Redefining modern feminism

Mina Bandic, Staff Reporter

You could say I am a feminist. Women in STEM like Rebecca Cole are my icons, little boys who want to mansplain anything to me are my enemies and I believe in letting women do anything they want to do.   

Now, do I think the freshman boys around me are beyond gross and I could totally live without them? Yes, most definitely. Is it because I am a feminist? No, I just hate Axe body spray. 

While feminism is oftentimes seen as a “no boys allowed” club,  it’s important to realize that being a feminist does not mean I hate men; it means I want to change the way the world views women and men by giving more equality and equity.

Feminism as a movement has been warped, changed, manipulated and misinterpreted since it began in 1848. It’s important to acknowledge that there are many different feminists: loud outspoken trailblazers, the silent but powerful leaders, even sometimes the rare unicorn male feminist. 

Historically, there have been three waves of feminism: the first included trying to cement the fact that women deserve the right to vote as well as other opportunities; the second wave focused  more on equal workforce conditions, reproductive rights and the fight against objectification; and the most recent includes the #MeToo movement in the 2017, which supports those who live in low-income communities, particularly women of color who are survivors of sexual violence and a strong emphasis on reproductive rights.

However, a small and loud minority like to express that feminism is about putting down men. This simply isn’t true. Instead, feminism is a movement built on the idea of empowering and supporting women and men, and above all, equality. While women tend to be at the forefront of this fight, more rights for women does not mean any less for men in any way shape or form. That view is diminishing the real point of feminism.

Senior Megan Soto-Benitez defines feminism as, “Correcting the systemic issues that put women at a disproportionate level.”

Soto-Benitez was who pushed the equity mindset towards me. I had never considered how much of a role equity played but without equity there would be no way for the less fortunate to gain the opportunities needed to lessen the divide amongst the different genders.

After all, this movement was started to lessen inequality across all aspects. This is perpetuated because, according to the Field Museum, the greater the inequality, the more unstable the society becomes. We know this to be true because as you start to treat one group of individuals higher than another, in this case men over women, it’s clear that you’re furthering the divide between the two groups. Putting a group higher than another priotizes them and makes the latter feel unworthy. When opportunities are given to one side of the spectrum but not the other, it doesn’t go well.

There is little controversy that women in the past have been treated differently than men. I mean, as a speech girlie competing in Extemporaneous  Speaking — an event where participants prepare to deliver an eight-minute speech based off of a current events prompt in 30 minutes — although it’s getting better, I can tell you that seven times out of 10, your competitors are men. Men, men, men everywhere. I get it, a woman discussing the big guns of current events is so frightening! But be so for real, I can talk for miles about them with ease. Successfully, too. 

Beyond speech, this imbalance is seen in the workforce; according to The World Bank’s Gender Data, in 2022, the global labor participation gap was at a wide margin with women employed at 42 percent whereas men were at 72 percent. While this may be compounded due to maternity leave and mothers taking care of their kids, many women who really enjoy working and 70 percent of women, regardless of their work status, prefer to work in paid jobs. 

  As history goes on, people have to look back and realize that there were societal issues and take it as motivation to grow so that we can all progress further.

Growth can be seen in studies of evolutionary psychology. According to The Conversation, our evolutionary past inclines males to be more dominant, and females to be deferential to males. But recognizing our history as the source of these gender differences is not to accept them as our future.

Women couldn’t vote before, now they can. Women couldn’t own land before, now in most countries they can. Women couldn’t even have a job previously, and now, they can. We’ve seen what problems faced our society and progressed further. By continuing this it can only benefit us.

People can choose to deny that there are disadvantages put in place towards women, but they would be incorrect. I mean, honestly, why else can’t Green M&M wear her gogo boots? While we may be more egalitarian now than we ever were before, (partly because , according to the Constitution, it’s illegal to discriminate one gender over the other) there are still limits put in place that continue to perpetuate gender roles that put women behind.

But while a lot of these movements focus on those that involve women, there is also a strong part that focuses on creating general equality. And yes, that includes men, too. The feminist movement, while mostly all girlboss, puts a strong emphasis on taking apart the societal gender roles that are harmful to men. 

Prospect psychologist Fitore Gjemnica believes that these stereotypes are more detrimental than helpful in most cases. We can even look at the saying that I for one have heard since elementary, “Girls go to college to get more knowledge, boys go to jupiter to get more stupider,” Is this true? No. No one is going to Jupiter. But you can see the message behind it. Men are seen having less knowledge than that of women and should engage more in sports. They’re pushed to show their strength.

“There is a misconception that in order to be strong you have to hide your emotions,” Gjemnica said.

By going back to the 1880s, where most land and labor were focused on men, we can see that men have historically been told that their strengths are physical. One particular stereotype is that men have to rely on their physical strength if they want to be successful. Heaven knows what would happen if they showed anything but brute force or if, worse, they show a shred of emotion. They may be diminished to the likes of a woman! 

Yeah, that’s not a bad thing. At least we’re emotionally articulate enough to convey our emotions.

Through feminism, mental and physical expectations for men are removed, which can significantly improve mental health. Feminism pushes for a more egalitarian society, where extreme issues like domestic violence are recognized equally for both men and women.

 Strong, and sometimes aggressive, men are what we consider the norm, showing aggression and violence symbolizes your ‘manliness’ and not doing so can often times make you an understandable target for bullying. But this is exactly the idea that feminism works to unravel. When we see feminism continue to challenge these norms we will start to see change across multiple fronts.

With equality also comes equity, which is the idea of creating a fair and even playing field for women. Feminism has become stagnant in the way that: instead of focusing on equity, it has been focusing on lesser issues and becoming far more radical.  

Although feminism works to create equal opportunities and access to contraceptives, there has to be an even bigger focus on low income and minority families. Low income families don’t have access to otherwise easily accessible contraceptives and, according to Guttmacher Institute, up to 40 percent of women would like to use a different method if cost was not a factor. Not having access to birth control and other basic needs puts them at an extreme disadvantage that may threaten their lives. 

Besides birth control, Latina and Black women are assaulted at higher rates, meaning they’re killed more often. According to the Ohio Alliance to End Sexual Violence (OAESV), when comparing race in the United States, we can see that multiracial women have fallen victim to 33.5% of rapes where the rates for white women are at 18.8% . 

By looking at how feminism is now focusing on Free the Nipple, which focuses on squashing the sexualization of breasts, and other radical movements, it doesn’t put the movement in a good light. We have to take care of the larger systemic issues that affect our society.

  These issues can also include violence against transgender women, especially trans women of  color. According to 19thNews, for a couple of years a statistic went around that POC transgender women had an average lifespan of 35. This number is false. 

What also isn’t false is the fact that they are much more likely to be murdered than their cis-gender peers, or the fact that they have a higher likelihood to be a victim of homicide. According to UCLA, transgender people are over four times more likely than cisgender people to experience violent victimization, including rape, sexual assault, and aggravated or simple assault. In 2021 the highest spike in anti-trans murders was recorded at 57, a number that nearly doubled since past years.

Universally, we need to realize that the systemic issues within society are much more complex and branch out way more than putting down men. 

I may put down freshmen boys because they smell weird, but I don’t hate them. As a supporter of the feminist movement I want to allow for more equal opportunities for those who need it: aspiring STEM girlies, and men of all backgrounds to prove that, really, it isn’t a ‘no boys allowed club’. Just a no Axe body spray one.