Beginner’s Guide to Feminism

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Dearest reader,

 

I had no idea what feminism was a few years ago. I felt so stupid for not knowing what this was when so many people around me seemed to have strong opinions on it. 

Two years ago I graduated high school. A few months later I was thrust into college, where I began to learn things that public education would have never even began to cover. In a few of my classes, we discussed France’s ban on hijabs and burqas (you can read more about it here in the Huffington Post article). Since this is a religious topic and there is a ‘separation’ of church and state, we would have been extremely limited in this discussion at my high school. In classes ranging from child development to English 104, we also discussed LGBTQ+ rights and their impacts on communities and families. Being extremely interested in these topics myself, I did self research after class. The articles and news reports I found introduced me to feminism, an interest I take part in which has only been furthered as my college career continues.

What is Feminism?

When I first read about feminism, I was confused. I did not understand it. What was this feminism? I knew that it had something to do with females but I wasn’t sure what. Pro-women? But what about pro-women? What did pro-woman even mean? I am a woman, and am pro-woman, so was I a feminist and no one even bothered to tell me? If that’s all it was, why did everyone seem so angry when they declared they were a feminist? And why were so many men disliking this feminism?

It took me a long time to understand what feminism is. I was scared to look it up because I did not know what it was, and I was worried what it would mean for me if I discovered in my digging that I was a feminist. Would I have to come out to everyone I meet and be as angry about it as most of the women before me seem to be? But it turns out that feminism is very simple. It is not something people have to be angry about to get their point across (while they have every right to be angry; even my gentile tail feathers get ruffled up every now and then from the inequality women face).

Basic Definitions

Feminist: advocating social, political, legal, and economic rights for women equal to those of men.

Patriarchy: a social system in which power is held by men, through cultural norms and customs that favor men and withhold opportunity from women:

Sexism: discrimination or devaluation based on a person’s sex or gender, as in restricted job opportunities, especially such discrimination directed against women.

Reverse sexism: in a broader sense refers to sexism directed towards the dominant sex and in a narrower sense to sexism against men.

Misogyny: hatred, dislike, or mistrust of women, or prejudice against women.

Rape culture: ways in which society blamed victims of sexual assault and normalized male sexual violence.

Victim blaming: when the victim of a crime or any wrongful act is held entirely or partially responsible for the harm that befell them.

Double standards: a rule or principle that is unfairly applied in different ways to different people or groups.

Catcalling: make a whistle, shout, or comment of a sexual nature to a woman passing by.

Education and Career Gaps

Feminism sounds great, right? But aren’t men and women already equal? That is wrong on so many more levels that just unequal pay (which, currently, women are making 79 cents to the $1 that men make in the same job with the same education and experience levels, making it a 21% wage gap). April 12 is Equal Pay Day because that’s how long into the next year it takes women to make as much as men. Even more shocking is when you find out that 56.4% of college enrollment is women, which is just for public universities. This number gets higher as you delve into private universities.

So why are more women achieving higher educations but not making the same amount as men? That’s because men are more likely to be hired for higher level occupations than women, and when women are hired for these jobs they are often seen as not as capable, emotionally compromised, and more likely to take off time for family obligations such as childbirth and child rearing. Women only make up 14.2% of leadership positions in major companies. Women in these positions face discrimination and hardships such as sexism and blatant disregard of their authority due to their gender.

He doesn’t Have to Wear a Shirt

This is otherwise known as the Free the Nipple campaign. In this fight for justice, women are so sexualized that whenever our breasts and nipples are not being used to pleasure someone they are obscene. We are not allowed to show them in public as men are. While I do not want to leave the house during a hot summer day not wearing a shirt, it is unequal for women to be put under this social constraint and deigned ‘unlawful’ behavior due to how others see our bodies. And just because I don’t want to run around with my breasts out doesn’t mean that others can’t or shouldn’t. Everyone is entitled to their own bodies, opinions, and ways of life. You can learn more at FreeTheNipple.com.

Rape Culture and Victim Blaming

As mentioned above, rape culture is ways society blames victims of sexual assault and normalizes male sexual violence. When someone is raped, you often hear, “Well she shouldn’t have been wearing such revealing clothing,” or “If she hadn’t drank so much that night it probably wouldn’t have happened.” Let me tell you something very important right here right now. The only person who is to blame for rape is the rapist. The only person who is to blame for rape is the rapist. The only person who is to blame for rape is the rapist. I’m hoping my repetitive use of this sentence is coming across as important. Women do not decide to get raped. Women do not try to get raped. Women are raped because a rapist decides his sexual wants are more important than consent.

In rape culture, acts by men that are violent or sexual tend to be overlooked because, “Boys will be boys”. Tolerance of sexual acts (see next section) also allows the perpetuation of rape culture. Teaching girls that when boys hurt them because they like them is rape culture. You can learn more about rape culture and it’s signs at Marshall University’s Women’s Center website here.

Cats Against Catcalling

I hate catcalling. Do you have any idea how terrifying it is for a fourteen year old girl heading home from Walgreens in the middle of the day to have a man hanging out his car window trying to talk to you? It was so scary, and I was tense with fear that he would try and follow me back to my house. I changed out of that tank-top when I got home and put on a t-shirt. It made me feel disgusted, not flattered, and that if I hadn’t been hearing that revealing shirt then this 30+ year old man would have left me alone. I started wearing hoodies and overly large t-shirts instead of the cute clothes I liked, because this wasn’t the first time it had happened.

Everyday women and teenage girls are subjected to similar type behavior by men (see ‘rape culture’ above). They think it’s okay because, “It’s a compliment,” and “Well I just wanted to talk to her so I thought telling her ‘nice tits’ would be appropriate.” This tolerance of sexual harassment makes it hard for women to walk streets alone, and is one of the very core reasons why I am pushing so hard for feminism. No girl should have to go through that terror walking home. No women should have to be embarrassed walking down the side of the road because men are degrading her as a human being by focusing on her appearance.

You can read several articles from the Huffington Post about catcalling here.

Not All Men

I agree with this statement. Not all men rape. Not all men catcall. Not all men leer at women. But enough do, so when we talk about rape and catcalling and the disgusting behavior men do, this is the male response. “Not all men do that!” They say, they hashtag. It’s their way of telling the world, “Well, some men do that but I don’t.” This statement is very ignorant to me. Yes, you may not have raped someone and you may have decided not to rape anyone, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have the power. Women have been taught to fear you as a gender through years of degradation and servitude. Don’t you dare undermine what your gender has done to us simply because you see us as weaker.

There’s this great analogy about the not all men statement. It’s Russian Roulette. Theres six spots for one bullet, and you pull the trigger. One in four women are raped in their lifetime. This means that the ‘game’ of Russian Roulette is safer than being around men. So no, not all men rape, but enough women are raped that we have cause to mistrust you to protect ourselves.

What now?

So what are you to do with all this information? If you are interested in learning more, I have provided some resources below. I also encourage you to become more educated about this subject. Know the signs of sexism and misogyny and how to combat them. Learn to recognize rape culture and what you can do to reverse it. Become more aware of politics concerning women, sexual violence, and reproductive health topics. Take a class at college in your Women’s Studies department. Pledge yourself to be a feminist and fight for what you believe to be true. And last but not least, let me know in the comments below if I’ve helped you in any way with this blog post!

Resources

History of Feminism

Feminist.com

Feminist.org

Femina.com – News and other articles

No Turning Back: The Feminist Resource Site

Queer Feminism – marginalization within the feminist community including racism, homophobia, transphobia, imperialism, sex-negativity, and similar ills

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Check out these posts also:

Mental Health in College

Follow Friday: Feminist Pinterest Boards

The Introvert’s Guide to Flourishing in College

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3 thoughts on “Beginner’s Guide to Feminism

  1. Love this post it’s so informative and shows the importance of feminism as well as other important issues in society without making it intimidating to people who don’t know about it.

    Like

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