Why The World Needs Feminism

Rush Limbaugh: "I'm Not Opposed To Women! It's FEMINISM I Oppose!" ...thanks for clearing that up, Rush.

From conservative mouthpiece Rush Limbaugh, who asserts that “Feminism was established to allow unattractive women easier access to the mainstream,” to Christian fundamentalist Pat Robertson who claims that “The feminist agenda is not about equal rights for women. It is about a socialist, anti-family political movement that encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism, and become lesbians.”

Feminism has been misinterpreted, ridiculed and all around distorted taking many feminists including myself  past  the point of insult to downright  weariness.  Every “wave” of feminism has faced this disdain in some shape or form, whether emanating from the media, politicians, or the misinformed masses.

The present day feminist movement is facing one of the most detrimental of these misinterpretations: the delusion that we are living in a post-feminism world, that feminism is now “dead.”  The idea that feminism is an unnecessary political entity in our society, that it has successfully completed the tasks it set out to accomplish and is now irrelevant proves more disturbing than the commentary asserting that feminism is merely “bad.”

Activism and the Academy: Celebrating 40 Years of Feminist Scholarship and Action

At the conference entitled Activism and the Academy: Celebrating 40 Years of Feminist Scholarship and Action which took place earlier this fall at Barnard College on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, Janet Jakobsen, Director of the Barnard Center for Research on Women addressed this issue of many media outlets condemning the feminist movement as “dead” in her opening remarks.  As the auditorium, bursting at the seams with all manner of feminist activists, filled with a resounding laugh after she alluded to this condemnation, it was clear that everyone was finding amusement at a notion that they themselves where disproving at that very moment.

The conference at Barnard that I was lucky enough to attend was a clear indication in and of itself that feminism is not even remotely close to being “dead,” as Jakobsen when on to say, the feminist movement is in fact very much “alive, well and relevant.”

And, contrary to the skewed beliefs of Rush Limbaugh, this movement does not continue to thrive for the purpose of “allow[ing] unattractive women easier access to the mainstream.”  The feminist movement continues to progress and improve, not only thanks to the amazing work and activism of the current generation of feminists, but also because our society that we live in needs feminism.

On November 25, 2011, ABC aired an episode of 20/20 concerning the sexualization of young girls and the organization SPARK (Sexualization Protection: Action, Resistance, Knowledge) which is currently combating this media fueled plague in our society.  After much pestering, I was able to get a friend of mine to tune in.  After watching the whole segment not only was he not convinced that the sexualization of girls and women is a serious problem in our society, his immediate response to me was “How much more freedom do you women want?”

These eight tiny words convey perfectly how much we still need the feminist movement in our society and the general public’s misconceptions about feminism all in one ugly sentence.  It is as if, just because women can vote and have jobs that allow us to be self-supporting, women have nothing left to fight for, and no more rights to demand.

Well, feminism is here to remind the world that all oppressed groups have a lot left to fight for, regardless of how near or how distant equality is.  For example, though women do have the right to vote and to make choices about our bodies when it comes to abortions and pregnancies (though not everyone has access to abortions in ways that they should), rights that we would not be enjoying now if not for the amazing and inspirational work of players in the feminist movement, the sexualization and objectification of women is still very much impeding our progress on the way to equality.

Sexualization is a marketing tool running rampant in virtually every form of advertising where women and girls are turned, figuratively or often times quite literally, into sex objects.  The damaging effects of this phenomenon are ubiquitous.  This sexualization which started in the advertising world has bled into other media outlets and is now running rampant everywhere from music videos and songs, to television shows, to the fashion industry and everywhere in between.

Click to Read SPARK's Blog !

Imposing this narrow sexuality on women and girls on such a vast scale has detrimental effects to not only females, but to our society as a whole.

Raising girls in a culture where they are subconsciously taught that their worth is measured by their physical “sexiness,” a constricting standard of sexual attractiveness at that, leads to an exponential increase in depression, eating disorders, and low self-worth.  Sexualization is a key cause in the gender gap in professions in career fields under science and mathematics which, due to the sexism that is an inevitable derivative of sexualization, starts when girls are in their early years of schooling and are not urged to pursue science and mathematics.

Everyone reaps the harmful consequences of this detrimental institution; not only females are affected.  The more media images of objectified women that men view, the more likely he is to judge the women in his life more harshly by their appearance and the less likely he is to be satisfied with intimate partners.  Also, by sexualizing females, the media is turning women into objects which increases gender-based violence against women.

So, to recap, sexualization leads to a society where half of the general population are potentially growing up with degraded self-worth, not encouraged to pursue legitimate career options, and are more likely to encounter gender-based violence.

So excuse me for wanting just a little more freedom to go along with my voting rights as a woman, like say, being able to choose my own sexuality instead of having it imposed onto me by the media and not being seen as an object by others.

Click to See The Girl Effect's Website !

But domestic matters are not the only issues that society needs feminism to combat.  Unfortunately, girls in societies all over the globe are uncultivated resources, so organizations like The Girl Effect have set out to, as they put it on their website, actually tap into “the unique potential of 600 million adolescent girls to end poverty for themselves and the world.”

Their philosophy is that, through applicable education and substantial healthcare, young girls living in impoverished situations have the power to end the cycle of poverty for themselves and generations to come.

Past feminist movements have all had specific and concrete problems with specific and concrete solutions.  The women’s suffrage movement fought for the vote, the solution being the Nineteenth Amendment.  The women’s liberation movement fought for many things including a women’s right to choose and equal pay for equal work, both of which had concrete Supreme Court decisions which were clear and tangible solutions.

Today’s feminist movement is a bit more complicated and multi-faceted.  Today, amongst other things, we are fighting against the sexualization of women and girls in the media; we are working towards a world where girls can break the cycle of poor education and destitution and solve such issues like hunger and widespread poverty which have plagued humankind for just about always.

These issues cannot simply be solved by a piece of legislation or a Supreme Court ruling.  These problems are complicated, and their solutions are not clear cut, easily discernable, or straightforward.  The solutions need to take place in the mindsets of the masses, the aspirations of worldwide legislation and everywhere in between which the feminist movement works towards tirelessly every day.

But to succeed in this colossal task, the future of feminism needs to be secured in our society as a viable asset to national and global change-making.  To do this, several things need to happen.

First, people need to get over the name.  The word “feminism” is a very loaded word for many people, so loaded with society’s stereotypes and misconceptions that people refuse to understand the true meaning of the feminist movement and just reiterate these falsehoods.  Second, as Shelby Knox puts in when quoted in Courtney E. Martin’s article for The Nation titled “‘You Are the NOW of Now!’ The Future of (Online) Feminism”: “We, as feminists have to give up the martyr complex and start building financially stable and even profitable activist enterprises on our terms, infused with our values.”  In other words, the feminist movement needs money to be able to put its amazing ideals to tangible work on the ground.

The future of feminism is an absolute one, because the world needs feminism to tackle these and a multitude of other problems.  Feminism is uniquely capable to combat this task, because as Audre Lorde so eloquently titled one of her essays “There Is No Hierarchy of Oppressions.”  Lorde, a “black, lesbian, feminist, socialist, poet, mother of two including one boy and a member of an interracial couple,” understands this more than most.  The fact is, we live in a society—nay, a world— where “oppression and intolerance of differences come in all shapes and sizes and colors and sexualities,” as Lorde goes on to say.

With the understanding of these domestically and globally institutionalized oppressions, the feminist movement is able to use this lens to fight the most pressing issues we face today.  For example, feminist organizations like SPARK don’t just tackle the results of sexualization in the media, they go straight to the source of the problem and start from there.  Similarly, The Girl Effect is not only out to patch up the complications poverty causes, they seek to obliterate poverty itself.

The feminist movement is in many ways an embodiment of the ultimate form of activism, where every form of oppression is an oppression worthy of eradication, for feminism takes people’s personal outrage at every day injustices and turns it into political action.

7 thoughts on “Why The World Needs Feminism

  1. Sometimes I think that people who say that feminism is dead actually trying to kill feminism. And they are just lying to use, while people who are not surrounded with feminist views will just absorb without questioning what is given to them.

    We need to start from the base, start with the new generation given them a feminist view so that the all future generations will be more like they should be.

  2. I will always find it ridiculous that in a few short decades, feminism has gone from trying to dispel Victorianesque myths of womanhood to fighting the cultural ubiquity of scantily-clad, unrealistically proportioned babes. I mean, seriously. Your post is a great call to action, and a compelling argument for why feminism is still important.

  3. I like that you talked about people thinking that Feminism is dead. I too thought that before starting my feminism course. It’s like if there are no marches, it is no longer a cause being fought for. These days, if you don’t see something on tv or in an advertisement, you don’t know about it and there certainly aren’t any feminist advertisements in soho or on abc.

    It’s the same things with artists. If you haven’t heard an artist come out with a song in one month, suddenly you’re asking where they disappeared to. If people don’t see things directly in front of them, they think it doesn’t exist.

  4. I love this article. First the link to SPARK is great and that piece that I also saw on 20/20 really did show how much further we have to go. I just have to agree that now feminism and the movement is more about just women or to help move to that next step it recognizes larger parts of the world (poverty, media culture, war practices with regard to rape as weapon, healthcare) that are all more than just a bill or about us but about systems at large that affect minorities and the disenfranchised everywhere.

    Well said!

  5. I can’t believe your friend said that! Well actually, I can believe, I just don’t want to. I would love for everyone to have a feminist mentality and “step out of the fog” to view the harsh realities of our society. It’s hard to get angry at people because they are just ignorant on the subject and that’s why I believe that feminism should be incorporated into our national curriculum! I also think The Girl Effect’s message is very powerful to tell young girls that they can be part of the solution. Your blogpost also presents this as an issue that affects everyone.

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