Updated: Apr 1, 2021
By Talia Chen
Image via APC.
TW: mentions of assault and rape
In light of Sarah Everard’s murder, there has been an increase in online content concerning the way women are treated in our society: how we shouldn’t have to constantly watch our backs and take precautions in case of an attack, especially since Everard took necessary precautions, yet was still killed by a cop. In my school district alone, many brave girls have written out their experiences with sexual harassment and assault and shared them online. There’s a community of support being built up by these girls, in comment sections, through private messages, and I want to begin this article by thanking them and crediting them for having the strength to post their past traumas to the world in hopes of making a change. Additionally, I want to acknowledge the many people who have chosen not to share their stories for also being strong and valid. Every time I see another post about someone’s story, I feel another punch in my gut because this shouldn’t be happening at all, let alone to so many people. So many young girls have already been so deeply hurt by the rape culture society upholds. So, so many people. That’s your first reason why we need feminism: To dismantle rape culture and the misogyny that has wormed its way into people’s hearts.
So first, we need to make one thing clear: Feminism is not about despising all men and it is not exclusive to men’s actions against women. Misconceptions like these are part of why feminism is important, because everyone should understand how significant this movement is in getting rid of societal issues that stem from gender inequality rather than writing it off as unnecessary or even radical. Feminism is about gender equality and empowerment for everyone. It’s about making sure women all over the world have access to education and resources, and encouraging them to challenge male-dominated industries. Feminism is about people recognizing double standards and fighting misogyny and rape culture and so much more.
We need feminism because girls have to bend their lives around the possibility of assault. We need feminism because this is not okay. We are told to watch what we wear, where we go, who we’re with, every minuscule detail because someone could be watching us, following us, chasing us, harming us. A lot of times it could be someone we know. We have to be careful with our clothes because some sicko could be carrying a pair of scissors around to make removing them easier. It’s not just the clothes, people tell us to watch how our hair is done because certain hairstyles are easier for attackers to grab. You should try to wear comfortable shoes so it’s easier to run away. Be careful wearing anything around your neck because someone could use it to restrain you. It’s disgusting. We shouldn’t be outside after dark, we should stay near other people, we should have our location on at all times. We have to watch out for kidnappers because according to the International Labor Organization and Walk Free Foundation, there are around 24.9 million people trapped by human trafficking. An ILO and Walk Free Foundation report says that around 71% of human trafficking victims are female and a third of the victims are children. At a certain age, we go and buy pepper spray, a rape whistle, a taser, something to clutch as we walk home late at night, eyeing everything around us to make sure no ones waiting. All those little reminders only to find that the majority of sexual assaults are committed by people we know, people in our social circles, our schools, or our family. Then, there’s gaslighting, because people won’t believe that they’ve made room for misogyny and rape culture, that someone they are so used to could do something do awful. People try to chalk it up to the clothes, the time of day, the survivor’s behavior, which is one of the stupidest things I will ever hear because nothing will ever warrant violating someone else’s consent. If someone blames a person’s assault on something like what they were wearing, they are insinuating that sexual assault is the norm for anyone who doesn’t follow the rules engrained in women for their safety. I don’t know about you, but I don’t think sexual assault should be a norm of any sort, ever. We shouldn’t have to take all these precautions and watch our backs all the time in order to not be assaulted. In addition, no one thinks that a person they trust in their lives could harass or sexually assault someone which is why rape culture has to go. There’s room in our society for people who assault others because there’s room for the disrespectful, sexist and degrading opinions they have about women that they use to justify the patriarchy. Girls being judged on their appearances, on their dating or sexual life, on just about anything they do. This ties into the second item on this list.
Image via Penn Live.
We need feminism because of all the little things that lead up to what we hear in the news: politicians voting against women’s rights, women being harassed and killed, people valuing the assaulter’s life over the survivors, every controversial decision ever made regarding abortion. Oftentimes, men are the ones speaking for us, and when a woman speaks for us, she is laughed at because people think she’s too angry. We’re invalidated. We need feminism because AOC is mocked for wearing lipstick. Why is she being mocked for taking an age old societal beauty standard and using it to empower herself? Why is there this idea that beauty and brains are exclusive? Why are women constantly being fit into boxes based on the assumptions of others? Why can’t the world just stop judging us and leave us alone? For example, I recently saw a post commenting on how the media tells girls to workout for their appearance rather than for strength. Don’t get me wrong, I love seeing people improving their health and self confidence by working out, but fitness is often marketed towards women as one of many tools to make ourselves more attractive, in contrast to men who work out to become stronger. For women, it’s about how to lose belly fat and get abs, how to get a nice rack and nice legs. Which isn’t always bad, but it’s not about strength as much as it is about trimming down. This fixation on our appearances extends far beyond basic hygiene, to whether we have stretch marks or body hair. The double standards are apparent if you just look for them. People are all for women wearing makeup until it’s too bold or unnatural for them because they like the idea of natural perfection, not of anything that’s too unconventional. Some men complain that those who wear makeup are catfishes but also protest because women without makeup are not as perfect as they imagined. Men can yell and argue but when women do, we are seen as petty and too emotional. It’s even been brought to my attention that girls are often less assertive than boys when talking. I didn’t even notice I did this as well, always stepping down if a boy interrupts me. There’s also this weird thing where being a certain type of girl invalidates you. For example, “not like other girls” insinuates that girls who follow trends are irrelevant and somehow automatically disregardable because they fit into the norm. Or the “dumb blond” stereotype that suggests that a girl is stupid because she is pretty. When I was younger, my dad didn’t like me watching Barbie because he thought it would make my sister and I more shallow. Or the valley girl trope, there are so many stereotypes that associate femininity with stupidity. The thing is, someone could be the least intellectual person in the world and they would still matter. Another part of these tropes that needs to be recognized is that if a girl is not super smart, you STILL cannot write her off as someone undeserving of respect.
We need feminism because girls around the world are still being restricted in terms of education, resources and freedom. Obviously, this is true for other genders as well, but it is much more prevalent with girls. The Pew Research Center noted that 117 countries, the U.S. included, still allow child marriage. International Research Center on Women states an average of 15 million girls under the age of 18 are married each year, which makes their education harder — or impossible — to pursue. UNESCO estimates that worldwide, there are 132 million girls who are not in school. In many countries affected by conflicts, the number of girls attending school shrinks as they grow older. Sexual exploitation and harassment often play a role in preventing girls from going to school, especially in places where girls must walk long distances to their classes because there is much more risk for gender-based violence.
Image via AFGACF.
We need feminism because the World Economic Forum found that only 6 countries give women equal legal work rights as men. These countries are Belgium, Denmark, France, Latvia, Luxembourg, Sweden, and most recently, Canada. The World Economic Forum also estimates that it will take 108 years to close the gender gap. And that women-being-less-assertive-than-men thing I mentioned earlier? Turns out, in a 2003 Cornell study, women rated their scientific abilities lower than men, even though they performed very similarly on the same quiz. A Stanford study found that as of the late 1970s, women in the U.S. earn about 80% of what men earn. And of course, there is the constant debate over abortion, in which men assert their opinions over what a woman does with her body. That bill about making abortions punishable by way of the death penalty? What the heck. If pro-life people care so much about kids, maybe they should care more about ICE and the lives of the 140+ million orphans UNICEF estimated worldwide.
We need feminism because not enough men seem to care. Everyone needs to be involved in this cause if we’re going to make change so we need this cause to advocate for women. Really, it comes down to one question: Do you understand the need for feminism/gender equity? It’s a yes or no question. If you do, you agree with and support the ideology of feminism, therefore, your are a feminist. There is no doubt about it, you support feminism so you are a feminist. If you answered no, you either lack empathy and logic or are blind sighted to what women have to deal with. If you support feminism but don’t think of yourself as a feminist, what do you think a feminist is? Why do you not want to be associated with them? You being a non-misogynistic person on the inside counts for NOTHING if you don’t do anything with it. The thing is, if you don’t loop yourself into the feminist movement, there’s a part of you that doesn’t think gender equality is important enough to stand up for. There’s no other reason for it. There’s a part of you that thinks stuff like this isn’t your problem, so you agree with what we have to say but don’t do anything else. That’s not cool. Who do you think will be more effective in telling off a bunch of guys making sexist comments? Probably not a girl, a.k.a. someone they lack respect for. Boys, you need to help us out here. Nothing will change if you don’t. Sexual harassment and assault should not be happening at all. There are way too many people, way too many girls of all ages who have experienced this.
Written by writer Talia Chen