Feminism: striving for equality…not superiority

By Pat Cordova-Goff | Staff Writer

When it comes to equal treatment under the law for men and women, this country has a long way to go. Although elected officials continue to pass new legislation aimed at ensuring just treatment for all, some individuals do not support gender equality. Consider the counter-movement on Twitter indicated by #WomenAgainstFeminism.

Active on many social media news feeds, a vocal minority of both women and men are speaking out against the feminist movement.

Posts such as “I don’t need feminism because: fighting for women superiority is not fighting for equality” have intensified the debate between supporters and non-supporters of the cause.

It is difficult to analyze the reasoning of those who reject feminism. Nevertheless, the Constitution guarantees expression of opinion. So, with that, here is my take on this anti-feminist movement.

Perhaps the biggest misconception regarding feminism is a lack of understanding of its actual definition. Contrary to the stereotypes that feminists are bra-burning, man-hating radicals, the true meaning of the term feminism is simple.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, a noted Nigerian writer and self-identified feminist, defines a feminist as “the person who believes in the social, political, and economic equality of the sexes.”

Feminism is just that: belief in equality. In an effort to be inclusive of transgender and gender non-conforming people, I would take this definition a step further and describe feminism as equality of all genders.

Once it is understood that the feminist community is all-inclusive, the possibility of being labeled a feminist is no longer as intimidating.

A second misconception may be even more disturbing, that is, that women need not embrace feminism because they are already equal to men.

Although on average the biological anatomy of females limits physical capabilities when compared to that of males, women are equally suitable for intellectually demanding activities. However, women often experience workplace situations in which their gender becomes a limiting factor.

The gender pay gap may be narrowing, but according to the Pew Research Center, it continues to persist. Compared to women in the 1980s that earned 64 cents of every dollar men were paid, today’s women make 84 cents for equal work. Until the pay gap is finally closed, this country needs feminism.

Feminism is a catalyst for transforming our nation into a more just society. Too often girls are raised to believe that, although a college education is valuable, the goal is marriage. The image of ideal Hollywood beauty is imprinted in their minds. Women are told they cannot express sexuality the same way some men do, through everyday conversations or on the TV screen, unless it is for the pleasure of men. Feminism rejects these misconceptions.

But most importantly, the hashtag #WomenAgainstFeminism is a reminder of America’s basic masculine bias.

The idea that males are naturally superior to women allows men to continue their oppression and hinder women from aspiring to leadership positions. To argue that a woman is incapable of running this country because of “feminine emotions and hormones” may keep women from striving to their full potential.

According to Catalyst, a leading non-profit organization for increasing the percentage of women leaders in business, women currently hold 4.8 percent of Fortune 500 CEO positions and 5.2 percent of Fortune 1000 CEO positions.

Anne Marie Slaughter, a former U.S. State Department policy planner, presents a valid point in a July/August 2012 article of The Atlantic, when she challenges the feminist push for women to climb the executive ladders.

Slaughter chose to leave a high-powered position to care for her teenage sons. She speaks for countless working mothers throughout the nation in her op-ed titled “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All.”

Nevertheless, opting to care for ones’ children instead of accepting an executive position is not a reason to oppose feminism.

In Sheryl Sandberg’s book “Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Live”, the perspective of balancing motherhood and executive positions is aligned with the notion that men continue to dominate society, yet it is internal conflict, such as lack of self-confidence and unwillingness to strive for leadership positions, that are holding women back.

The feminist movement pushes to end the mentality that women are not as capable of success as men are and encourages women to strive for career advancements. Sandberg points out that “of 197 heads of state, only 22 are women” and only 18 percent of Congressional seats are filled with women.

Using the hashtag #WomenAgainstFeminism is a form of self-expression protected by the Constitution but inevitably creates an additional obstacle to equality of all genders.

Identifying as a feminist should not label anyone as a radical, but simply define “one who believes in the social, political, and economic equality of the sexes.”

Feminism will be needed until the day this nation not only recognizes gender equality, but acts on it.