Feminism | Posted by Emily Jane G on 06/4/2012

Defending the Relevance of Feminism

Obama thinks feminism is still relevant

One of the main problems with calling yourself a feminist today is that it can be hard to explain why it is still needed. On the surface, many goals of feminism seem to already have been achieved and therefore many people seem to think  feminism in the 21st century redundant. It is undeniable that since its beginnings, feminism has achieved a lot: women can now vote, we are allowed to work in previously male-dominated fields, we can wear whatever we want (albeit, more or less, apparently). Overall, though, the status of women has greatly improved. So, is feminism still needed? In a word: yes.

To see the relevance of feminism today, we only need to look beyond the Western world. Women in other countries are still largely regarded as second class citizens and do not enjoy the things we take for granted such as our right to vote or our right to work. One strong example of a country where women are nowhere near equal to men on political and social levels is Saudi Arabia. Perhaps one of the most shocking details about women in Saudi Arabian society is the legal requirement to have a male guardian. This male guardian must accompany them in public and has the right to make major life decisions on their behalf such as if/where they go to university. Although women were recently granted the right to vote in Saudi Arabia, they still need their male guardian’s permission to do so. This only scratches the service of the troubles Saudi Arabian women face and Saudi Arabia is by no means the only country where women still suffer hugely from inequality. However, while our sisters in other countries enjoy much less freedom than we do, it is hard to truly enjoy our own and is something we should all be aware of.

Now, let’s move closer to home. The hard facts are that even in this country women are paid less on average than men, despite acts that have called for equal pay. Rape statistics are also highly telling. According to recent data, 18.3% of women over 18 reported being sexually assaulted in their lifetime (which, as PreventConnect pointed out, makes rape more common than smoking). Most rape victims are female, although there are a number of male victims and the number of rapists that are male is overwhelming. With statistics like this is mind (that are, again, only scratching the surface), it’s hard to argue that feminism has already achieved its goals.

Not to mention there are still many issues that can’t be proven with statistics, such as the general attitudes towards women. Even though women are currently enjoying something much closer to equality between the genders than ever before, sexism is still a problem many women face on a daily basis. Rape “jokes” are uncomfortably common and phrases such as “frape” are seen as innocent. Rape and sexual violence in general are very much feminist issues and fighting people’s attitudes about rape and its casual use in conversation are an essential fight in feminism today.

Chances are, if you are reading this article, you’re probably already someone who calls themselves a feminist. However, all of us at some point will probably have to defend our feminist identity. My hope is that we can use examples like the ones mentioned here to defend feminism when someone attempts to call it into question.

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  • Renee @ at 8:41 pm, June 4th, 2012

    Gave this five stars! Very good answer as to whu Feminism is needed. The first and second wave took care of the overt issues now we are fighting a much more covert misogynist.

  • James @ at 5:21 am, June 5th, 2012

    I’m so tired of seeing sexual assault conflated with rape. Sexual assault is disgusting, but there’s a huge difference between being groped and raped. I’m a male feminist, quit the propaganda and more men will jump on board.

  • Emma @ at 8:20 am, June 5th, 2012

    @James – what propaganda? That rape and sexual assault is disturbingly common?
    No, being groped isn’t the same as being raped but the issues must be tackled together to prevent an idea that one is more “worthy” to be prevented than the other. I think they are very much linked together, despite being two seperate issues. Neither is acceptable and both must be tackled.

  • James @ at 12:00 pm, June 5th, 2012

    “prevent an idea that one is more ‘worthy,’ than the other,” are you serious? there’s a huge difference between the two – I’ve been groped, sometimes I hated it, sometimes I wouldn’t mind depending on who it was. Rape doesn’t fit into this category. Rape is NEVER okay. By conflating statistics between the two, all your doing is creating an environment of fear. Of course both need to be stopped – but always represent the facts. Starting off a sentence with ‘rape statistics,’ and then using ‘sexual assault,’ statistics to support your claim is misleading.

  • Emily Jane @ at 1:16 pm, June 5th, 2012

    James, I think the issue here is consent. You’re right, groping can be fine when consent has been given but the sad truth is consent is not always given. I’ve been going to clubs since I was 12 years old (where I live, one club has a ‘club’ night, alcohol free aimed at 14-17 year olds..) and I’ve been groped without my consent since then. Actions like this so often end up in rape, that I don’t think it’s misleading to talk about rape and back up points with statistics about sexual assault at all. The two are linked.

  • Emma @ at 1:21 pm, June 5th, 2012

    ““prevent an idea that one is more ‘worthy,’ than the other,” are you serious?”

    In the way that if you tackle one without the other it may give the impression that the one you aren’t tackling isn’t an issue.

    Sexual assault of ANY kind is never acceptable. Just because you might have liked the grope doesn’t make it okay.

    I can’t speak for the author but I’m guessing that a lot of rape statistics are included in sexual assault statistics hence the use of them instead of “rape only” figures.

  • M @ at 3:25 pm, June 9th, 2012

    Looooooooool. And here come the brave white feminists to save the poor brown wimminz. Not like that has any root in colonialism or imperialism, which contributed to the position of women in majority POC countries or anything, no, totally not.

  • T @ at 12:21 am, June 21st, 2012

    Yeah, I had the same thoughts (as M). I try to avoid “white savior complex” feminism. However, I think the writer might have just wanted to highlight that it’s narrow-minded to say feminism isn’t relevant anymore without considering the dilemmas women face globally.

    Also, reproductive rights (or the lack thereof) are a thing! Also beauty standards,and slut shaming, and other stuff. It’s really not that hard to shut down people who say we don’t need feminism anymore.

  • someone @ at 12:32 am, July 31st, 2012

    I wish that photo of Barack Obama wasn’t actually photo-shopped 3:

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