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Feminism: Why Do We Need It in the 21st Century

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 When looking at our society today, realize I take much for granted. As a woman, I will be able to vote, become a doctor, study at university, have the choice to marry and start a family (or not), and do many other things that just over a hundred years ago were mere fantasies. These are great accomplishments. However, we still haven’t reached the finish line. Some might argue that the finish line was getting the vote or laws enshrining our rights to equal pay, but in practice, social change is limited unless the views of society as a whole change too.

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Even though banners are written and policies are made, gender inequality has not been fully eradicated. For positive change to happen, genders need to stop being portrayed so contrastingly in terms of personality, appearance, and ability – as a society we need to acknowledge the difference between biological sex (female and male) and the expectations of gender that are drilled into us (femininity and masculinity). As Serena Williams put it in one of her Nike advertisements, “If we show emotion, we are called dramatic. If we want to play against men, we’re nuts. When we stand for something, we’re unhinged. And if we get angry, we’re hysterical or irrational.” This doesn’t just apply to women in sport, this applies to all women, regardless of career. So, feminism: why do we need it in the 21st century?

I am told that even if I get into the same university as a boy, and we finish with the same degree, and get the same job, and work our way up along the same career ladder, that:

a) I must be prepared for the 52% chance that I will be sexually harassed (this figure is even higher outside of the UK)

b) I might never earn as much as my male counterpart due to the gender pay gap

c) likely, I will not be taken as seriously in fields highly dominated by men, such as finance, medicine, and engineering.

So, if there is any advice I can offer to people our age, male or female, do not let statistics define your future. Aspire to change these facts and figures of our society in the hope that our daughters don’t grow up with the same constraints. Feminism isn’t about making women better than men; feminism is about changing our perspective on gender and having equal opportunities, equal success, and equal justice.

Feminists fight for many issues simultaneously – supporting sexual assault survivors, ‘freeing the nipple’; closing the gender pay gap; breaking gender stereotypes; fighting period poverty; challenging beauty expectations and norms; improving the division of household labor, and more. It can be hard to keep up. However, getting involved with feminism doesn’t have to be complicated. It could mean supporting women-owned brands; signing a petition; volunteering at a local women’s shelter; donating tampons to a homeless shelter; supporting female artists; standing up for other girls in class.. the list goes on. Feminism is what you make it, feminism: why we need it in the 21st century, feminism is what you need now.

Mainstream feminism is a movement that seems to have a lot of critics, including many young men. Some associate feminism with giving opportunities to women in areas in which they are underrepresented but failing to do the same for men in areas in which they are underprivileged. Such areas include university and sixth form education, mental health, criminal sentencing, and divorce settlements. This, they say, is hypocritical for a movement about gender equality. The movement has also been criticized for forgetting about the struggles of women who are not white, straight, and middle class, and for focusing on smaller issues like ‘manspreading’ over more pressing ones, like honor killings in the Middle East. Gender equality is a brilliant aim, but we need to make sure that our approach to achieving it is inclusive and open-minded.

 

 

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