Not just another F-word

It’s not a post-racial America. It ain’t a post-sexist one either.

By Monessa Chahayed, Online Editor

HERE SHE IS... MISS UNDERSTOOD - When did "feminism" before a bad word? Probably about the time people realized equality among the sexes might mean men could be judged for how they look in their underwear in a very public place.Sara Almalla / Staff Writer

HERE SHE IS… MISS UNDERSTOOD – When did “feminism” before a bad word? Probably about the time people realized equality among the sexes might mean men could be judged for how they look in their underwear in a very public place.

To be considered a feminist, one simply needs to agree with one idea: All humans, male and female, should have equal political, economic and social rights.

That is it. There is no hidden feminist agenda. It is not about hating or belittling men, but about equality of the sexes. Feminism includes women of color, LGBTQ women, and men. It is about supporting women in their struggle to be equal in society. Yet, some in the media and politics think otherwise about feminists’ goals.

“The feminist agenda is not about equal rights for women,” said American media mogul Pat Robertson. “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.”

Even though women possess magical powers as Robertson claims, we still need feminism.

We need feminism because according to the American Association of University Women, in 2015, a woman who works full time, year round is paid only 78 cents to a man’s dollar. It is worse for mothers who are paid 71 cents and single mothers paid 58 cents compared to fathers. Seventy percent of women in the workforce are mothers yet there is no guaranteed paid family leave, childcare or flex time policy. The U.S is the only major industrialized nation without paid family leave. 

We need feminism because, according to George Mason University, when one in four women get raped or sexually assaulted, people wonder what she was wearing.  Why not teach boys to objectify women? According to Al Jazeera America, a school in North Dakota recently banned skinny jeans, leggings and yoga pants. The restrictions go beyond short skirts and low-cut shirts, but are targeting a woman’s silhouette itself.

“Schools must turn their attention to developing policies that do not shame girls or underestimate boys by assuming that they cannot be expected to behave appropriately around girls who show any skin,” said Jennifer Weiss-Wolf of Al Jazeera America.

We need feminism because while women make up 50.8 percent of America’s population, they comprise only 17 percent of congress. This means that a woman’s voice is not heard in U.S. Congress and we wonder why congressional approval ratings were at an all-time low at 14 percent in 2014. 

We need feminism because while, according to the Washington Post, 55 percent of all Americans support reproductive freedom, more than 40 laws restricting it have been passed since 2012. Those are laws overwhelmingly passed by men governing women’s bodies, dictating that the government is more qualified to make life-and-death decisions than the individual – simply because the individuals in this case are women. Body autonomy is a right, not a privilege.

We need feminism because the very word has been so co-opted by its enemies that people are embarrassed to call themselves feminists. Celebrities such as Katy Perry, Carrie Underwood and Madonna all say they would not call themselves feminists, but claim to believe in equal rights. Isn’t that what feminism is?

However, listen to Beyoncé’s “Flawless” and you will hear part of Nigerian novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s speech, “We should all be feminists.”

“We say to girls, ‘You can have ambition, but not too much. You should aim to be successful, but not too successful otherwise you will threaten the man.’” Adichie said. “We raise girls to see each other as competitors, not for jobs or for accomplishments…but for the attention of men.”

Do you agree with her ideas? Guess what: You are a feminist.

We need feminism because gender roles and stereotypes say that men are expected to pay for dates and women are expected to take their last names. Feminism is for men, too. Feminists argue that men should be able to express feelings without feeling emasculated. Doing something “like a girl” has a negative connotation. What kind of message is this sending to young girls that hear this every day?

We need feminism because it celebrates the freedom of women to choose to enter the workforce or pursue homemaking and to make decisions that best suit the needs of themselves, their communities, and their families. Feminism does not oppose homemaking, marriage and motherhood, but acknowledges them as among the many vocations of which women are capable.

We need feminism because some women don’t have the luxury of deciding whether they are a feminist or not. Because genital mutilation and child brides are accepted as culture. Because all Malala Yousafzai wanted was an education.

We need feminism because rape jokes are still considered funny by some, women are still afraid to walk alone at night, and because catcalling is still not a compliment.

Because feminism is the radical notion that women are human – equal in value and dignity to men – and that vision has yet to be fully realized.

Your thoughts?