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Feminism is for everyone

Bianca Almada | Tuesday, December 10, 2013

For some reason, men and women alike often look at me strangely when I tell them I am a feminist. They assume I hate men and the concept of marriage, burn bras, reject future motherhood or advocate for loose morals when it comes to sexuality. They assume I am physically unattractive, bitter about “not finding a man,” or a soon-to-be spinster or workaholic.
None of these statements is true about me, nor do they define the majority of feminists. These are common and unfortunate misconceptions about what feminism really is. Feminism, at its core, is the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities. The movement’s aim is to advocate for women’s rights on the grounds of political, economic and social equality to men. These principles should not be controversial, and it saddens me to know that so many uninformed individuals hold a false image of such an important movement.
According to a recent, national YouGov poll, only 20 percent of Americans consider themselves “feminists.” However, 82 percent say “men and women should be social, political, and economic equals.” This is preposterous, considering that the two phrases are synonymous. “Feminist” has come to be regarded as an extremist, outlandish view, as people associate it with things that do not, in any way, define the feminist movement. If you believe in equality between the sexes, then you are a feminist. Period. And you should not be afraid to publicize it.
Many people make the terrible mistake of assuming, “So much progress has already been made for women that there is no need for feminism anymore.” I do not deny that American women have made tremendous progress and that they are some of the most privileged women in the world. They are free to vote, own property and sign contracts, enter the workforce in virtually any field, choose their marriage partners and make decisions regarding their personal health.
Despite these advances, the average working woman still makes only 77 cents for every dollar made by the average working man. One in seven women will receive negative repercussions – such as demotion, pay cuts, even termination – for asking for maternity leave. Women make up 50 percent of the population of the United States, but only have an 18 percent representation in Congress. Twenty percent of women are sexually assaulted before they graduate college, 60 percent of those women are too ashamed to report it, and only 1 percent of them see their perpetrator legally convicted. The Equal Rights Amendment never passed. Popular media communicates to young women that they should wait for a charming prince to rescue them, or that marriage and motherhood are the only pathways to happiness and satisfaction.
These statements do not even take into account the extreme anti-female sentiments present worldwide. Forced prostitution, female genital mutilation, honor killings, child brides, legalized physical abuse and restriction from education are only some examples of the institutionalized travesties negatively affecting women around the globe. Worldwide, women account for 66 percent of the world’s labor, receive 10 percent of the world’s income and own less than 1 percent of the world’s property. There is no sane way to argue that feminism, in the truest sense of the word, is not necessary in the modern world.     
I received numerous responses from readers after the publication of my article, “Lines are not ‘blurred,'” (Oct. 31) one month ago. In the column, I dissected Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” and discussed how it contributes to rape culture in popular society. Rape culture is created when prevalent attitudes, practices and cultural keystones – such as songs – normalize, excuse and tolerate behaviors related to sexual assault, thus degrading women and referring to them as objects. I would describe my piece as a feminist article, and my goal was to advocate a society in which the social and sexual equality of men and women is promoted, rather than mocked.
 I received substantive feedback, both positive and negative. Every negative email or comment I received on the article, besides the anonymous website comments, was from a male. The standout was an anonymous computer-user stating, “This is one bitter woman…Get a life, or at least get a date.”
My dating life is irrelevant to the substance of my writing or to the basis of my beliefs. This comment, among others, reflects the common, sexist, societal problem of directly linking a woman’s happiness or identity with her personal relationships with men. And, not that it matters, I have been in a committed relationship with a man for years – one that is based on respect, equality and the revere of feminism by both parties.  
The world needs feminism now more than ever. Feminism is not a bad word, and it is not an extremist position. Feminism is about logic, justice and respect, and that is always the right choice.

Bianca Almada is a sophomore residing in Cavanaugh Hall. She is studying English, Spanish and journalism. She can be contacted at balmada@nd.edu
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.