From the lyrics of Beyonce songs to celebrity headlines to television, this once niche and undiscovered idea has become a hot topic of discussion for girls around the world. With the sudden surge of #girlpower media – and the opposition that comes along with that – it might seem impossible to turn on a TV or flip through a magazine without coming across the “F” word.
Although some individuals don’t want to identify as a feminist, I assumed that most people at least knew what the word meant. So imagine my surprise when we were walking down the streets of New York City and my sister said to me “Sorry, but this whole feminism thing is getting old.”
At first I was angry. Equality isn’t something that goes in and out of style, only to be used when the media deems it “trendy” again.
I wanted to tell her the list of things that I think are “getting old,” such as:
- Full-time women workers making 78 cents to every dollar a man makes, with full-time Black and Latina workers earning even less.
- Girls having to risk their lives to simply get an education
- The fact that a female presidential candidate has stories written about her hair rather than her policy
- Belgium being the only country in the world that has an upper parliament with at least a 50 percent female representation
- Feeling unsafe and defensive while walking to my car at night
Feminism was not on the list.
Instead of trying to lecture her with the facts, I wondered why she thought that. Was it because she as a white, suburban teenager had never experienced the threats that other women face daily? Was it because she didn’t know what it meant? Or was it simply because she had only been exposed to the twisted angle that most of the media takes when discussing women’s rights? Did other girls agree with her?
So for any girl out there who may be feeling a little indifferent or apprehensive to identify as a feminist, here are the two main things you need to know:
Feminism isn’t just for women
The actual dictionary definition of the word is
the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes
That’s right: the crazy idea that both men and women should have equal rights and opportunities. A lot of the opposition for feminist thinking comes from girls who don’t want to be seen as a victim or think that men in abusive relationships shouldn’t be overlooked. What they don’t realize is that the core issue of the movement deals with equality for everyone.
This isn’t just a movement for you
I think a lot of young women and girls don’t see a point in feminism because they don’t understand what it’s like to live in a society of oppression. Let’s face it: although we have a long way to go, America is leaps and bounds ahead of other countries in terms of equally. Women here are allowed to vote, divorce, go to college, and have a career – privileges that aren’t as common outside of the western world.
In Saudi Arabia, women are legally owned by a male guardian – either a father, brother or husband. They have to receive consent from the male just to attend a University, get married, travel outside of the country and to have some types of surgery. The women of Kuwait just received the right to vote in 2005. A thirteen-year-old girl in Somalia was stoned do death after she reported her rape because it was classified as adultery.
As terrible as those stories are, it’s the harsh truth for girls all over the world. It’s incredibly selfish for someone to assume that an entire movement doesn’t matter just because it doesn’t apply to directly to them. You might not think you need feminism for yourself, you sure do need it for those girls abroad.
Feminism is supposed to make you think about how the world presents the idea of a woman. It’s supposed to make you question the times that the media used a woman’s body to sell products – from underwear, to fast food, to clothing . It’s supposed to make girls – and boys – speak up and say “that’s not fair” when they notice something out of line and it’s definitely supposed to promote equality and justice.
The people that feel uncomfortable with that are probably the ones perpetuating the patriarchy in the first place.
Image via Anna Schultz