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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Living In The Gender Binary

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A women’s march supporter displaying a sign. 

When we think of feminism, we also tend to think of instances of waves that have erupted from an overflow of feminist activities. And in this instance, we are wrong; feminism has always been present in history, and to term an influx of feminist instances as “waves” implies the opposite. Nevertheless, this is a small critique that digresses from the aim of this article, which is to focus on why we need feminism in the age of the gender binary, and why four “waves” are not enough.
Today, we live in a gender binary. This is the idea that only two types of people existthe first is male-bodied and masculine individuals, and the second is female-bodied and feminine individuals. It is through this binary that we are taught to perceive the world around us, and it is through these glasses that cause conflict when society does not form the way the gender binary dictates. There is a reason for discrimination and societal disdain towards individuals who do not conform inside the gender binary: society has taught us that what is unique is both dangerous and wrong. Interestingly enough, however, history has shown that societies existed where more than one gender was accepted. When Europeans came to America, they encountered Native American tribes where three, four, and even five genders were accepted. Our ancestors themselves reveal in their forager societies that responsibilities were shared. Evolution itself has shown that sameness, or being able to perform many tasks, is an advantage. Today, childbearing and child-care are seen as female responsibilities, and the differences between genders are made apparent from birth, when in fact, there are more similarities than differences. 
The differences are what the U.S. has historically latched onto; in the 20th century, women were seen as belonging in the home and subjected to home and child care. One of the primary arguments made against women getting the vote was that it was the man’s responsibility. This view of female responsibilities prevailed strongly in the Mad-Men era of the 1950s and continues to this day. It is a big part of the gender binary, and it is why we have been trained to spot the differences between genders more than any similarities. Men work. Women cook. Men are better in technology. Women are better in arts. These stereotypes are what harm society, and by extension, us, because we have these perceived limitations of what women and men can and cannot do, and this is wrong. 
Feminism is necessary to combat this gender binary. It is with feminism that we accept more than two genders, argue that men and women are just as capable of entering a field that is not often dominated by them. Feminism is critical in establishing gender-aware policy-making, where policies are made by considering their effects on both genders. Feminism is important in creating pro-natal policies, where childbearing is rewarded and not punished, therefore discouraging one gender. Feminism is critical in addressing sexism, subordination, and androcentrism. 
And this is what a fifth “wave” needs to focus on. In the fifth wave, the U.S. needs to change its equal access policy-making that only addresses sexism. It is critical to focus on equal-sharing policies as well, that target subordination by attempting to ensure both men and women participate equally in both male and female spheres. It is also important to create an equal value model that tackles androcentrism by raising the feminine to match the value of the masculine (one way would be to establish a pro-natal policy that encourages reproductive labor). We need to focus on dismantling the gender binary. For only without these glasses that fog up with stereotypes and limitations can we truly be equal.