Ignorance abounds, but feminism is still incredibly important
By Leah Ching
The word “feminism” still manages to conjure up intense feelings of solidarity and strength for some while striking suspicion, derision, and hatred in others.
Why is it that feminism still resonates so strongly with people to this day? From Emma Watson’s widely publicized speech to the feminist outrage at last summer’s smash hit, “Blurred Lines,” it’s undeniable that feminism was never really “dead” to begin with. Every year, women throw on red bandanas and denim shirts and parade as Rosie the Riveter for Halloween.
Yet somehow, feminism is associated for some with stereotypical images of man-hating, hairy legs, and bra-burning. Much of this stems from an inherent misunderstanding of the goals of those who identify as feminists. Most people say that they support feminist goals, such as equal pay for work and ending violence against women and children, so why is it that feminism has such a bad rep?
Recently in the media, a campaign called “Women Against Feminism” has been garnering attention as under it women are coming together to renounce the need for feminist action. Looking at this page, many anti-feminists argue that feminism is oppressive to men. One woman said, “I don’t need feminism because I am my husband’s equal, not his superior.” A statement such as the one above can be countered by simply looking to a dictionary (as simple as it may sound): definitions of the word “feminism” bluntly demonstrate that feminists seek an egalitarian society, not one of female superiority.
The history of feminism is complex, varied, and extremely relevant to life today. Professor Jane Nicholas in the Women’s Studies department at Lakehead says about the department that “knowing our diverse past is a critical element in Women’s Studies as we focus on activism, collective and individual resistance, and real-world connections between history, theory, and practice.” The truth is that feminism is an extremely difficult topic to define because it has come to mean different things to different groups. In fact, many feminists don’t agree with each other, so the myth of universal sisterhood is often falsified within the discipline.
Just this week, British physicist Matt Taylor landed a robot on the surface of a 300 million mile away comet that was hurling through space at an incredible speed. Taylor broke history but gained just as much attention for the shirt he wore during his live stream, which portrayed scantily-clad women wielding guns. The feminist and anti-feminist backlash was strong. The arguments were intensified by the fact that Taylor’s controversial shirt was made by a female friend.
So why does feminism still remain relevant to this day, even with multitudes of people trying to suppress it? The answer is that feminism still matters. The Canadian government admits that women are paid 75 cents to every dollar a man makes. In Ethiopia, legal institutions have the power to allow marriages of twelve-year-old girls. Feminism still matters because equality hasn’t been achieved.
It’s easy to get sucked into media stereotypes about ugly, man-hating feminists. But whether one identifies as a feminist or not, everyone can relate to feminist goals.
Feminism means equality for all the mothers, sisters, girlfriends, and friends we love. Feminism means supporting amazing artists, actresses, and writers such as Beyoncé, Lena Dunham, Tina Fey, and, of course, women like the inspiring and unbelievably courageous Malala Yousafzai. At the end of the day, feminism will probably be around for a long time. The only way to formulate an opinion is to educate one’s self about its varied arguments.
Take a Women’s Studies course, do your own reading. As Jessica Valenti says, “At the end of the day, feminism is really something you define for yourself.”