Feminism and why it matters

by Nathan Baumgartner

Opinion Contributor

Feminism. Just the mention of the word can make some people uneasy. Other people latch on to its ideals without even knowing what they truly are. Case in point: earlier this week, per a video released by HuffPost Women, it was cited that relatively prominent female figures such as Shailene Woodley and Meryl Streep issued statements of different sorts in which they state that they are not feminists. In a remark gathered by MSNBC on 21 March 2015, Woodley states, “The reason why I don’t like to say that I am a feminist or I am not a feminist is because to me it’s still a label. I do not want to be defined by one thing. Why do we have to have that label to divide us? We should all be able to embrace one another regardless of our belief system and regardless of the labels that we have put upon ourselves.” Similarly, Meryl Streep makes the remark in an article written by Lily Karlin of The Huffington Post on 30 September 2015, “I am a humanist, I am for nice easy balance.”

Feminism is not more of a label than calling someone a “man,” or a “woman,” or something in between. Feminism is an ideology, a firm belief that, in the terms of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, can best be summarized as the following, a part of a TEDx talk delivered in 2012: “Feminist: a person who believes in the social, political, and economic equality of the sexes.” For those of you who have no idea who Ms. Adichie is, she’s the woman whose excerpt of this speech was part of Beyoncé’s song “Flawless,” written in 2013 and forming the core of one of her albums. Feminism, put in much simpler terms, is all about making sure that women and men – and all other genders in between (according to an 22 October 2015 article written by Gerard Honoré and Peter Klopfer with the Duke Chronicle, “there appears to be no inevitable concordance between many of the physical indicators and gender.”) – have the same privileges and capacities to succeed.

Feminism largely seeks out to reform gender roles, which can become very confusing if an individual does not identify as being male-gendered or female-gendered. Objectively, the goals of feminism are to ensure that stereotypical female roles are ultimately reformed. Feminism has generally undergone a huge metamorphosis, from a belief focusing upon the critical examination of inequality amongst different sexes and genders, and has now sought out ways to address them. In other terms, feminism now has the data to support the notion that oppression upon the bases of sex and gender happens. Now it’s all about alleviating these issues.

In recent years, feminism has spread out to include – and consequently address – issues concerning reproductive rights, domestic violence, gay marriage, as well as other issues involving the role of women in the workplace. Feminism also has advantages to men. In making women and men on an equal playing field in the social, political, and economic realms, it seeks to also consequently reform stereotypical male roles. In the realm of gender and sexual equality, Planned Parenthood has begun to encapsulate a plethora of media pertaining to gender roles and stereotypes, remarking that “Clearly, society’s categories for what is masculine and feminine are unrealistic. They may not capture how we truly feel, how we behave, or how we define ourselves. All men have some so-called feminine traits, and all women have some so-called masculine traits. And we may show different traits at different times. Our cultures teach women and men to be the opposite of each other in many ways. The truth is that we are more alike than different.” Objectively, Planned Parenthood is more than just about providing relatively comprehensive measures regarding reproductive rights.

In regards to objectification, the frequency of “cat-calling” and sexual harassment is very high throughout the world. All too often, women are criticized for revealing “too much cleavage” and “dressing provocatively.” Feminism, overall, seeks to reform this issue through gender empowerment, giving the women the confidence to feel comfortable in their own skin. According to the non-profit organization Stop Street Harassment, “Gallup data from surveys in 143 countries in 2011 show that in those countries, including Italy, France, Australia, and the U.S., men are considerably more likely than women to say they feel safe walking alone at night in their communities. The results of the Gallup’s annual Crime Survey, conducted in 2014, found that 37 percent, of U.S. adults say they would not feel safe walking alone near their home at night. By (sex), 45 percent, of women said they do not feel safe walking alone at night, compared with 27 percent of men.” Such forms of objectification include whistling, honking a horn at someone perceived to be dressed “sexually suggestive,” staring at certain parts of the body for prolonged periods of time, making sexually suggestive remarks towards someone, physically touching someone, and even stalking someone back to their apartment or other place of residence.

So the next time you look at the term feminism, I hope you know what it really means. It is not a label put on a person by someone: it’s a self-identifiable label. There are multiple groups of feminists, each with different notions about the world and how the world would be made better with the equality of genders. Better yet, in the terms of the website of the Eastern Kentucky University’s Faculty of Women and Gender Studies, “Anytime stereotyping, objectification, infringements of human rights, or gender- or sexuality-based oppression occurs, it’s a feminist issue.” Basically, if you believe for equality amongst the sexes and genders, you’re likely a feminist. And no, humanism does not refer to the same thing feminism does: the term “humanism” refers to “an outlook or system of thought attaching prime importance to human rather than divine or supernatural matters,” per the definition of the Merriam-Webster dictionary. No, Leonardo da Vinci and Simone de Beauvoir did not campaign nor believe in the same things.

Feminism might sound intimidating, but then again, inequality does too.


Leave a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

© 2018 The Griffin. All rights reserved.
%d bloggers like this: