The F Word

While sitting in class one day, I overheard a young man behind me talking about a girl that was in his group for a project. He said, “She got really mad at me for being late. It must be because she’s in the feminism club on campus. They’re all man haters, manly, lesbians, or a mix of all three.”

Feminism is one of the most misunderstood and reputed ideas in America. With the title “feminist,” comes an avalanche of negative stigma. In reality, the feminism movement is one that stands for equality between men and women, nothing more and nothing less.

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In a recent Vox poll taken in 2015 exploring the American public’s view on feminism, abortion, and the Affordable Care Act, the results showed that 85% of people believe in equality for women. However, later in the same survey when asked if they identified as a feminist, only 18% of the public said they were. This shows just how reputed feminism is in this country, despite a majority agreeing with its objective. Why is this?

The negative stigma exists because of how feminists are perceived. When I asked five James Madison University students why they thought there were so many misconceptions about feminism, many said that it’s most likely from confusion as to what feminism really is because of the many interpretations of feminism that exist. In addition, feminism may be reputed because of how society tends to resist social change.

You may ask, “why does feminism matter? Is it even still relevant?” To answer these questions past the simple yes, I call Presidential candidate Donald Trump to the stand. Trump has thousands of supporters. Along with having racist views towards Mexicans and immigrants, Trump has made numerous sexist remarks towards women including this quote regarding competitor Carly Fiorina.

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Trump is an example of a misogynist- someone who has a hatred or dislike towards women. People like Trump who have power in society are threats to women in the United States. The truth is that although American women have more rights than many other countries, women still have a long way to go before they reach equality with men.

Economically, women are consistently paid less than their male counterpart. According to research done by IWPR in 2015, female full-time workers made only 79 cents for every dollar made by men. This means that women face a 21 percent gender wage gap for doing the exact same job.

Socially, women are constantly being stereotyped and face double standards. For example, women are slut shamed for their promiscuity when men are praised. Through the media, women are taught that their bodies and appearance are more important than what they have to say and will directly influence how successful they are. This idea is reinforced in public high schools, where dress codes limit how much shoulder a girl can show so to not distract boys. This not only sexualizes the bodies of  young girls, but also sends the message that boys can’t control themselves and their urges.

The only way to eliminate stigma surrounding feminism is to educate people about what feminism really is and what it would look like in society. The movement does not aim to raise women higher than men, but to fight for equality between genders.

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