Defending the Relevance of Feminism
One of the main problems with calling yourself a feminist today is that it can be hard to explain why it is still needed. On the surface, many goals of feminism seem to already have been achieved and therefore many people seem to think feminism in the 21st century redundant. It is undeniable that since its beginnings, feminism has achieved a lot: women can now vote, we are allowed to work in previously male-dominated fields, we can wear whatever we want (albeit, more or less, apparently). Overall, though, the status of women has greatly improved. So, is feminism still needed? In a word: yes.
To see the relevance of feminism today, we only need to look beyond the Western world. Women in other countries are still largely regarded as second class citizens and do not enjoy the things we take for granted such as our right to vote or our right to work. One strong example of a country where women are nowhere near equal to men on political and social levels is Saudi Arabia. Perhaps one of the most shocking details about women in Saudi Arabian society is the legal requirement to have a male guardian. This male guardian must accompany them in public and has the right to make major life decisions on their behalf such as if/where they go to university. Although women were recently granted the right to vote in Saudi Arabia, they still need their male guardian’s permission to do so. This only scratches the service of the troubles Saudi Arabian women face and Saudi Arabia is by no means the only country where women still suffer hugely from inequality. However, while our sisters in other countries enjoy much less freedom than we do, it is hard to truly enjoy our own and is something we should all be aware of.
Now, let’s move closer to home. The hard facts are that even in this country women are paid less on average than men, despite acts that have called for equal pay. Rape statistics are also highly telling. According to recent data, 18.3% of women over 18 reported being sexually assaulted in their lifetime (which, as PreventConnect pointed out, makes rape more common than smoking). Most rape victims are female, although there are a number of male victims and the number of rapists that are male is overwhelming. With statistics like this is mind (that are, again, only scratching the surface), it’s hard to argue that feminism has already achieved its goals.
Not to mention there are still many issues that can’t be proven with statistics, such as the general attitudes towards women. Even though women are currently enjoying something much closer to equality between the genders than ever before, sexism is still a problem many women face on a daily basis. Rape “jokes” are uncomfortably common and phrases such as “frape” are seen as innocent. Rape and sexual violence in general are very much feminist issues and fighting people’s attitudes about rape and its casual use in conversation are an essential fight in feminism today.
Chances are, if you are reading this article, you’re probably already someone who calls themselves a feminist. However, all of us at some point will probably have to defend our feminist identity. My hope is that we can use examples like the ones mentioned here to defend feminism when someone attempts to call it into question.
More articles by Category: Feminism, International, Misogyny, Violence against women
More articles by Tag: Activism and advocacy, Rape, Sexualized violence, Equality, Middle East and North Africa