By Eliot Osborne
Unfortunately, many consider feminism to be a dying movement and a step in the wrong direction, but the truth is that feminism is just as important as it has ever been. What people don’t realize is that feminism doesn’t solely affect women and gender equality. It is important for many other causes that need the help of women so that, together, they can work to make the world a better place. Without feminism, the world would have made no progress with gender equality. Women would still be paid significantly less than men and they wouldn’t have the right to an abortion or the right to vote and they generally just wouldn’t have the same freedom that men feel in society. All the rights listed just reinstate the importance of feminism and how much of an impact it has had on our society. For those who still don’t understand why feminism is important, I’ve gathered many more examples of how it has changed the world, and while there will be more actions needed for the progression of feminism, with the help of everyone, feminism can change the world in a great way.
To learn how great feminism has been for our society and the progression of women’s rights, you must know the history of gender inequality. Just a few months ago was the official 100th anniversary of women obtaining the right to vote. That’s only 100 years that women could decide who was the president, but for much of that time women still did not have rights like abortion or the ability to freely choose a career. In This Is What A Feminist Looks Like, former President Barack Obama states that over the years, we have transitioned “from a job market that basically confined women to a handful of often poorly paid positions to a moment when women not only make up roughly half the workforce but are leading in every sector, from sports to space, from Hollywood to the Supreme Court.” Feminists over time have fought for these different roles in society and how they’ve become successful by working together for a better future. But the way they have achieved these amazing feats isn’t just from wanting change, it is from generations of people doing what seems impossible: changing the stereotypes in society. Obama talks about it when he states, “I see people pushing back against dated assumptions about gender roles… And you’re helping all of us understand that forcing people to adhere to outmoded, rigid notions of identity isn’t good for anybody—men, women, gay, straight, transgender, or otherwise.”
Although feminism seems to be only about women’s equality, that is false. While the main focus is on women, what many people don’t realize is that it’s also a big factor in helping other races and genders to become equal. In various countries, equality varies a lot in terms of how equal it is for men and women, and many feminists want to change this so everyone can become equal, but some countries just don’t have the cultural standards to understand what feminists want. For example, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, from Nigeria, participated in a Ted Talk called, We Should All Be Feminists, and she states, “He told me that people were saying that my novel was feminist and his advice to me — and he was shaking his head sadly as he spoke — was that I should never call myself a feminist because feminists are women who are unhappy because they cannot find husbands.” It shows how much feminism is appreciated and under-appreciated purely based on the location and culture. The problem is people believe that enforcing feminism in other cultures has nothing to do with feminism but rather that it’s trying to change the culture of that place, but feminists have grown past that and have learned how to appropriately help everyone while maintaining a good amount of equality for all. For example in the article, The White Feminist Savior Complex, Anne Theriault states, “The idea that, before we do anything else, the best and most important work that we can do is to listen to marginalized people, give them a platform from which they can reach a wider audience, and use our platforms to help amplify their voices. This is the real work that we should be doing. Anything else — any other way of “freeing” women of color — is at best condescending and colonialist.” The problem is that many people see this as disruptive and rude to their culture, so they don’t understand that feminists are trying to help.
The most misunderstood part of feminism is how men are involved in changing the way feminism works and evolves. Many believe it’s a lost cause to try to have men participate in the movement, but it’s surprisingly one of the most important factors in developing gender equality. If society doesn’t change the way men are growing up, it’ll only continue to be a one-sided fight for justice. In We Should All Be Feminists, Adichie claims, “We do a great disservice to boys on how we raise them; we stifle the humanity of boys. We define masculinity in a very narrow way, masculinity becomes this hard, small cage and we put boys inside the cage. We teach boys to be afraid of fear. We teach boys to be afraid of weakness, of vulnerability. We teach them to mask their true selves.” As long as society forms around this ideal of who should become what, nothing will ever change the divide between men and women. That is what many people don’t understand. Obama offers a great example for how it can change. Writing about his role as a father two his two daughters, he states, “Yes, it’s important that their dad is a feminist, because now that’s what they expect of all men…It is absolutely men’s responsibility to fight sexism too. And as spouses and partners and boyfriends, we need to work hard and be deliberate about creating truly equal relationships.” As a feminist dad, he set new expectations for his daughters to only settle for a feminist and nothing less in a man. Over time, this creates new norms for society and gives women the expectation to marry a feminist rather than a man who doesn’t care about female rights, and it will have an effect on how men treat women. The only problem is teaching the importance of feminism to those who don’t want to live by these rules. Men want to stay in power so no one can ever surpass the ease of living as a privileged white male. I believe that is the biggest reason why some people see feminism as pointless and controversial. While it’s probably one of the most important movements on the planet for giving everyone equal opportunities, some people just don’t want to give their power away.
To reinforce the importance of feminism, we need to start educating people about how feminism has had a positive impact on our society, and how, if everyone is involved in the cause, we can obtain equality for all. I believe that it’s possible to achieve this goal, but first we need to be aware of the other factors involved in the process, such as teaching young men to respect women, standardizing feminism in certain countries while cohering with their cultural norms and eliminating sexist ideals in our own cultures. Once we all come and work together as a species rather than a gender, then feminism will have achieved its goal, but until then, we have to remember the importance of feminism.