The Twitter account “Meninist” is very toxic to our young society which is often heavily influenced by social media. This account perpetuates a false meaning of feminism and alters what it truly stands for. These “meninists” make feminism seem as if it is a group of crazy women who hate men. Yes, there are crazy, radical “feminazis” and “neo-feminists”, but they do not embody what feminism really is. The radical things they do bring attention to the concept of feminism and many interpret what they see as its real meaning.
Feminists do not hate men, and they do not only care about “freeing the nipple”. Feminism is a movement that strives for social, economic, and political equality to men; it wants everyone to be equal. The “meninist” account (some sexists may consider it a counter-movement), expresses false ideas of feminism to its abundance of followers, currently it has 1.18 million. It’s sad that young men and women are being fed a warped meaning of what the feminist movement truly stands for. I have seen many people in support of the “meninist” account saying how women (and our society as a whole) don’t need feminism because women are equal to men, or we don’t need feminism because it is just a movement for women who hate men. All of these claims are completely false. Women all around the world need feminism. I think this “meninist” account only sees feminism as something aimed toward straight, white, cis women, who hate men and ultimately judge others for not conforming to their same beliefs. Some will respond to replies to these disgusting “meninist” tweets and say the ones who are offended are just overreacting and that it is taken too seriously. The most common response I see is, “it’s just a joke”, but I and many other women fail to see how this was ever funny. Ridiculing the oppression of women and the vital role all women play in society is something I have never been able to chuckle at.
I believe that many of these anti-feminists are not completely aware of what women all around the world have to face in their everyday struggle. It is true that women have made progress over time but women are still not equal to men. In 2016 we can’t say that all women in America are paid the same wages as a man for the exact same job when women make seventy-eight cents to every dollar a man makes while accounting for 47 percent of the labor force. Women are not inferior to men and we are also not superior, we simply want to be equal. Many people will think, “yeah, well the pay gap is the only inequality problem women face in America, so it’s not that bad”. Not true, these situations of equality especially affect LGBTQ women, women of various religions, and women of color in our society in enormous ways. Feminism embodies all women, no matter what race, age, sexual preference, or religion.
I need feminism because rape culture is something that is present in my society, and it shouldn’t be. Rape is a prevalent crime in our county and all around the world. This rape culture includes “slut" shaming, TV, jokes, victim blaming and many more examples in society and media. To define some key terms, rape culture is anything that makes violence against women and sexual coercion seem so normal that people believe that rape is inevitable. Rather than viewing the culture of rape as a problem to change, people in a rape culture think about the persistence of rape as just the way things are. Slut shaming is the act of making a woman feel guilty about certain sexual behaviors that deviate from societal norms. I have seen many instances where women get blamed for being raped. Things such as: her clothing was too revealing, she was showing too much skin, she should have fought back, and she was “asking for it”. It is never the victim’s fault, ever. The fact it is said that because a girl’s attire was too revealing means that she was asking to be raped absolutely disgusts me. The fact that jokes are made about drugging girls through their drinks in order to ultimately rape them absolutely disgusts me. The fact that “no” isn’t always taken seriously by a woman during intimacy absolutely disgusts me.
Rape, sexual, and domestic abuse happens to many girls and women; in fact 1 in 3 women are abused by a partner in their lifetime. Approximately 1 in 5 female high school students report being physically and/or sexually abused by a dating partner. Physical abuse is not only an unfortunate reality for many, but sexual abuse affects an abundance of women in the United States as well. Every 2 minutes, someone in the U.S. is sexually assaulted. 1 out of every 6 American women are survivors of rape or attempted rape while 15% of rape survivors are under the age of 12. Yeah, 12. These statistics are utterly staggering. One would think a conversation about sexual abuse of women would be brought up more frequently in society, places where young men and women learn what acceptable behavior is. Victims have to cope with a lot and it is an extremely hard reality to face and talk about for many. Rape survivors are even more likely to suffer from depression, alcohol and drug abuse, or to contemplate suicide. It seems it is always a woman’s responsibility to prevent getting raped and not the responsibility of our society to teach men not to rape. Consent plays a big role and its significance should be emphasized more than it currently is. No one ever gave me a talk about consent, whether a parent or teacher that discussed puberty and health. That may be one of the biggest problems. While certainly most agree that sexual assault is an atrocity, people argue that this does not require feminism within the United States
Feminism also recognizes the fact that men get raped and sexually assaulted too. When male victims of rape speak out it is often deemed as a taboo thing in our society because it is not something manly to talk about due to the high standards of masculinity that society creates. The vast majority of rape victims are female but that does not mean men are not raped. Feminism wants to break down the harsh gender roles men face such as being labeled as manly and “machismo” where they don’t get to express feeling or emotion. That can be detrimental to men later on in life. I have not thoroughly researched this particular topic, though it is one I am interested in and plan to do in the future. To learn more about the effects of gender roles on men I suggest watching the documentary, The Mask You Live In, a film about masculinity in America. The trailer is linked here.
Women in media are also body shamed and put down for the way they look. The reflection of media on young girls can have a horrible effect on their self-esteem and the way that they view their bodies. The stats say it all.
80% of 10-year-old American girls say they have been on a diet and the number one magic wish for young girls age 11-17 is to be thinner. 42 percent of first to third-grade girls want to be thinner, while 81 percent of 10-year-olds are afraid of getting fat. The way women’s bodies are presented and sexualized by the media affect the way girls see themselves and what they aim to look like. One study reports that at age thirteen, 53% of American girls are unhappy with their bodies. This grows to 78% by the time girls reach seventeen. From a young age girls learn to hate their body, which can lead to harmful effects. 1 in 12 teenagers engage in self injurious behavior and 60% of those who do are female. Many girls also develop eating disorders from the extreme pressure they feel to have their body look a certain way. It is estimated that out of the 8 million people with an eating disorder, 7 of those million are women. No woman should have to see herself and her body in such a negative way because of pressures from the media.
Some schools have dress codes that ban girls from wearing a certain length of shorts, or tops without sleeves that show shoulders. I was dress coded in 10th grade because my shirt cut off at the edge of my shoulder and had no sleeves. When a young girl hears that she cannot wear a tank top to school on a hot day because it can be distracting to male classmates, she is being sexualized. Why are women being sexualized at such a young age? It is basically being said that the male classmates’ education is more important than the female with the “dress code violation” because she has to be pulled out of class for disrupting the learning environment from wearing something that she feels comfortable in. Many times girls who have no intention of dressing “provocatively” are called out on the way they dress and then feel uncomfortable for the way they look. Girls do not need to be sexualized like this. Girls’ clothing is not and should not be responsible for boys' behavior. “These ideals reinforce that a girl's appearance is more important, and demands more attention, than her other, non-visible qualities like intelligence, perseverance, athletic ability, tenacity, creativity, a hard work ethic... attention to those attributes seem to fade away rather quickly once an inch of skin is exposed” [x] Dress codes should provide a practical guide for how one should dress in a school setting. One’s private areas should not be completely hanging out or exposed, but a girl wearing shorts that show off her legs or a shirt that shows some of her cleavage shouldn’t be met with a call to the dean’s office. That demonstrates a giant flaw in policy. The grown adults that look at these 14-18-year-old girls and find their outfits to be disapproving and revealing are sexualizing them, and they didn’t ask for it.
Women all around the world need feminism because different women in different countries face different issues. In America, LGBTQ women and women of color face many issues; they endure more sexual assault, abuse and violence than most. They are often targeted for hate crimes of racism, homophobia, and transphobia. 84.6% of LGBT students reported being verbally harassed, 40.1% reported being physically harassed, and 18.8% reported being physically assaulted at school in the past year because of their sexual orientation. LGBT students of color who experienced high severities of multiple forms of harassment had significantly lower academic achievement than other students. America’s 5.1 million LGBT women face lower pay, frequent harassment, compromised access to health care, and heightened violence. “Almost 30 percent of bisexual women and 23 percent of lesbian women live in poverty compared to 21 percent of heterosexual women.”
American women in government are not represented equally either. Women make up 51% of the United States population but only comprise 19% of congress. 35 women have served as US governors compared to 2,319 men. Shockingly, 71 countries in the world have had female presidents or prime ministers; the US is not one of them. In fact, he United States ranks 98th worldwide for its percentage of national legislative seats held by women. Mainly because men occupy 80 to 95+ percent of the top decision-making positions in American politics, business, the military, religion, media, culture, and entertainment.
Feminism is vital to all these situations. It can educate others who will aid in preventing and eliminating sexism, discrimination, abuse, and acts that prevent women from reaching their full potential.
Feminism is bigger than just the United States. It encompasses all women. It is estimated that more than 64 million girls worldwide are child brides. Child marriage can result in many harmful effects on girls. Child brides have a diminished chance of completing their education and are at a higher risk of being physically abused, contracting HIV and other diseases, and dying while pregnant or giving birth, which is the leading cause of death for 15 to 19 year old girls worldwide. Female genital mutilation (FGM) is also a huge problem in many African countries. It is seen as a cultural ritual in which women forcibly have their genitals cut and mutilated to discourage them from having sex as something pleasurable, opposed to having sex for the sole purpose of reproduction. Female sexuality is controlled, it is an “initiation for girls into womanhood”, female genitalia are believed to be dirty and unsightly, and it is believed to enhance fertility and child survival. The procedure can result in death through severe bleeding leading to haemorrhagic shock, neurogenic shock as a result of pain and trauma, and overwhelming infection and septicaemia. FGM creates many problems for women such as painful sex, difficulty urinating, birthing complications, and it can lead to serious infections. [x] Approximately 140 million girls and women worldwide have suffered female genital mutilation. These women do not have a choice; they have to live with this inhumane practice and its effects for the rest of their lives.
Sex trafficking puts millions of girls and women in modern day slavery. Females represent 55% of the estimated 20.9 million victims of forced labor worldwide, and 98% of the estimated 4.5 million forced into sexual exploitation. How can you say feminism is not needed? How could you tell these child brides, and sex slaves, and victims of FGM that feminism is not needed in today’s world? It is absolutely needed to help fight for these women and the injustices millions face everyday all over the planet.
Feminists want to solve these problems. We want to fix them and fight for the rights that all women should have. No one should have to endure discrimination, oppression, and judgment for who they are or where they come from. Feminism needs to be properly recognized for what it is. There should be no double standard for men or women. Equal treatment is what everyone deserves. So many people are uneducated and uninformed about equality in our country and in our world. Men and women need to join together to make a feminist movement work. Please, before you trash on feminism, research what it really is and its real goals. You will find more good than bad. Woman or man, a feminist wants equal rights for both sexes, and that idea will never differ.
Bennett is a contributor for The Millennial Times.