3 Reasons Why I Need Feminism (And Why You Do Too)

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.

I Need Feminism
Unsplash

Rape Culture

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.

Equal Pay

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.

Representation

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 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.

I need feminism

Feminism in 2014: What Feminism Accomplished in One Year

It’s that time of month again, and I couldn’t be more excited to be taking the F-Word Link-Up into 2015. Kelly first e-mailed me about starting this project back in August, and I’ve had so much fun with it since then, and with getting to read all of the great posts you link up with us each month. So to celebrate making it to our sixth month of this link-up, today I want to talk about what happened for feminism in 2014.

For years, feminists have had to prove themselves throughout the world – prove their necessity, prove their purpose, prove what they aren’t… With voting rights achieved, women all over the world working outside the home, and important changes in the law, it seems like modern feminists are constantly trying to convince the rest of the world that our presence is still necessary. Explaining that even with these incredible accomplishments, the world is still far behind in terms of making sure women aren’t left behind can seem impossible sometimes, but these advances in gender equality throughout the last 12 months have served as substantial proof of that continued need.

feminism in 2014
Unsplash

No Photoshop

In January, the popular lingerie chain Aerie announced their decision to stop retouching their models. They were the first American business of their kind to make this decision, and were met with support from all over the country as women began to see more realistic body representations in advertising for that company. While the women featured in these ads are still considered beautiful by conventional standards, and are likely much thinner than a great majority of women, the vow to stop photoshopping women’s bodies for magazines is a giant step towards body positivity.

#YesAllWomen

In May, feminists everywhere took to Twitter armed with this hashtag and explained that while not all men rape, harass, or otherwise suppress women, all women have experienced these things at one time or another. In less than a week, the hashtag reached the top of the charts with nearly two million total tweets, educating people everywhere on one of the primary reasons for feminism in modern society.

Emma Watson

The United Nations named Emma Watson a Goodwill Ambassador in July of this past year, placing her alongside Nicole Kidman, Princess Bajrakitiyabha Mahidol, and Farhan Akhtar, meaning that the board is made up of three women and one man. Watson immediately accepted this honor and took to the UN to deliver a powerful speech on what feminism is and why we need it – regardless of whether you are a man or a woman.

Laverne Cox

Laverne Cox became the first transgender actress to receive an Emmy nomination in July, when she was nominated for her continued (and incredible) performance as Sophia in Orange is the New Black. She then went on to spend the rest of the year showing the world what an incredible woman she is.

Malala Yousafzai

In October, Malala Yousafzai became the youngest person to accept the Nobel Peace Prize, as acknowledgement for the incredible work she’s done in fighting for the rights of Middle Eastern girls to receive an education. This was an amazing stand for a teenage girl in Pakistan to take when she’s surrounded by people in charge telling her that, because she is a girl, she does not need or deserve an education, and it’s a stand that didn’t go unpunished. Since then though, Yousafzai has continued advocating for girls’ educational rights throughout the world, and the Nobel Committee recognized that this past year.

Congress

Despite democratic complaints of having lost their advantage in congress, the 2014 Midterm Elections this past November made history. In the upcoming congressional term, just over 100 women will be serving – a record high and an incredible accomplishment for women in Congress.

Lammily Doll

Also in November, the world finally saw a realistic alternative to Barbie – Lammily, a doll modeled after real girls and women, providing a healthy body image for girls to look up to.

Feminism in the Media

Several women in Hollywood took to their typewriters and published feminist memoirs, like Amy Poehler’s Yes PleaseOther well-known women, like Taylor Swift, Beyonce, and Ellen Page spoke out about their identity as feminists, and in Page’s case as a member of the LGBTQA community. When an anonymous group hiding behind the Internet released hundreds of illegally obtained nude photos of (primarily female) members of Hollywood, actresses like Jennifer Lawrence, who was targeted in the attack, took the opportunity to speak out about sexual assault which gets glorified rather than punished oftentimes, a fact for which she was not willing to apologize.

So now I want to know – what important strides did feminists everywhere take this year that I didn’t mention in this post? Or on the other end, what setbacks do you think we suffered?

feminism in 2014

Sexist Media Beyond the Mad Men Era

sexist media
Unsplash

Elle and I talk a lot about feminism, sexism, and everything in between.  But one thing neither of us have mentioned too much is how the media contributes to that.  The media is such a huge part of our culture though that it only stands to reason that something which is so pervasive in our daily lives would be rampant on TV, in advertising, and online.

In fact, I’d argue that sexism in the media is a big reason behind sexism in our daily lives because, believe it or not, advertising and the media do affect how you look at the world around you (I know, I know. You’re impervious to advertising. You don’t notice it and it has absolutely NO effect on your daily habits or beliefs).  From the time we’re children, we’re bombarded with advertisements, TV shows, movies, tabloid covers, and everything in between telling us that women are good for one thing above all else: sex.  Somehow though, that same thought process doesn’t apply to men.  You could flip through a magazine and find plenty of examples of women being degraded, but almost none of men, and this fact shows in our cultural norms and beliefs.

As far as the media goes, we’ve come a long way in recent years, and if you don’t believe that just watch one episode of Mad Men and you’ll see what I’m talking about.  Still though, we have a long way to go – and the reason most people don’t realize that is because it has become so normalized over time so that we can’t even see it when it’s right in front of us.

These examples though, show exactly how far advertising has gone in using sexism to promote their products.

sexist media
BMW
sexist media
PETA
sexist media
Burger King

So what about you? What sexist ads or other parts of the media have you shocked that they made it out of the advertising office? Do you think these ads have an effect on our culture, or the other way around?

sexist media

Feminist Role Models

feminist role modelLast month when Elle and I started trying to think of topics for this month’s link-up, I started to wonder what had gotten us both where we are: writing about feminism and other things we feel strongly about on a regular basis.  What inspired us to action on this point, and made us believe what we do?  I started to wonder about our role models, and those of all the other women who share with us in this link-up each month.

It was a difficult topic to write on, because there are so many women I look up to: Harriet Tubman, Malala Yousafzai, Hermione Granger (because fictional or not, she was awesome) and her real-life counterpart Emma Watson, Hillary Clinton… Each of these women has something I can’t help but look up to: an undying motivation, strength to do what so few women have, or an undying belief that we all deserve something.

feminist role model

The more I thought about it though, the more I realized that my role models are the men and women who stand up for what they believe in, and nothing makes me think of that more than the women who first fought for our rights in this country and in so many others.  Without those women who started the battle for feminism, I don’t know where we’d be today, what we’d be fighting for.  They stood up when no one before them had, when there was no precedent to work off of or role models to look up to.  They fought for our most basic rights and without that, we wouldn’t be here today fighting for the end of more ingrained inequalities and injustices.

These women – the first-wave feminists and suffragettes in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s – are my role models because without them, I don’t know where we’d be right now or what we’d be fighting for.

feminist role model

The F Word: The Power of Language

The Power of Language

We’ve all heard it said before: “man up,” “that’s so gay,” “don’t be such a girl….”  And for the most part, it just seems like pieces of our language, phrases that mean no harm.  You pick these words up in middle-school, and they become a part of your vocabulary in the same way that SAT prep words and the lines to your favorite songs do.

You’ve seen me say before that “no matter what anybody tells you, words and ideas can change the world.”  Not to get too communication major on you, but language is the entire basis of our culture.  It’s how we communicate, how we get a handle on the things we want and need.  It’s how we provide social contact for ourselves, and help for others.  Without language, our society would be an incredibly lonely one: we wouldn’t be able to know or be close to anybody.

So it only makes sense that of course these phrases mean something, however insubstantial and meaningless they may seem.  They all came from somewhere, from a more sexist, racist, hateful world than the one we currently live in.  They’re reminders of a time when Mad Men were real, and somehow managed to trickle down into our everyday language all these years later.

Without our ever meaning for them to, phrases like “man up,” have an impact on our culture, and the way we view our roles in society.  We say “man up,” because at one time, women couldn’t be expected to handle anything beyond the house-duties.  We say “that’s so gay” because being gay was (and in some parts of society, still is) considered to be an awful thing, something to be ashamed of.

Changing our language seems small, especially when there are bigger problems like marriage and pay equality to be concerned with, but language is our basis.  It’s where we start from each day, and unless it matches our beliefs, we can’t be expected to move forward.

On Catcalling and Why It’s Not a Compliment (no matter how much you say it is)

So I’m super excited to be writing to you today from the second ever F-Word Link-up with Kelly and I!  Last month went really well and we LOVED reading through all of your amazing posts, so we’re hoping that this month will be even better!  If you’re not sure what I’m talking about, go check out the first link-up where I talk about still needing feminism in 2014.  And when you’re done, head back here to catch up on this month’s posts.

This month’s topic is sexism that you’ve experienced in your everyday life, whether it be catcalling, unequal pay, how people view single mothers, or anything else you can think of.

catcalling
Unsplash

I guess my confusion stems from my definition of a compliment – “a polite expression of praise or admiration” – because to me, yelling at a woman from a moving vehicle doesn’t feel as polite as I guess it was intended.  Because the way I was taught, polite would be allowing me the chance to respond which, since you’re driving at 50 MPH straight past me, doesn’t really seem like an option. Although I suppose it is always an option for me to write down your license plate number and track you down through the DMV or local police station.  Or maybe I could just run after your car until you stop, and we’re finally united in true love.

We’ve all heard this argument before: the fight over whether or not yelling “hey baby!” at a random woman on the street is okay.  Even Playboy and Fox News have weighed in on the subject of catcalling as a compliment (and I bet you can’t guess who took what side of that argument).  I’ve commented on the subject before, whether it was on this blog, on Facebook, or in person.  And yet I’m still always shocked and confused when a person says “I don’t know what you’re so mad about! They’re just trying to COMPLIMENT you for God’s sake!”

But all of that aside, I was always of the opinion that a compliment is intended to make the recipient feel good, not the complimenter.  And if that were the case, there wouldn’t be women confronting you about it or men going on the defensive when they do.  So defensive in fact, that I once had a man spend two days fighting with me that catcalling is a man’s way of “calling me sexy for Christ’s sake,” and my not being interested is me being shallow because he had a “friend” who had done it before and a girl had responded.

Here’s my bottom line though: maybe there are a few women out there who secretly love when the construction workers on Broad Street tell them how much they’d love to bend them over, but it’s pretty obvious that the majority of women are not amused.  And we would hardly consider subjecting men everywhere to something they’re made uncomfortable by simply because “we want to make them smile.”

catcalling

On Still Needing Feminism in 2014

feminism in 2014

In the couple of years since I’ve become more outspoken about feminism and equality, I’ve dealt with a lot of negative comments; a lot of insults, suggestions that I need a boyfriend, and just plain ridiculous arguments.

There’s one comment that seems to come up more than others though, and to me it’s the most worrisome because it’s not a hurled insult or an illogical argument.  It’s a quiet statement; something that the person actually believes.  And the fact that so many people do feel this way is both sad and terrifying – “Why do we even need this anymore! We’re all equal already!”

This is something that the person truly believes when they say it – stated bluntly and as fact, as though I’ve suggested that women still aren’t allowed to vote and how could I truly believe such a thing.  As though voting was the only inequality women have had to overcome, and now that this particular wrong has been righted, there’s no longer anything to worry about.

It worries me because this delusion – this belief that things are equal when in fact they aren’t, or at least that the way things are is the right way, is why inequality exists.  This inaction because of the belief that nothing needs to be acted upon is why women still make $.77 for every $1.00 a man makes.  Why after ten sexual assaults on my college campus in one semester, the overwhelming response was still a warning directed solely at women: “please be careful about how much you drink and make sure you don’t walk home alone at night.” It’s the reason why, in four years of college, I was given three tubes of pepper spray and a taser, and my self-defense class junior year did not have a single male student.  It’s the cause of cases like Steubenville, which I can promise you was not an isolated incident.

This bizarre ignorance about the inequality in America is why, at nearly 23 years old, I am still told that “one day you’ll change your mind” every time I say I don’t want children.  Because despite being a fully-functioning adult, my “feminine obligation” to have children and dedicate my life to them still trumps my actual plans and desires.  In 2014, nearly every romantic comedy or “female” oriented television show, book, or movie deals with the question of whether or not women can have it all, because for men, it is expected that they will have it “all”.

Saying feminism isn’t necessary is like suggesting that despite the flickering lamp in your bedroom, you don’t need a new lightbulb.  It’s suggesting that over half the human population isn’t important enough to need or want equal rights and fair treatment, because this false sense of equality has been built into our media, our news, our religions to the point that it becomes difficult to separate reality from fiction anymore.

So why do you think Feminism is still important?  Or if you don’t think we need it anymore, why?