Feminism: too radical or still relevant?
Diverse perspectives within the feminist movement have caused disagreement over what feminism actually stands for.
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While many feminists declare that feminism is solely based in gender equality, there are many people who see this movement as a way for women to play “the victim card.”
Countless women and feminists oppose the word “victim” when speaking about feminism because it infers that the purpose of the women’s movement is to induce sympathy. However, these blunt opinions elicit a question that many people who are neutral to the cause or “anti-feminist” are afraid to ask publicly: Is feminism still necessary and relevant in our society?
At the beginning of my investigation of this concept of feminism, I had one, certain opinion: feminism is simple. It is defined as a fight for the equality of women and men. Other political agendas and conditions of feminism can dilute the significance of its general mission.
This, I learned, is the belief of many BSM students who do not identify as feminists, such as senior Alec Johnson. “If we were to go back in time to what old feminism was like then I think a lot of people would consider themselves feminists because they believe that women should get equal pay and equal rights and equal right to vote and everything like that. But it’s changed now,” Johnson said.
Feminism has changed. The feminist movement of the 2000s has evolved into something much different than the protests of the late 19th and 20th century. But why is this modern-day feminism so divisive? “I identify as a feminist in the sense of, I want men and women to have equal rights, because that’s the definition of feminism,” senior Cole Reis said. However, when asked if he would label himself with this word if someone came up to him on the street asking if he was a feminist, his response was: “probably not, no.”
The word feminist has definitely turned into a polarizing word. Radical beliefs can intimidate people, even other women, who do not want to be seen as “crazy,” “unreasonable,” or a “man-hater.” Feminism has seemingly evolved from its clear-cut goal of fighting for women’s equality, into something more complicated and ambiguous, and to a large number of Americans, it is seen as an extremist movement involving multiple political opinions and fanatical, aggressive rallies.
“I think sometimes it can be polarizing because there are men I know who have a lot of views that feminists do, but they wouldn’t want to be referred to as feminists … I think society is partially to blame for distorting the meaning of feminism,” junior Peyton Schuldt said.
The stereotypes of feminism stemming from the media or viral videos, such as videos including Zarna Joshi, has perpetuated many common misconceptions: “[Zarna Joshi] is an extremist that ruins the whole movement…it makes people really not want to identify with feminism because then they would be [associated with] her,” Reis said.
It can be difficult to draw the line between radicals and the majority of the movement that stands for gender equality. Why should this modern feminism be so controversial, and be seen by many as polarizing? While it fights for equality and unity, it also has the ability to separate and cut off a part of the population from this core message. “I think like anything, there are more radical views to [feminism], but…if you just discredit something for the radical views of a few people, then you’re discrediting a whole group when [the radical ideas don’t] encompass the whole group,” sophomore Annie Pohlen said.
While the feminist movement as a whole works towards gender equality, feminism is not a defined set of rules or values. There continues to be animated debate among feminists about various specific issues, one being legal abortion.
Recently in the United States, the Women’s March took place to protest many issues of inequality along with unequal treatment of women in America. Controversy arose as many supporters of the Women’s March became aware that pro-life groups, such as the group New Wave Feminists, were listed as officially affiliated with the Women’s March.
According to the Washington Times, Women’s March then removed this group from the list of partners and stated that they “look forward to marching on behalf of individuals who share the view that women deserve the right to make their own reproductive decisions.” This alienates many women who are fighting for gender equality but consider themselves pro-life.
I will be the first to say I don’t believe that bodily autonomy makes abortion acceptable. I am pro-life while many feminists are pro-choice. But it’s okay to disagree and have different standpoints on certain issues. Feminism isn’t a religion. It isn’t a church, where certain rules must be followed to be a “good” feminist. Feminism is a collection of different individuals fighting for a similar purpose—women’s equality: “This isn’t a group of women or people that all are clones; we’re not all the same person. We’re individuals, but the general movement moving forward has the same goal of equality,” Kasey Desmond, senior co-founder of BSM’s WAA (Women Advocating for Action Club), said.
I don’t believe that being pro-life and being a feminist should contradict, nor do I condone the actions and beliefs of every person who considers themselves a feminist, but I don’t think the purpose of this movement should be for all feminists to conform on all political viewpoints: it should be to stand together with a common goal of gender equality. “Honestly one of the triumphs of feminism is that women are allowed to be pro-life, that women are allowed to go advocate for their own beliefs, form their own beliefs,” Desmond said.
Yet, many still argue that feminism is essentially unnecessary and that women’s equal rights have already been achieved. I believe that there is still much work to do. Yes, women have legal rights to vote and to work, but the general mindset of society perpetuates sexism in America.
Just because not all males personally experience gender inequality doesn’t mean that it is non-existent. Just because not all females personally experience gender inequality doesn’t mean that it is nonexistent: “The disagreement seems to come from groups that feel rights are already equal—coming from someone who has power—and those who still experience inequality and disparities—those who do not have power,” engineering teacher Ms. Kirsten Hoogenakker said.
Education is key to eliminating common misconceptions about feminism and women’s equality. Along with Desmond, Claudia Elsenbast and Carolina Jimenez recognized the need to shed light on these common misunderstandings, so they created the Women Advocating for Action Club at BSM. This club was created as a place for men and women to discuss issues of gender equality, solutions in everyday life, and how to advocate for justice.
Not just women should champion this movement; it is not just a women’s issue: “[Feminism includes] getting [paternity] leave for fathers after they’ve had a child, so they can bond with the the child just as the mother needs to,” Elsenbast said.
Jimenez also went on to stress the importance of women’s equality in society, because women’s inequality is more widespread than it seems: “I think that because women exist in every single place that everyone else does, feminism is applicable and affects everything that you experience; it can tie into any different type of issue that you have,” Jimenez said.
While many branches of feminism are steeped in controversy, the roots of gender equality are the same. Feminism may, in fact, always be both radical and relevant: “It’s really easy to turn away from a movement because of one or two people you don’t agree with; it’s really hard to get involved and stand up for what you believe in,” Desmond said.