The background on my phone shows a picture of a gray sky, people in pink hats, and signs reading slogans such as “A woman’s place is in the resistance!” The people in the photograph are clearly cold – most are wearing winter coats, scarves, and gloves, but despite the apparent cold, thousands of people, mostly women, are there. This photograph was taken at the Women’s March in Philadelphia on January 21, 2017. I was one of the nearly fifty thousand eager and empowered people marching on behalf of women’s rights in the city of brotherly love.
In most religions, people are taught to love their neighbor. However, the equation seems to change when the neighbor is a woman, a person of color, gay. This makes sense, though. Even just looking at the founding of the United States expounds on this idea a lot. The Founding Fathers of the United States were wealthy, white, Christian men who lived during a time when wealthy, white, Christian men were the only ones with full rights and freedoms. The Constitution and the Declaration of Independence are both chock full of rhetoric describing freedom and hope for the future, but not until the passage of the Fourteenth Amendment in 1866 was there any mention of equality in the Constitution. Hold up – most people would consider that pretty radical. America is supposed to be the land of equality, right? Ideally, yes. Constitutionally, at least originally, no.
Despite the fact that the Constitution did not originally intend to guarantee equality for all Americans, it does guarantee that everyone can fight for equality if they so choose. And many people so choose, just as I did when I participated in the Women’s March in Philadelphia. I choose to fight for equality because I do not believe that women are treated as equal to men. The banner under which I enact my fight is that of feminism – the belief that all genders are socially, economically, financially, and politically equal. In other words, I am a feminist.
I took a journalism course my sophomore year of high school. In one of the units, each student was required to conduct a survey that would be taken by one hundred people minimum and then write a story based on that survey. My survey was about feminism. I asked questions such as “Do you consider yourself a feminist?” or “What does feminism mean to you?” and “What do you think women’s role in society is?” I knew I was asking about a more controversial topic than my classmates, who were asking about favorite sports or amounts of homework. However, I was not ready for some of the very interesting results that I received. There was just barely a larger group of people who considered themselves feminists than those who did not. Those who did not largely said that they believed that all genders are equal but that they did not want to associate with the word “feminist.” A few, however, were straight up misogynistic. One person, a boy, responded to the “What do you think women’s role in society is?” question with something about how women are only around to produce children, and that all women should be sent off to gulags to participate in forced labor. I was astonished. This was the first example of outright misogyny that I had ever witnessed.
I was happy with the interesting results – it definitely made my story more exciting. However, it revealed a deeply troubling issue – sexism is still very much alive and well. As I’ve gotten older, spoken to more people, gotten more involved in social media, and read more. In eighth grade, I wrote a research paper calling out radical feminism before I really knew what it was. At the time, I thought that feminism was about hating men and that radical feminism is about really hating men. I said in the essay that the only true and correct feminism in that of second wave feminism, which arose in the 1960s. Today, I know the opposite is true. Today’s feminism is also real feminism and it has nothing to do with man hating. I now know that sexism isn’t some far off topic. It’s down to earth. Here’s an example:
I have a good friend, a girl, who is pretty promiscuous. The boys that she fools around with tend to be as if not more promiscuous than she is. However, after every interaction between my friend and a boy, there is only one person who takes the slack for it, there is only one person referred to with derogatory names such as “slut” or “whore” – my friend. This is incredibly unfair! What a ridiculous double standard! To make matters worse, the boy always joins in on the bullying, using the mean names when he too participated in the acts for which she is ridiculed.
Beyond the egregious acts of sexism such as that, there is also the plain-faced denial of what feminism is, which is sexism in itself. Too many people mistakenly believe that feminism promotes hatred of men or says that women are superior to men. However, I don’t necessarily believe that this is new. Feminism is a movement that challenges the status quo, which people often do not like. In addition, most people who hate feminism are men and they probably spread these rumors about feminism because they feel threatened by it.
Our society is riddled with problems, especially in terms of gender equality. People are ignorant to the feminist cause – a cause which helps everyone – which is only detrimental to themselves and to society as a whole. There is rampant sexism, a culture which often condones rape and supports rapists, no equal pay, and a double standard for men and women among many other issues. Feminism is the best way for humanity to work through these matters. This is why I stand with all other people who fight for gender equality, racial equality, religious equality, and just equality for all people.