85% Of Americans Believe In Women’s Equality, But Only 18% Identify As Feminist

WARNING: This article contains profanity, namely the F-word. Reader discretion is advised.

The “F-word” I’m referring to here is feminism. Somehow the term, which fights for social, political and economic equality of the genders, has become taboo. For whatever misguided reason, many people, both men, and women, will not identify as a feminist, claiming that it is not needed, too extreme or even a crusade against men.

According to a 2015 Vox poll conducted by PerryUndem, a research and communications firm, 85 percent of Americans believe in “equality for women.” Yet, only 18 percent of respondents identified as a feminist.

Perhaps animosity toward the word extends from a limited understanding of the movement. But the adverse issues feminism fights to end are what really deserve this animosity.

Feminism targets a multitude of global problems endangering gender equality. It does not target men as evil (that’s misandry), but rather it encompasses men in its efforts.

Those people who refuse to call themselves feminists present arguments that appear confused and misinformed at their core; their claims that feminism is not needed anymore are just not true. The equality of genders is necessary but still not a reality.

Unpacking the importance of this movement and the issues it tackles deserves a saga. However, this brief and definitely incomplete list of global problems offer some insight to why feminism is still necessary for all genders:

The Rape Culture: A group of five women sit together; statistically, one of them will be raped in their life, and probably by someone they know. In a sense, our culture has become desensitized to cases of rape, even accepting it as normal or inevitable, Jaclyn Friedman, author of Yes Means Yes: Visions of Female Sexual Power and A World Without Rape, told Time Magazine. However, the rape of some women affects all women, acting as a “degradation, terror and limitation,” according to Marshall University. Some the University’s examples of rape culture include: blaming or questioning the victim, tolerance of sexual harassment and scrutinizing the victim’s dress, motives, history or mental state. What is perhaps most unsettling is that 97% of rapists never face jail time while their survivors face physical, psychological and emotional effects, such as depression, sexually transmitted infections, pregnancy, sleep disorders, flashbacks and even self-harm.

Gender Role Conflict (GRC): Gender Role Conflict is a psychological condition fostered from the rigid societal expectations of gender (i.e. men are tough, dominant and emotionless while women are fragile, submissive and nurturing), thus producing harmful effects. For example, GRC causes many behavioral problems in men, including restricted emotionality, violence, homophobia, sexism, depression, relationship issues and substance abuse, according to the American Psychology Association.

Limited Access to Education: Education is key to ending poverty so when 65 million girls cannot gain access to education that’s a problem for everyone. With an education, girls are more likely to marry later and have fewer kids while earning higher wages to support healthy and flourishing families. Still, many young girls face social, cultural and economic demands that debilitate their ability to learn. Some of these global issues include child marriage and labor, gender-specific violence, limited resources, and insufficient legislation that discriminate against girls’ educations, according to UNICEF.

Female Genital Mutilation (FGM): Over 200 million girls and women in 30 countries today have undergone genital mutilation, which provides no benefits and only harm to women’s health, according to the World Health Organization. WHO identified FGM as a violation of women’s human rights and clear example of sex inequality, stating, “The practice violates a person’s rights to health, security and physical integrity, the right to be free from torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, and the right to life when the procedure results in death.”

Although just a small list with brief explanations of large problems, feminism’s fight for gender equality is clear. It is not exclusive but rather inclusive. It is not radical but rather fundamental. It is not unnecessary but rather needed.

So for those critiques derailing the need for feminism: do a little more research. Maybe then you’ll realize that the F-word is F-ing important.

Image via Celina Timmerman

Abby Papenfus

Editorial Contributor, University of Dayton Major:Public Relations Her heart belongs to: Justin Timberlake, too many iced coffees Her guilty pleasures: Poorly made movies, "Sorry" by Justin Bieber on repeat

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