Over the past few months, I have been following the controversial Women Against Feminism movement that has taken over the Internet and social media. Participants have offered their reasons — mostly by taking selfies and holding handwritten signs — on why they either do not believe in the philosophy of feminism or support feminist movements. After scanning through these posts on social media and reading online articles published by reputable news sites, I question: Is feminism relevant in 21st century American society?
I am a feminist — this statement is profound because had I been asked to give myself this label just a year ago, I would have shamelessly laughed at the notion. My reluctance to commit myself to feminism had little to do with my reluctance to label myself; it had everything to do with my lack of experience. I am fortunate enough to have never been a victim of the sexism and inequality that feminism attempts to combat: I have always held jobs where I was paid the same, if not more, than my male counterparts; I have never been subject to sexual assault or domestic violence at the hands of a man; nor have I ever been made to feel that a social, political or economic opportunity was withheld from me because of my biological gender. For this, I am thankful, but I also realize that I am part of a minority of people who possess this experience. However, every time I read the news, watch television or participate in social discourse, I am made aware that America needs more feminists.
I am made aware that America’s cultural foundation is distinctly anti-feminist because thus far, it has been inconvenient for both the institutions and leaders of our country to directly address the majority of women’s issues, and in failing to do so, our country is marginalizing over half of its population.
Our country has failed Emma Sulkowicz, a visual arts student at Columbia University, whose alleged rapist walked away from allegations with little reprimand. Our country has failed Janay Rice, wife to former NFL running back Ray Rice who knocked her unconscious in a hotel elevator, because she is still able to justify the actions of her abuser and stand by him. Our country has failed women like Marissa Mayer, CEO of Yahoo, and Mary Barra, CEO of General Motors, whose salaries made headlines earlier this year due to earning less than their male predecessors or some of their male colleagues who hold lesser job titles within their respective companies.
Let me say that feminism and the label “feminist” oftentimes gets a bad rap, but it is not the narrative of an unruly woman, threatening in physicality and merciless in nature, burning her bra at the stake of a power imbalance. Instead, feminism is about equal inclusion, equal recognition and equal opportunity for all members of society. In order for the philosophy of feminism to work in practice, not just in theory, people of all sexes need to come together and empower each other by supporting the other’s causes, efforts and ambitions.
Just as we all have the power to ignore women’s issues, we all have the power to resolve women’s issues. For us all — members of every sex — to stand up for victims of sexual assault, violence, oppression, racism, sexism, classism, ageism, and countless other “-isms” that are cast under a negative light, we must first be self-critical and realign America’s moral compass. Luckily, morality is a malleable cultural construct, but we all have failed as Americans in achieving what I would consider morals of high regard because we have created a culture of zero accountability. We need to stop detaching ourselves from what happens to the “other,” and deflecting blame by pointing our fingers elsewhere — we are all responsible.
The attitude I once had about feminism is exactly the underlying problem in question — Americans demonstrate that if they cannot relate to an issue, they do not want to associate with an issue. Yet the issues that the philosophy of feminism and feminist movements aim to address are applicable to everyone; therefore, I’ll be damned if my generation is remembered as a collective of cultural critics whose actions do not reflect the grievances that are verbally expressed, mindfully felt. τ