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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Why We Need Feminism in a “Post-Feminist” Society

I had the immense honor and privilege this past week to see one of my personal heroes, Gloria Steinem, speak in person at the historic First Parish Church in Harvard Square. The 81-year-old bona fide legend and leading pioneer of the Second Wave feminist movement is currently traveling the country to promote her new book, My Life on the Road, which, as the title suggests, chronicles her many adventures over the years (on and off the road) as a fervent activist, journalist, and trailblazing revolutionary. Listening to Gloria speak, I was immediately reminded of why I self identify as a feminist, as well as why, despite what many seem to believe, feminism is still very relevant force today.
As a Women and Gender Studies major, it is more than a little disheartening, and, quite frankly, frustrating when I hear people say that we live in a post-feminist age, that we have surpassed the struggle for equality. Feminism, to some, has simply lost its relevance. This conception of contemporary gender equality could not be further from the truth. Yes, in general, women have made huge social, political, and economic strides in the last fifty years, but we still clearly have a ways to go.
So here are my top 5 reasons why we need feminism.
1. The wage gap: Women make on average 78 cents for every dollar that her male counterpart makes for the same exact job. There’s no need to elaborate on the blatant injustice of this.
2. Violence against Women: Sexual assault/violence is an all-too-pervasive reality, both domestically and globally. The threat of rape is a ubiquitous problem for women the world over; one that inhibits growth and agency in almost every aspect of their life. In the U.S. alone, there is a 1 in 5 chance of a woman being raped. And on a global scale, according to the United Nations, up to “35% of women worldwide have experienced either physical/ and or sexual intimate partner violence or sexual violence by a non-partner at some point in their lives.” Yet some national studies have calculated that that number is as high as 70%.
3. Victim blaming/shaming: All too often, victims of sexual assault, in addition to being left emotionally and physically reeling in the wake of a traumatic attack on their personhood, are blatantly or subtlly blamed for their assaults by friends, family members, strangers, and authority figures. “She shouldn’t have been wearing that” or “If she had been a little more careful, this would have never happened” are all common expressions within victim shaming/blaming rhetoric. It is appalling and downright disgusting to me that in 2015, we are still directing our primary focus on what the woman could have, or should/n’t have done. Sexual assault is not a debate.
4. Women’s health: There is an imminent threat to women’s health worldwide. Here in the United States, that threat takes the form of the active attack on female reproductive rights, demonstrated most recently with the GOP’s legislative war on Planned Parenthood. For women in developing countries, that threat takes the form of female genital mutilation, which can result in lifelong health problems, infertility, and, in extreme cases, death.
5. Female objectification: We live in an image saturated society, that, more often than not, promotes unrealistic beauty ideals/standards that cultivate a harmful idea of female perfection for young girls and women. There is persistent pressure for young girls and women to adhere to these impossible beauty standards at the cost of their mental, physical, and emotional health. On average, 1 in 5 women struggle with an eating disorder and “51% of 9 and 10 year-old girls feel better about themselves if they are on a diet.” Patriarchal standards of beauty diminish a woman’s self-worth to the point of physical and mental degradation. These ideals have become so embedded in our social structures we may not always be cognizant of just how damaging these images really are.