The word feminism is defined as “the advocacy of women’s rights on the basis of the equality of the sexes.” It is a common misconception that the goal of feminism is to make it so that women have more rights than men. However, the definition plainly states that this is not the case. All that women want is to be equal to our male counterparts, and yet, our basic human rights have become political and up for debate.
Many people believe that feminism is not needed anymore because women have the right to vote and “everything is in our favor.” I strongly disagree. First of all, the wage gap is a huge problem, whether you choose to acknowledge it or not. According to a study by PayScale, women in the United States make $0.98 for every $1 their equal male coworker makes. That might not seem like a lot to a man, but this gap results in $80,000 lost in a woman’s lifetime. That is a shockingly huge number, and it shows how unfair the system is. This gap has only decreased by $0.01 since 2015; that’s how slow the progression of closing the wage gap is going.
All of the data above does not count for women and men of color, which is why intersectional feminism is important. Intersectional feminism aims to make all races, genders, classes, sexualities, etc. equal to each other. I found another article written by PayScale about the race pay gap. Keep in mind that this is all being compared to the $1 dollar a white man makes. The wages are listed on the infographic from PayScale. These numbers vary widely, demonstrating just how much needs to be changed. The smallest gap is between Asian men and women; the largest gap is between American Indians. Black men and women have the lowest pay. For those who say that the wage gap isn’t real, I implore you to do your research and look at the numbers in the link; that is clearly not true.
One worldwide effect of sexism and another reason feminism is needed is women under 18 being sold off to marriage. According to an infographic by UNICEF, 12 million girls under 18 are married per year. This is horrifying; I cannot even imagine being forced to get married before I am 18. Girls who marry before 18 are less likely to continue with their education and are more likely to experience domestic violence. Young women are also more prone to death due to complications from pregnancy and childbirth than older women. Thankfully, feminists around the world are doing what they can; 25 million child marriages have been stopped in the past decade.
Another thing I want to talk about is the “Pink Tax,” a tax in which women automatically pay more for everyday items, such as razors, hair products, clothes and especially menstrual products. I have had adults tell me that, when buying myself sneakers, I could find the exact same shoes in the men’s section for less money. Learning that blew my mind! According to an article written by NPR, a “woman’s version” of a product will cost about seven percent more than the man’s same product. The “Tampon Tax” also fits under this umbrella. Tampons, pads and other menstrual products are referred to as “luxury items.” This makes no sense to me. We do not choose to have our periods, nor is it any sort of luxury. Luckily for us, Oregon doesn’t have a sales tax at all, which means menstrual products are not taxed. That is not the case for most of our country, and it makes me wonder: if Oregon did have a sales tax, would menstrual products be taxed? Some 36 states include menstrual products in sales tax, meaning people who menstruate in those states need to pay more for something that they can’t control in any way, leading to those who are poor not getting the products they need. Several states are signing bills to exempt menstrual products from the states sales tax, which is a good sign. Many young girls around the world who grow up poor or in less wealthy countries do not have access to the incredibly necessary menstrual hygiene products that they need. This is a huge crisis, and one that needs attention and to be fixed. Recently, Scotland was the first country to make all menstrual products free. Eliminating the tax on menstrual products is a step towards equality, and making them free is an added bonus.
I haven’t even started on rape culture, which is blatanly against women. Women are not believed when they stand up for themselves, but a man can get away with many rape accusations made against him. Society is inherently made to believe men over women, demonstrating why feminism is still needed. This is a whole topic within itself, one for a different conversation.
Now I know, this article mostly focused on why we still need feminism for women, so let me talk about men. Feminism is for everyone! Men suffer from sexism also, and though it may not be as talked about or as prevalent, they still deserve the same equality that women are fighting for. One example is when young boys are told to “man up” or “stop being such a girl” when they show any emotions. This is toxic masculinity, and in no way fair to the boys. Another is what our country defines as “masculine.” A man wearing a dress immediately makes him lose respect in the public eye because it is not “masculine”. This baffles me because a man should be able to wear and do whatever he wants. If a woman can wear pants because it’s more comfortable, shouldn’t a man be able to wear a skirt or dress because he enjoys it? To me it’s just common sense, but I know many people do not feel that way. Men are also expected to succeed and make a lot more money than their wives or partners, putting an outrageous pressure on young boys to do what their parents want them to, instead of doing something they are passionate about. Calling a man a “sissy” or telling a boy that they “act like a girl” or do something “like a girl” not only gives them a negative perspective on women, but it also puts pressure on them to be something they may not want to be.
To conclude, feminism is a movement for equality, not just for women, but for men also. This should not be up for debate. Yes, women can vote, and yes, women are becoming more respected and valued, but that is not enough. It will not be enough until every woman has the same rights as the men they work with, live with and spend time with.