By Chloe Rudnicki | Opinion Editor
October 8, 2015
What woman hasn’t been whistled at? What middle and and high school aged girl has not felt pressure at some point to be “pretty enough” or hide the fact that she is intelligent? What boy hasn’t been told by society at some point (whether he heeds it or not) to regard women as objects, or as less competent than themselves? Gender disparity and the forcing of a superiority-inferiority complex upon both men and women has been a fundamental social issue since this nation’s foundation. It is a plague that limits this nation’s (and the world’s) potential and corrupts what should be a peaceful balance between man and woman.
The damage gender discrimination has left in its wake is blatant in the form of harsh, demeaning stereotypes that directly contribute to unequal wages, less job opportunities for women in cutthroat industries (such as moviemaking in Hollywood, politics in the Capitol, and business on Wall Street) and the suffocation of female perspective in social and political forums. Although women constitute half of the United States of America and thus half its identity and potential, they are treated as a minority, often little more an anomaly in the upper echelons of an unapologetically hierarchal world.
This is due to the sexism that has festered in this nation’s political, economic, and social realities since its founding 250 years ago. Archaic perceptions of what the woman is truly capable of and what she should do with her life have curbed the ambitions of many and subjected America to fulfilling only part of its potential. This is due to the tendency of the male portion of society to regard themselves as the “strong gender” and perceive any formidable woman contribution to be a threat to this ego-inflating self (and societal) image and thus either deny or justify sexism’s existence.
As the years have worn on and society has become progressively liberal and willing to unchain itself from these destructive beliefs and habits, the women’s identity in America has grown in all aspects of life and has increasingly demanded to have its voice not only heard, but respected as equal to that of the man. A movement that has spanned back (most notably) to the intense struggle for the right to vote in the 1940’s and even farther back in European culture to the French Enlightenment of the 1800’s, women’s rights have received more recognition as fundamental necessities of a strong, healthy nation.
Nonetheless, America is nowhere near eradicating the plague of sexism. (Donald Trump as a viable candidate for the Oval Office should say enough.) To some, who cling to old notions of who the woman and man are in relation to each other, feminism is too forward and is a disguise for a plot to eliminate man’s status and portray him as evil and tyrannical. To others, who choose to simply look past the rampant gender discrimination in everyday life, the movement and concept are foolish and reactionary to minor things with no real significance. To all critical parties, feminism is too radical and endangers societal balance. Feminism, however, is a movement that is only struggling to liberate a sex that has been for too long stuck in the shadows of a single gender-dominated world. It cannot be emphasized enough that liberation of the woman does not translate into the oppression of the man.
In the dictionary, feminism is defined as “the advocacy of women’s rights on the ground of social, political, and economic equality to men.” There is nothing radical about it. In a day and age in which women are subject to catcalls, cultural exploitation of their bodies, and both lingering and persistent expectations that women remain domestic even if they wish to pursue a career, such advocacy is necessary to keep the woman moving forward and a viable opposition to the stigma and oppression that society has structured to suffocate her.
If women wish to have a realistic chance of realizing their largest dreams and raising their own daughters and sons in a world in which gender-based intimidation and insecurity aren’t as pronounced, rampant, and (indirectly and directly) encouraged, feminism is something that must be fought for. By acting as a feminist and working to support oneself and one’s fellow women, one is not shaming the man. Don’t man and woman better each other by challenging each other to work towards a better society and future? Without women to compete with and collaborate with men, societal growth slows and can become lopsided. Fighting for feminism helps men as much as it helps women.
Overall, it is difficult to dispute that feminism is a movement that strives for the betterment of the entire human race. It wants young boys to not feel threatened by young girls as much as it wants young girls to pursue their dreams without having their minds and hearts subjugated to outside pressure. It strives to invent a world in which boys and girls are recognized as smart, competent, and special human beings with no limits.
Feminism is not a radical movement that has goals that are too lofty or a stance that is too aggressive against the man. Feminism’s purpose is to correct the wrongs of days past and the present, and to heal the scars suffered by both genders. Feminism, a word and idea often shunned and misunderstood, is a movement that celebrates the liberation of both men and women and their growth as both separate and intertwined parts of humanity. The “F Word” is something that encourages love and respect for all people, whether they were born a boy or a girl. And that is beautiful thing both men and women should feel no shame in supporting.