Though women today believe in women’s rights and the importance of gender equality in society, most don’t necessarily agree with the extreme views that blame men for women’s oppression. Feminism is the belief that men and women are equal. Fewer than 1 in 5 women in North America describe themselves as feminists, even though 85 % of them believe in equality between the sexes. In the U.K, just 7 percent of women describe themselves as feminists, while 92 percent believe in equality of the sexes.
The belief in feminism has given women strength to stand up, voice change in an unfair system and fight to have opportunities equivalent to men at home, school, military and the workplace. Yes, there are some with irrational viewpoints that may make us question our stance, but even the few who speak out positively, can empower thousands of others to follow in their blazing trail to stand up and demand change!
In response to backlash on a very revealing outfit she wore, Emma Watson, an actress in Disney’s recent film tweeted, “Feminism is about giving women choice. Feminism is not a stick with which to beat other women with. It’s about freedom, it’s about liberation, it’s about equality.”
During second-wave feminism, which started in the early 1960s through the 1980s, many women distanced themselves from the movement for fear of being lumped in with the stereotype of a feminist: a woman who is pushy, brash, doesn’t shave her legs and above all else, hates men.
Soon, consumer culture latched on, co-opted the notion of empowerment and sold it to all women as carte blanche to act as they pleased under the guise of self-actualization. And celebrity culture is to blame, too. Beyoncé, who wears leather bodysuits and thigh-high boots on stage, and sings about staying with a cheating man, is held as a feminist ideal.
It’s important to acknowledge the gains of the movement, however. It has made considerable strides in the areas of reproductive freedoms and economic emancipation. For the first time in Western industrial history, we’re in a society where women don’t need to marry for economic security. It’s a huge shift in what was an imbalance between men and women.
Although admittedly, these privileges are largely enjoyed by educated white women in the first world. On Jan. 21, as millions of women in pink wool hats took to the streets in cities across the world, the crowds illustrated just how the feminist movement has changed, with multi-generational and multi-ethnic women and girls marching alongside men.
Feminism is perhaps experiencing its biggest evolution thanks to the more visible and vocal inclusion of minorities, indigenous people, members of the LGBTQ community and transgendered women helping break down gender barriers. Indigenous women and women of colour have sprayed a shade of their own by including the intersectionality of racism and cultural barriers.