ve observed, this appears to be why so many young Millennial women are against feminism–because they have no clue what it is and why it is has been so important to the progression of our country.
I can sort of understand how women catching up to–and, in some cases, surpassing–men could be threatening to those with XY chromosomes. After all, men want to provide for and protect their significant others and families. That’s just their nature and has been since the dawn of humanity. And now that women are becoming more independent and are able to provide for themselves (and their families in many cases), men probably feel emasculated by this new reality. But I must point out that if you are a man who is threatened by women gaining equal rights, then you need to recognize that you are an extremely insecure man. If you were a confident, secure and more evolved man you would advocate for equality (for everyone) and you would treat women with the respect and dignity they deserve.
In addition to the false belief that feminism aims to disenfranchise men, there are some women who claim that we no longer need feminism because women are already considered equal to men. Well, there is a big difference between being considered something and what is actually the truth. And truth is women still aren’t equal to men–we’re far from it. We still don’t make the same amount of money as men for doing the same job and having the same level of education. And we still don’t get promotions at the same rate as men, regardless of job performance. And as soon as we start making babies, our prospects for a promotion plummet, as does our salary. Speaking of babies, our reproductive systems are now more regulated than guns because apparently we can’t be trusted to make sound, responsible reproductive choices–so the government will take care of that for us. The only area where women have surpassed men is in education. Overall, women absolutely are not equal to men. Have we made significant progress in the last few decades? Absolutely–and that’s great. But we still have a ways to go.
Another popular misconception about feminism is the belief that feminists look down upon traditional female gender roles like taking care of and nurturing others. Again, that’s ridiculous. I love taking care of people. I’m a woman–nurturing is in my nature. Just as men still want to provide for and protect their families, women still want to care for and nurture our families. Those gender roles have not changed–although admittingly they are more blurred today because women are increasingly becoming the breadwinners of the family, while more men are staying home taking care of the family. However, our insticts are still very much the same as they always have been. So a woman can cook a nice meal for her man and still be a feminist. And a stay-at-home mom who spends her whole day taking care of her family can still be a feminist. Feminism isn’t about what you do, it’s about what you believe.
And it is worth pointing out that women have different strengths than men. Men certainly are physcially stronger than women, but various studies have suggested that women handle stress and pain better than men (could you imagine a man having to endure childbirth?). But what sets us apart most from men–and what I believe is our greatest strength–is that we are (generally speaking) far more compassionate, caring and empathetic than men. Being a strong woman doesn’t mean you sacrifice those feminine qualities. That would actually make you less of a woman because those feminine qualities would be diminished. Our compassion and empathy, our ability to emote and to understand human emotions at such a deep, personal level–that is truly what makes us women. And I firmly believe that the world would be a much better place if it were run by women instead of men. I imagine it would be more peaceful, tolerant, equal and–dare I say it–advanced.
What is worse than gender inequality, however, is the rampant amount of sexism and mysogyny in our society, and the backwards attitude we have regarding sexual abuse and violence against women (or anyone for that matter). When a teenage girl is gang raped, for example, there are some who say she was “asking for it”. In other words, it’s her fault that this happened, not her perpetrators. Furthermore, 40 percent of sexual abuse cases go uninvestigated at colleges and univerities because…well I don’t know why. I guess it just isn’t that big of a deal to these schools that such horrible, dehumanizing things are happening. So why bother looking into it, right? Rape–who gives a shit about that? Recently a bill was introduced in Congress that would force colleges and universities to investigate cases of sexual assault on campus. It’s pretty sad that we have to introduce legislation in order to make this happen.
Let’s take a moment to dissect the logic behind the belief that when a young woman is raped she may have been “asking for it”, either because of the clothes she was wearing or because she was drunk at a party. So, according to this logic, if someone decides to drive his car to go visit his grandmother and is hit by a drunk driver and killed, then he was asking for it because there was a chance that it could happen? Or if someone is walking down the street at night to go to the convenience store and is murdered during a robbery then he is asking for it because there was a chance that it could happen? Like these two men should have known better then to drive a car to grandma’s house, or to walk two blocks to the convenience store, just like the girl should have known better than to drink at a party because there might be a young man (men) that would take advantage of her while she was drunk? And the girl who wore a figure-hugging dress and was raped should have known better because slutty clothes automatically mean you are inviting someone to rape you. It’s not the drunk driver’s fault, or the robber’s fault, or the rapists’ fault–it’s entirely the fault of the victims because they put themselves in a situation where there was a chance that they could get raped or killed.
Let’s be very clear about something: NO ONE ever asks to get raped. And NO ONE ever asks to be sexually abused. When a woman wears something that shows off her figure, that is not an excuse for men to sexually objectify or abuse her. There is NEVER, EVER any reasonable excuse for a man raping or sexually abusing a woman. And the fact that we teach woman to not wear certain clothes to work, or out for a night on the town, because that may lead to sexual abuse or violence, and that we tell young women that they are asking to be raped because they were drunk or wearing “slutty” clothes, instead of teaching young men that there is never any excuse for sexually abusing, objectifying and/or raping a woman is fucking ludicrous, and it speaks volumes to the ridiculously high level of misogyny in our society.
Guys and gals, if you’re not entirely sure what constitutes rape, read this handy little chart below. It explains what rape is in a very straightforward way so that even the simplest of us will understand.
I, like probably every woman, knows what it is like to be sexually objectified. Every time I go out for a run–despite the fact that I am super sweaty and disgusting–I endure some form of verbal sexual assault. And if I go out with friends and I’m wearing clothes that highlight my figure, the level of sexual objectification is usually worse. I’m a strong, secure woman so I can handle it, but it is still humiliating and dehumanizing. It really does make you feel like less of a person. It is ok to tell a woman–in a very genuine, respectful way–that she looks nice. Don’t, however, cat-call or whistle at her and say inappropriate, gross shit that will make her feel like shit. Complimenting someone else is fine, but again, there is a right way and a wrong way to do this. Be respectful and sincere in your compliments. Build a woman’s confidence instead of making her feel like a possession that you are entitled to have. And please, guys, understand that when women wear “sexy” clothes, we (usually) aren’t doing it for your attention. Personally, I never do. I work very hard to be fit and healthy, so when I go out I wear clothes that show off my body because I am proud of it, and because it makes me feel good about myself. I don’t do it for male attention–I do it for myself. As do most women.
Of course, some men are also victims of sexual abuse and violence, and this is, unfortunately, all too often overlooked. And it is also true that some men are victims of verbal and physical abuse. Feminism is just as much about fighting for their rights as it is the rights of women. Someone who truly believes in gender equality would never say it is more acceptable for men to be victims of violence and/or abuse than it is women. But the truth is that sexual abuse and violence against women is more frequent and more extreme than it is against men.
I was watching NBC’s “Last Comic Standing” one time, and a male comic made a joke about the different worries men and women have when they go out on a date with someone from an online dating service. He said men worry that the woman he meets isn’t going to look like the woman in her profile picture, whereas women worry that they’ll be murdered. The audience laughed, but I failed to find the joke funny. I’m not Sean Penn or Tommy Lee Jones–I have a good sense of humor–but I couldn’t laugh at this joke because what he said was true. And that’s really sad. A woman shouldn’t have to worry about her safety when she goes out on a date, but the reality is, women do have to worry about it. And God forbid she wears something that shows off her body (which women tend to do when we go out on dates because we want to look and feel good), because then she is inviting her date to rape her, right? Isn’t that what we preach.
To reiterate, at its core feminism is about fighting for gender equality and to eliminate sexism and misogyny. So to all you young ladies who say you aren’t feminists, let me ask you a few questions. Do you believe that women should have equal rights and opportunities to men? Do you believe that sexism, in all forms, is wrong? Do you believe our reproductive choices should not be dictated by the government? Do you believe that we–as women–have an obligation to fight for gender equality and an end to sexism so that our daughters will never know what it feels like to get paid less for doing to the same job as their male co-workers, will never know what it feels like to get passed up for a promotion that they rightly deserve because they have a vagina that might birth a baby or two one day, will never know what it feels like to be sexually objectified (or worse, raped) because they decided to wear shorts on a hot summer day? If you answered yes to all of those questions then I’m sorry to break it to you ladies, but you are feminists. It’s ok. That’s not a bad thing. Embrace it!
Now more than ever, young women absolutely need to embrace feminism, and as I stated at the beginning of this post, we need to update it. Feminism should still be about fighting for gender equality and an end to sexism–because we are clearly still battling for both of those things–but we need to take the fight global. Millennials are the first truly global generation, and sadly we live in a world where most women are treated far less equally than we are here in the United States. Hundreds of millions of girls around the world don’t even receive an education. This is partially due to poverty, but in most cases it is because it is believed in their respective countries or cultures that women are not worthy of an education. Women are also raped and sexually abused at higher rates and in much more brutal and gruesome ways, like what has unfortunately been happening in India recently. Our world will never get better and will never progress unless women are given equal opportunities to men and are treated with the same respect and dignity as men. By denying women equal rights, we are severely holding our world back.
Obviously, it is unrealistic to expect cultural and religious attitudes to do a complete turnaround in one generation’s time. But we, as a generation, can certainly make important progress, and this is a serious issue that has significant implications for the future of the world because, without a doubt, women gaining equality will greatly benefit the world and everyone in it. And it is for this reason that men should be just as invested in the feminist movement as women. You don’t have to be a women to be a feminist, just like you don’t have to be gay to advocate for same-sex marriage. If it weren’t for straight people (who make up the vast majority of our population) all the recent wins for marriage equality wouldn’t be a reality. In just the past few years, state after state has passed marriage equality laws, or struck down laws that would ban same-sex marriage, largely because of the increasing number of straight people advocating for equality of marriage. However, while women make up a slight majority of the population, we aren’t the dominant sex. This is why we need men to step up and make their voices heard on this issue as well.
Again, our generation needs to make feminism a priority, because the more we hold women back the more we are holding our country and our world back. So come on guys, stand with us ladies! One day some of you will have daughters. Wouldn’t you want them to have every opportunity to happiness and success in life that your son has? And wouldn’t you want them to never have to experience any degree of sexism and misogyny? If you answered yes to both questions, guess what–you’re feminists. And we need your support and your voices. In fact, I would say that men are more important to the progression of the feminist movement than women. Without the support of men, women wouldn’t have made it this far, and we won’t go much further unless more men join the movement.
A significant part of the reason why there has been a recent backlash against feminism is because many women simply aren’t willing to put up with continued gender inequality and sexism, thus prompting those who disagree with them to speak up. And they are–very loudly. Whenever things begin to change, those who want to maintain the status quo are scared that they are losing that battle. So they become desperate and radical. But the simple fact that we are having such a robust conversation about this issue is encouraging. It’s a conversation we need to continue having. And from what I can tell, it is young Millennial women (and men) who are largely pushing this conversation.
I hope to have a daughter one day, and I hope she that lives in a different world. I hope her world is full of more opportunity, more respect for others, more peace and more love. If women continue to be held back, that won’t happen. But Millennials can make a big difference starting now. We can begin a new era by putting increased emphasis on the ideals of feminism, both at home and abroad. If we are successful, humanity will truly begin to soar. And who would argue against that?