As both a feminist and women’s studies major, whenever I meet new people, I get asked some variations of the following questions:
“What do you with that?”
“Why is there no men’s studies major?” (UH, BECAUSE THAT’S CALLED HISTORY?)
“Women got the right to vote ages ago… Pretty sure the fight is over, no?”
“Oh, you’re a feminist? … Want to go make me a sandwich? Heh, heh, heh.” (Yes, I’ve actually been told this multiple times by multiple people)
Since International Women’s Day is now upon us, I figured there is no better time than now to address these questions (minus the last one – really, that’s a classic example of WHY we still need feminism) and bring light to why the work is still not over for women. Here are five reasons to remind us why International Women’s Day matters:
One) Girls all over the world are still struggling to gain access to quality education
Malala Yousafzai from Pakistan, at just 15 years old, is the youngest nominee in history for a Nobel Peace Prize. This nomination has not come without its share of horrors. She has fought nearly to her death to advocate for her right to education. However her story resonates with many girls all over the world across all cultures who still struggle to obtain the same education as their male counterparts. In the United States, pregnant and parenting teens face multiple barriers to gain access to education without discrimination. Based on their gender, girls all over the world still seem to have a difficult time accessing education without obstacles.
Two) People still don’t understand the severity of rape
The Delhi gang rape. The Steubenville rape case. Rape in the military. Why are we still so slow to act when it comes to rape? Why are we still blaming the victim? Why are we still perpetuating the silence forced upon the victims by not taking them seriously? Why do we click our tongues at rape cases around the world and deem them as barbaric while ignoring cases of rape in our country that are equally horrible? Lawmakers should really take biology classes after their grossly ignorant statements about rape and women’s bodies so that it becomes clear: Rape is rape, and no victim should have to prolong the trauma caused by such violation.
Three) Women are still not trusted to make decisions about their own body
Access to abortion and contraception has been under threat in the U.S. as of late. Laws restricting our rights to seek abortions continue to proliferate and some religiously affiliated institutions continually seek to restrict our access to contraception. Lawmakers attempt to limit availability for birth control so women risk unwanted pregnancies and then may be forced to carry a baby to term because they’ve also limited access to abortion. Seriously? We’re trying to take control of our bodies and our decisions yet more and more obstacles are placed in our way.
Four) Sexism is subliminal and still very prevalent
There is a lot to celebrate in regards to the progress and advances women have made. We don’t face nearly as much blatant sexism as we used to but that doesn’t mean the sexism hasn’t evolved into something more subliminal. For example, when will people stop talking about Hilary Clinton’s suits or Michelle Obama’s arms or new bangs and start talking about the policies they advocate for and their actions as leaders? Why are Anne Hathaway and Jennifer Lawrence being pitted against each other and female actors revered more for their dress choice and less for their acting ability? (I am constantly shaking my head and doing facepalms when I come home to watch Fashion Police – I can’t help it that it is one of the many mindless things on TV at 6:20 PM and my guilty pleasure to “smh” at their inane comments as I cook my pasta) When women are judged more for their abilities rather than their looks, that will be a good day. Maybe in an alternate universe, men feel our pain.
Five) People think feminism is only about women
I understand why people don’t want to associate with the F word. Women think once they do they will grow excessive amounts of leg and armpit hair and suddenly become intolerant of the male sex. Men think it’s a movement against them. But the reason why feminism speaks to my heart and passions is because all we want is for women and men to be treated as equals—and that both men and women are no longer harmed by the corrosive sexism that continues to run deep in our society. For example, social constructions of masculinity put unnecessary pressures on young boys to conform to gender stereotypes. Rape of young men is often overlooked and shrouded in silence and shame. By continuing to allow social constructions of gender to permeate our society we are stunting our own growth.
Let us recognize the progress we have made in becoming a more gender equal world, but also address the problems that still linger that prevent us from growing.
Happy International Women’s Day!