Last week, I wrote about why you should thank a feminist. I wrote about a few of the incredible things that feminism has accomplished that, more than likely, you and I don’t even think about on a regular basis; things like our right to vote and to an education. What I didn’t write about though are the things feminism still has to change, and why it’s still so important today even with everything we’ve already accomplished.
One in six American women has been sexually assaulted in her lifetime. That’s a statistic that probably doesn’t surprise much of anyone and we can all agree that rape is an absolutely disgusting crime. And yet, of the rapes which are reported and taken to court, only two percent of rapists will ever spend a day in prison for the crime they committed. And that’s just of those rapes which are reported. An average of 32 percent of sexual assaults are never even reported.
No other crime in America has that low of a conviction rate, and that fact alone is alarming for a crime that destroys so many lives. Largely, this is because of the way our country treats rape victims – immediately asking what they were wearing and whether they’d been drinking rather than how we can help. Even if the victim manages to make a report, the defendant’s counsel will ask her the same questions the police officers did when she reported it; and while that’s understandable – it’s the attorney’s job – the fact that jury members and the media will also ask those questions is not.
I mentioned in my post on what feminism has accomplished that the gender pay gap has decreased dramatically in recent years. While this is a fantastic accomplishment though, it’s not enough. While the gap varies based on age and state, the average American woman can expect to make $.77 on the $1.00 that their male counterparts make – for the same jobs, with the same level of experience and education, and the same number of hours worked. In case you need a recognizable example of this, Angelina Jolie is the highest paid actress in Hollywood. She makes the same amount of money as the two lowest paid actors. That means that every single actress can expect to be making less than their male counterparts.
Not only that (as though it’s not enough), but when you bring up the gender pay gap an alarming number of people will tell you that it’s a myth, no longer a problem in modern America. In fact, when I turned to Google for statistics the first suggestion that came up, even before the search term I was actually looking for, was “gender pay gap myth.” The fact that we have this gap is enough of a problem, but the fact that nobody believes the problem exists makes it that much more difficult to do anything about it.
In 2013, of the 535 total members of congress only about 18 percent were female. In news media such as journalism and television news, the number of female employees is dwarfed by the number of (old) white men. Of the 71 countries throughout the world that have been lead by a woman, America is not one. As recent as 2011, only 11 percent of lead characters in movies were female. When you discuss a male politician, you discuss his political views; when you discuss his female counterparts, you discuss how great her arms are or how out of style her suit is. Last week I asked my Facebook friends whether they’d vote for Hilary Clinton as president. Of the seven people who responded, five said absolutely not; and none of them had a single political reason. Instead, they all said she was “crazy” or “terrifying,” with no explanation as to how or why. And finally, the rampant sexism portrayed during the Superbowl – arguably the most popular day for advertising throughout America – has become so well-known that it’s joked about on shows like SNL. Without even watching the Superbowl the other night, I saw four commercials and three of them were centered around naked or half-naked women (as in Carl Jr.’s ad where we’re not even pretending that women are seen as anything but something for men to consume).
For all these reasons and so many more, I need feminism. Because without feminism, we never would have made it this far; and without feminism we won’t move any further. Because I even need to write this post to counteract all the MRAs trolling the Internet talking about men not being allowed to wear dresses. I need feminism because denying that need is like sitting in a pitch dark room trying to read and swearing you don’t need to turn a light on to do it.
But even after all that, I’m sure plenty of men are looking on and thinking well okay, but what do I need feminism for? It’s not doing anything for me. But the fact is that without equality, we can never move forward together. Without equal representation and acceptance for both sides, we can never succeed as one great country because we’ll always be engaged in a silent war with one another. You need feminism because every day, feminists fight to break down the gender roles requiring men to never cry or show emotion. Because the LGBTQA community of which feminists are a large part is fighting not only for women but for men as well.
You need feminism because if women are in the dark so are you.