One in four women experience some form of domestic violence. Three percent of women raped go to court. Less than a quarter of the world’s countries have a female head of state and according to the American Association of University Women (AAUW), in 2015, women working full time in the United States were paid 80 percent of what their male counterparts were paid. At the rate of change between 1960 and 2015, women are expected to reach pay equity with men in 2059.
Women have shown those in power that they aren’t entitled to a woman’s body, her every decision, and her voice before. They quietly propelled the civil rights movement even before receiving the right to vote in the provisions of the 20th amendment. Women pushed for the decriminalization of abortions in 1973 with the landmark decision in Roe v. Wade. Women have constantly shown that gender equality isn’t a privilege, that women’s rights are human rights.
So that begs the question: Why is feminism constantly associated with misandry, man-hating, with the idea that women are better than men? Pat Robertson, a famous televangelist, expressed his view in 1992 in opposition to a proposed equal right bill that would amend the Iowa constitution. He stated “[feminism] is about a socialist, anti-family political movement that encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism and become lesbians.”
I’d like to think we have come a long way from such an insensitive misunderstanding of the “feminist agenda” but as new voices have begun to manifest themselves, I’ve begun wonder. What about the gender wage gap has proven so unimportant or irrelevant that so many have refused to acknowledge it even exists? What about catcalling and lack of paid maternity leave makes the existence of the patriarchy so hard to believe? How have the tables turned; how has female oppression and the fight against it become a partisan symbol of liberal elitism? Is it one?
Oppression is intersectional. “White feminism,” considered the feminism of the elites, doesn’t apply to everyone. Independent of their socio-economic status, race, and age, sexism affects all women. So, maybe the reason feminism is associated with social privilege is because privilege can amplify ones voice and allow their views to dominate a conversation.
Christina Sommers of the Washington Post suggests that in order to make feminism great again, it needs to be made relatable again. But instead, we need to recognize and our commonalities. Talk show hosts rotate through the same pitches, the most popular being a call for viewers to respect women because they might be their mothers, sisters, girlfriends, etc. I suppose I don’t find feminism difficult to embrace because I’m surrounded by teachers, friends, and family who share the same view. I don’t have friends that need to be reminded not to make sexist comments or brothers that use derogatory language. On the other hand, perhaps it’s because I actively seek out relationships with people who chose to build others up, not break them down because of their gender. But my vision is that we shouldn’t respect women because they could possibly be related to us but instead because our humanity tells us so, because we are all people, equally deserving of respect.