BY EMMA BROWN
Published Nov. 2 2020
In recent years, women’s marches and #MeToo pledges have stirred up strong emotions about feminists, often being characterized in an unsavory manner as either a hater of men or a rejector of traditional femininity. However, the definition of a feminist provides clarity in the face of confusion. A feminist is a person who believes in the social, political and economic equality of the sexes.
I often get asked why I am a feminist. The question is typically followed up with another question along the lines of “Why would you have to fight for social, economic and political equality when you legally have all of those rights?” It is a fair question, and one that is easily answered. Discrimination and oppression on the basis of sex is technically illegal, but that does not mean that it is not a prevalent part of modern society.
Women face a laundry list of social injustices throughout their lives, one being the disproportionate number of female victims of sexual violence. According to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, 1 in 3 women are victims of sexual assault and one in six women have been victims or rape or attempted rape, but less than one percent of all perpetrators will face jail time.
On the other hand, 1 in 33 men are victims of rape or attempted rape. This is not to discount the struggles of male victims, but there is a stark contrast in the abundance of sexual violence between the sexes. Men make up 90% of all sexual abusers against women, and 93% of all sexual abusers against men, according to the 2010 National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey.
While the topic of sexual assault remains largely prevalent in the feminist conversation, when it comes to gender inequalities in American politics, it is easiest to point to the obvious lack of female representation in the history of U.S. presidents.
What I believe to be an equally pressing issue is the treatment of women in politics. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York received much media attention this summer after being accosted by Rep. Ted Yoho of Florida on the steps of the Capitol building, being called a “f—ing b—-” by a fellow member of Congress. While tensions tend to run high between members of the opposing party, it seems unlikely that such vulgar language would have been used to describe a male politician.
Vocabulary, while seemingly unimportant, plays a large role in the perception of political figures and the perpetuation of sexist ideals. Female politicians tend to be described as overly emotional, not electable, too angry, too ambitious, too shrill, whereas their male counterparts are depicted as strong-willed and bold.
In 2018, the Census Bureau reported that a woman working in a full-time job will make 82% of her male colleague’s salary, thus bringing us to the third and final inequality mentioned in the definition of a feminist: economic unfairness. This is often justified by the fact that women tend to work fewer hours than men. However, what tends to tear them away from the workplace is their duties as unpaid caretakers.
Women who work too much can be viewed as cold or unwilling to settle down, whereas women who juggle a job and a family can be seen as unable to commit themselves or distracted.
Despite the stereotypes about its followers, the feminist movement is important. Women are not yet socially, economically and politically equal to men. Until there is a day when all women around the globe experience total equality, we should all be feminists. And if a feminist is a person who believes in the social, political and economic equality of the sexes, who would want to be anyone else?