“But, it is okay that he talks about women in such a degrading way because what man has not talked about women like that before?”
I was sitting in class when my professor asked for our class’s thoughts on the election. This was the first comment made. Please re-read it and tell me that we don’t need feminism.
When the word feminist is used, the first things that usually come to mind are topless and bra-burning women, reproductive rights, and anger. But, this is such a misrepresentation of what feminism truly is. A glance through history shows this. Scholars often divide the history of feminism into “waves”. The first wave, so to speak, began with the women's suffragist movement. It ranged from late 19th and early 20th century. From the late 1960s to early 1970s, second wave feminism took its turn. Personal issues became political issues. It started to address issues with how women were being treated like cattle in beauty pageants. The demonstrations were more dramatic than prior times, but they certainly got to the point. It eventually adopted a more liberal tone as the mantra become one of sisterhood and solidarity. The political drive became personal and the issues they sought to address were certainly even more personal. Therefore, it came as no surprise when reproductive rights entered the scene. The biggest difference between first and second wave feminism is that the target issues were incredibly diverse (1).
If one thing sticks out to you from that brief outline of the history of feminism I hope it is this: feminism isn’t just bra-burning savage like women concerned about their birth control. Historically, socially, and politically, it has been so much more than this. So, why are we so naturally cautious and defensive at the udder of the word “feminist”? Why do we twinge at this label?
I think the sour taste in our mouths comes from the way that we have reduced feminism to bra-burning savage-like women who are too obsessed with their birth control to see past themselves. When we look at the actual history of the movement, we see that feminism is a movement that was not only beneficial but necessary. Women were denied basic privileges men enjoyed such as voting, so women took action. Women feared and experienced mistreatment from men, so they defended themselves. I am not trying to say feminism has always been perfectly executed with complete justice and righteousness, but I am saying that there was certainly relevance and success in the movement.
The question remains: Do we really still need feminism? We now enjoy the right to vote. We have access to birth control (for better or worse). We enjoy (somewhat) equal pay as men. Title IX exists. So, the seeming conclusion is no. But, what about the women who are forced into pornography? And even further forced to consume drugs to be able to get through the scenes. What about the influence easy access to pornography has had on our men (and women) and how they treat and think of women (2)? What about the cruel treatment in prostitution (3)? Even in places that it is legal, there is still brutality. The list could go on, but you get the point.
Women are still being subjected to heinous ideals.
Now is the time again when feminist need to advocate for each other. We need to advocate for our women. It is the time for not only men but also all women to know that they cannot be reduced to their body parts. We women are not the value we hold in the pornography or sex trafficking industries.
I know you may be thinking, well it is really not that many men and women who are involved in these industries to make a huge fuss about it, let alone another international movement. But even that is ridiculous! Would you fight for your mother, sister, daughter if they were stuck in these industries? Would you do whatever it took to free them? There are women who need you, who need to be fought for. If we even liberated one from this kind of industry, it would be worth it.
Sure, the majority of men and women are not bound in this industry, but the mentality is what still plagues our world. Look back at the quote from the beginning of this post. It exists. People think it is okay to continue to sexually assault women in action and in speech without giving a second thought to it. Society still sees women as her reproductive parts and not the gift that she is. Women has become a sexual fantasy, a show to be observed and not a treasure to be cherished. This is why we cannot resist the title feminism. We must continue to support women. And the first step to this is admitting that we still need feminism.
With that, I admit: I am proud to be a feminist. I am proud to stand up for the dignity of women who cannot themselves. I am proud to stand up for myself. I am not burning my bra over this, but I feel my heart burning for the injustice that continues to perpetuate itself.