The Other F-Word: Feminism
by Taylor Owens
As a young woman and advocate for the demolition of unbalanced social standards, I find it impossible to tear myself away from the subject of feminism and gender-equality. I first took up interest in the subject when I began to question the standards of gender roles implemented on youth by society. The sexualization of women in media and by the population is both disgusting and intimidating to an impressionable teenager. The excuses given to males for their behavior, such as “boys will be boys,” became apparent to me as a proponent of rape culture, and dress codes proved to encourage victim blame as females were incriminated for being a distraction to our male counterparts. The double standard for women in relationships became clearly evident as females were shamed and called terrible names for doing the same things as males, who were praised for it. I was disappointed again as I listened to my classmates and news channels mourn a man’s promising future in athletics as he was convicted of rape by some “lying, attention, and money-seeking woman”. Also, many popular songs “promoting” body positivity among women, such as Meghan Trainor’s hit single “All About That Bass,” only did so by criticizing other body types, specifically thin women, many of whom are naturally built this way. Aside from domestic issues Americans face, there is also a serious battle that many women face in third world and impoverished nations where they are denied basic rights and threatened with violence. These women endure the unimaginable and as I heard more about such cases of violence I did not dismiss them as just another news story that would soon dissolve, but that of extreme significance. These are all reasons why the world needs feminism.
Until I researched and learned about feminism, like many others, I wrongly associated it with the radical, hairy, bra-burning, misandrists of the feminist movement in the 1900’s, a common misconception that modern feminism still struggles to tear itself away from. Often feminism is an ugly word, but I want to show people that being a feminist is not about women being superior to, or hating, men. In fact, I believe feminists should also work to break down the social constructs among men that place them on a high standard, including those of body image and emotional vacancy. Feminism is about being equals, something that everyone, men included, can fight for.
English IV Accelerated
19 November 2014
The Other F-Word
What comes to mind when you hear the word feminism? Too frequently feminism is found synonymous with the misandry and bitterness found in the stereotypical activist of the Second Feminist Movement of the late 1900's. It is often an ugly word that many women, including celebrities like Shailene Woodley and Kelly Clarkson, reject because they view the word as too strong and "love men," believing that identifying as a feminist lessens a woman’s respect for the other sex (Meltzer 1)(“Do We Really…” 1). The word, defined as the belief that both genders deserve equal rights and opportunity politically, socially, and economically, becomes misinterpreted and unpopular as extremists twist society into thinking that feminism is anti-men (“Emma Watson…” 1). That is never what feminism has been about, and normalizing the word to make it more appealing to the population is a struggle facing activists, as demonstrated by Time Magazine, who included the word in their annual poll of words to be banned in the following year, which they later apologized for including (Steinmetz 1). Feminism is something that everyone should participate and believe in as it supports women's equality, as well as ending sexism, rape culture, and violence against women worldwide.
Women have made incredible leaps in equality thus far in history, including remarkable strides in suffrage and political standings, but challenges are still faced. Gender norms are one of the largest inequalities, for both women and men. These norms are the social and behavioral expectations placed by society on each of the sexes, which are generally looked down upon if broken. I can attest to this as I have seen male friends be ridiculed for demonstrating sensitivity or females mocked for being too ‘bossy’ when exemplifying power. These definitions of masculinity and femininity are harmful and restrictive, but in order to dissolve these protocols both genders must be involved without selfish motivations. Many men are urged to take part by using the example of thinking of how you would want your mother, sister, daughter, or wife to be treated (Gallup 2). However, this attempt at unity only further distances equality as it contributes to the notion that women cannot be independent and must be attached to a man to have worth. Society finds flaws in both the ambition of a difficult career or the committed role of a full time mother, showing that women’s equality is also introverted, not only against men, when both of these life options should be praised, not looked down upon. Gender norms are not only harmful to women, but also to men, making this a widespread issue that requires aid from feminists as they work to destroy social constructs.
In 2013 when two Ohio high school students were convicted of rape, news channels mourned their athletic careers, their coach going so far as blame the woman for making the incident up, destroying their careers, and attempting to dismantle their football program ( Maxwell 1). CNN reporter Poppy Harlow instead focused on their promising careers and gave a heartfelt response to Richardson's collapse following the conviction( “CNN Grieves…” ). This attitude of sympathizing with the criminal is just one of the many examples of the Unites States' prevalent rape culture, which is defined as the set of beliefs that promote male sexual aggression and violence towards women. This victim blame also discourages true victims from coming forward to testify or press charges, as the fear of blame or that they will be ostracized as a liar or attention-seeker. From youth, children are taught that males have an excuse for their violent behavior, including the popular term "boys will be boys" and "if he is being mean to you it just means he likes you". Female passivity is instilled at a young age and taught that unruly male behavior is normal, even as preschool hair tugging progresses to unwanted sexual advances in teen and adult years. (Maxwell 1). With nearly 1.3 million women raped in the United States, this is a serious dilemma and the continuance of normalizing and minimizing the hefty emotional and physical complications inflicted on women as a result of rape, including depression and pregnancy, needs to desist (“Facts About…” 1).
As one-third of women will experience violence in her lifetime, it is also a huge problem facing women worldwide, notably in third world countries where religious or cultural restrictions lessen women’s voice in society (“1 Living…” 1). For example, up to 114 million girls have undergone female genital mutilation (FGM), a violent and not consensual procedure that holds cultural significance and it believed to help maintain sexual purity. In this procedure, women are strapped down, their sexual organs partially or completely cut away without anesthetics. This procedure can result in serious complications including birthing difficulties, infection, or even fatalities, and although it has been outlawed in some states, including 6 African states and Sudan, FGM continues to be inflicted on many helpless women yearly (Alison 1) (“1 Living…” 5). Violence towards developing feminist gains in third world countries is also an issue as one South African article shows rising violence levels as a male backlash (“1 Living…” 3). In a first world nation, citizens will rarely firsthand experience these cruel forms of violence, but teaching people about this is important and can raise awareness to help struggling women. In America, rape and sexual harassment are larger issues. One college study results suggest anywhere between twenty and twenty-five percent of women will experience and attempted or completed rape in their college years, adding to the twenty-two million women that have been raped so far (“Facts About…” 1,2). Catcalling, or a loud comment of sexual nature in a public area, is another form of harassment demonstrated in a viral video that portrayed men yelling offensive sexual comments at a woman walking around New York City. Shoshana Roberts claims to have received 108 remarks, including “damn girl!” and “you don’t want to talk, is it because I’m ugly?”, while walking for ten hours, one of the men even following her for five minutes. She was dressed modestly in a t-shirt and jeans, not ‘asking for it’ like some suggest (Roberts). No woman asks for violence or harassment against her and no violence is excusable, making genital mutilation, rape, and harassment without cause.
As with all controversial issues, feminism also faces opposition. One of the most influential of these is the large social media outbreak called Women Against Feminism. Women who disagree with and reject feminism are often pictured holding up handwritten signs displaying the reasons they don't need feminism, using the hashtag #womenagainstfeminism to spread their opinion. An example of such a signs read "I don't need feminism because I believe in equality -not- entitlements and supremacy" or "I don't need feminism because I don't think being a woman is a disadvantage". Such women reject feminism as they think it supports female privilege, not equality, and the demonizing of traditional roles, such as being a mother instead of the powerful roles feminism supports (Young 1). Rejection or rebuttal of statistics feminists use to support their views are also common as they state that feminists twist data in their favor. One example of this is the popular twenty-three percent wage gap statistic, which they argue does not take into account many women’s choice for more family friendly jobs or the amount of hours worked (Young 2). Many also view that men’s right’s are being compromised for those of women and that feminism is outdated, having pushed itself past its expiration date into the realm of becoming related to Nazism, such as the term ‘feminazi’, or communism (“1 Living…” 2).
With so many views of feminism, sometimes it is difficult to interpret and decide what feminism really is. I believe in feminism, not the twisted version that supports the vilification men or one that supports female privilege, but the one that supports true equality of the sexes. Women should have the choice of what kind of life they want without ridicule or judgment related to their choices on career or motherhood. I agree that feminism has some problems, notably the way feminism is viewed by society. Even when discussing my choice of topic for this paper, classmates and close friends rolled their eyes as is to say “you’re one of those girls”. Yes, I am, although they may associate feminism with something other than the equality and end to violence I believe in. The word still carries the burden of stereotypes, something I hope the next generation will not inherit as the word reinvents itself to take on a positive meaning and lose the judgment of society, and I urge you to join this movement.
Alison. "Women's Issues." Paralumun. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Nov. 2014.
“CNN Grieves That Guilty Verdict Ruined 'promising' Lives of Steubenville Rapists.” CNN News, 2013. News. YouTube. 17 Mar. 2013. Web. 18 Nov. 2014.
"DO WE REALLY KNOW FEMINISM?." AllAfrica. 22 Aug. 2014 eLibrary. Web. 10 Nov. 2014.
"Emma Watson: Gender Equality Is Your Issue Too." UN Women. N.p., 20 Sept. 2014. Web. 08 Nov. 2014.
"FACTS ABOUT VIOLENCE." Feminist.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Nov. 2014.
Gallup, Larry. "Do men have to be guilted into equality?." Post - Crescent; Appleton, Wis.. 16 Oct. 2014: 12. eLibrary. Web. 10 Nov. 2014.
Maxwell, Zerlina. "WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT RAPE CULTURE." Essence. 01 Nov. 2014: 78. eLibrary. Web. 10 Nov. 2014.
Meltzer, Marisa. "Who Is a Feminist Now?." New York Times. 22 May. 2014: E1. eLibrary. Web. 10 Nov. 2014.
Owens, Taylor. 10 Nov. 2014. Personal Experience.
Steinmetz, Katy. "Which Word Should Be Banned in 2015? Vote Now!" Time. Time, 12 Nov. 2014. Web. 15 Nov. 2014.
Young, Cathy. "Feminist face-off ; Gender polarization? 'Ironic misandry?' Some women want equality without all the anger."Boston Globe. 02 Sep. 2014: A11. eLibrary. Web. 10 Nov. 2014.
10 Hours of Walking in NYC as a Woman. Dir. Rob Bliss. Perf. Shoshana B. Roberts. YouTube. N.p., 28 Oct. 2014. Web. 10 Nov. 2014.
"1 Living in interesting times." The No-Nonsense Guide to Women's Rights. 2008. eLibrary. Web. 10 Nov. 2014.
The world is partial,
Scales still tipped not in favor,
Women’s rights suffer.
English IV Accelerated
1 December 2014
The Worldwide Necessity of Feminism
“Out of sight, out of mind.” is an old saying, one that is often relevant to worldwide issues. Sure, stories are told on nightly news channels, but interest dies down quickly after journalist coverage does, or stories of heinous crimes become twisted into sick jokes by those too ignorant to know the true weight of troubles endured by others. Many women in impoverished areas or third world countries face violence, strife, and discrimination not fathomable to privileged others on a daily basis. These problems need attention and awareness, something that feminists can help address and solve through activism.
Even in the twenty-first century, violence against women is prevalent worldwide. Although the traditional practice of dowries was outlawed in India in 1961, it has largely failed to be enforced and the staggering demands that increase with India’s booming economy lead to physical, emotional, or sexual violence as the amounts are not met. Husbands and in-laws sometimes find the initial payment sufficient but, as greed mushrooms, later abuse their wives to extract more money, some even going as far as cutting women with razors or lighting them on fire after dousing them with kerosene (Ramakrishnan 1). Acid throwing is another barbarous crime popular in South Asia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and India designed to destroy identity and scar victims for life, both physically and emotionally. Due to its uses in manufacturing and industry, acid is easily available in some areas at less than a dollar a liter, although it costs victims much more (De Castella 2). Unlike burns, acid continues to eat away at flesh long after exposure if not properly neutralized, causing irreparable deformities including scarring, internal organ damage, and the melting or complete loss of external organs such as lips, eyelids, ears or noses (Goldberg 1). One woman knows such pain after she was maimed and lost all breathing ability through her nose, still ineffective eleven years after the attack (Goldberg 2). A reported 1,500 cases take place around the world every year, a number that does not include the countless unreported cases suspected ( De Castella 1). Treatments for fleshly acid corrosion and deformations can cost upwards of 5,000 dollars, money victims often don’t have, and compensation by the government or attackers is rarely provided (Goldberg 1). Causes for these attacks include rejection of marriage proposal or sexual advances, disobedience, dishonor to her family, revenge, the pursuit of Western education, or simply her beauty attracting the unwelcome attention of other men (Khan 1) (Goldberg 1).
Violence on women is not always inflicted by men, however, as female genital mutilation (FGM) demonstrates. This aggressive procedure, which has been inflicted upon an estimated 100-140 million women in Africa, involves the removal of external sexual organs with knives, scalpels, razor blades, or even broken glass, traditionally by a woman with no previous medical training (“Female Genital…” 1). To many of these “cutters” it is both a livelihood and way of life, and despite laws banning the practice, they continue their work in the name of custom, the preservation of virginity, and social acceptance (Howden 1). In some communities, those not cut are ostracized from society. They are forced to use segregated wells to keep water pure, found unfit for marriage, and midwives even refuse to deliver their children. Its popularity differs between ethnic groups, the highest ranking among the Somalis tribe of Kenya at 98 percent (Howden 2). The most common age of the practice is four to ten, removing the choice of consent, although it may also occur at older ages around puberty or as young as birth. Risks of mutilation include severe pain and shock, damage to internal organs, infection, infertility, physiological issues, hemorrhaging, and even death. As immigration numbers increase, FGM spreads to other nations including the UK, Europe, Canada, the United States, Australia, and New Zealand, an estimated 6,500 at risk in the UK alone (“Female Genital…” 1).
Every year approximately 14.2 million girls under the age of eighteen will become child brides, 5.1 million of those girls under the age of fifteen (“Child Marriages…” 1). This practice is most common in South Asia and West and Central Africa, the highest percentages being in Niger, an astounding seventy-seven percent, Bangladesh, where the rate of child brides under fifteen is the highest at thirty-nine percent, Chad, Mali, and India (“Ending Child…” 1). Parents often sell their daughters off for money, to lessen their own living expenses, or as a way for their daughters to avoid violence they otherwise might be in endangered to. However, the opposite is usually true as young girls are put at an elevated risk for intimate partner violence and abusive marriages, most notably when the age gap between husband and wife increases (“Child Marriages…” 1). These girls are also introduced to sex in an abrupt manner and cannot be refused, a factor that contributes to rising HIV cases. As these young brides are expected to display their valuable fertility, complications during pregnancy, which is the leading cause of female deaths ages fifteen to nineteen, can arise as medical attention is less likely to be offered, and teen’s bodies are not fully developed to handle the physical burdens of the gestation period. (“Child Marriages…” 1) (“Ending Child…” 1). Early marriages also harm girls by limiting their opportunities, including ending their education and becoming socially isolated. The cultural and traditional aspects of child brides are deep rooted into society and these girls need outward help, a feminist cause. Supporting the raising the legal marriage age to 18, as well as its enforcement, and education opportunities for young girls are both things that will contribute greatly to ending this cycle of poverty.
Acid throwing, female genital mutilation, and child marriages are predominantly incomprehensible to the typical American or first-world citizen. However, there are many things that can be done to help. Teaching others through word-of-mouth, writing, or social media about these crimes and violation of human rights can be one of the most effective tools in aiding the disestablishment of injustices and replacing it with equality. Donating money or participating in service trips with volunteer organizations is another great way to help if at all possible. Feminism is associated not only with local campaigns for women, but also those for fellow women worldwide. Women do not deserve the kind of hardships they endure simply because they were born in an inopportune area. All women should be offered the same chances without abuse or discrimination, something that every feminist should hope for.
"Child Marriages: 39,000 Every Day." World Health Organization. N.p., 7 Mar. 2013. Web. 30 Nov. 2014.
De Castella, Tom. "How Many Acid Attacks Are There?" BBC News. N.p., 9 Aug. 2013. Web. 30 Nov. 2014.
"Ending Child Marriage” : Progress and Prospects." UNICEF. United Nations International Children Educational Fund, 2014. Web. 30 Nov. 2014.
"Female Genital Mutilation (FGM)." FORWARD. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 Nov. 2014.
Goldberg, Eleanor. "Why Acid Attacks On Women Are Still Happening, And What Must Be Done To Stop Them." The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 05 Nov. 2013. Web. 30 Nov. 2014.
Howden, Daniel. "Kenyan 'cutter' Says Female Genital Mutilation Is Her Livelihood." The Guardian. N.p., 7 Feb. 2014. Web. 30 Nov. 2014.
Khan, Shaan. "Pakistani Taliban Target Female Students with Acid Attack."CNN. Cable News Network, 03 Nov. 2012. Web. 30 Nov. 2014.
Ramakrishnan, Varsha. "The Dowry System in India: Is the Trend Changing?"The Dowry System in India. N.p., 14 Oct. 2013. Web. 29 Nov. 2014.
Equality and Vision
Self-respecting we stand,
Where once we did hunch over
With guilt, second-prize ribbons and a
Countertop lined with ingredients to cook.
We stand tall in the glow of securing the
Right to vote, as we step toward visions of
Our equality with the muscular forces -
Let’s see the vision soon without wearing glasses,
Even within home walls where cameras do not go.
There is still work to do, as we strive for
Equal pay and we are haunted by the
Memories of physical and emotional abuse,
From past years, last months and this morning.
There are bodies that choose to chain us down.
We speak up louder with each day that passes,
Striving to reach a volume that cracks windows of
Disregard. We do not pass on opportunities to
Honor and represent the women who
Have brought us to the path we travel today.
We thank these women, we step into their footprints, and
We stretch the size of their shoes a little more with
Each day that passes.
I hope that we honor them well.
CNN grieves that guilty verdict ruined ‘promising’ lives of Steubenville rapists
CNN broke the news on Sunday of a guilty verdict in a rape case in Steubenville, Ohio by lamenting that the “promising” lives of the rapists had been ruined, but spent very little time focusing on how the 16-year-old victim would have to live with what was done to her.
Judge Thomas Lipps announced on Sunday that Trent Mays, 17, and Ma’lik Richmond, 16, would be given a maximum sentence after being found guilty of raping a 16-year-old girl while she was unconscious. Richmond could be released from a juvenile rehabilitation facility by the age of 21 and Mays could be incarcerated until the age of 24.
CNN’s Candy Crowley began her breaking news report by showing Lipps handing down the sentence and telling CNN reporter Poppy Harlow that she “cannot imagine” how emotional the sentencing must have been.
Harlow explained that it had been “incredibly difficult” to watch “as these two young men — who had such promising futures, star football players, very good students — literally watched as they believed their life fell apart.”
“One of the young men, Ma’lik Richmond, as that sentence came down, he collapsed,” the CNN reporter recalled, adding that the convicted rapist told his attorney that “my life is over, no one is going to want me now.”
At that point, CNN played video of Richmond crying and hugging his lawyer in the courtroom.
“I was sitting about three feet from Ma’lik when he gave that statement,” Harlow said. “It was very difficult to watch.”
Candy then asked CNN legal contributor Paul Callan what the verdict meant for “a 16 year old, sobbing in court, regardless of what big football players they are, they still sound like 16 year olds.”
“What’s the lasting effect though on two young men being found guilty juvenile court of rape essentially?” Crowley wondered.
“There’s always that moment of just — lives are destroyed,” Callan remarked. “But in terms of what happens now, the most severe thing with these young men is being labeled as registered sex offenders. That label is now placed on them by Ohio law.”
“That will haunt them for the rest of their lives.”
You declare you see me dimly
through a glass which will not shine,
though I stand before you boldly,
trim in rank and making time.
You do own to hear me faintly
as a whisper out of range,
while my drums beat out the message
and the rhythms never change.
Equality, and I will be free.
Equality, and I will be free.
You announce my ways are wanton,
that I fly from man to man,
but if I’m just a shadow to you,
could you ever understand?
We have lived a painful history,
we know the shameful past,
but I keep on marching forward,
and you keep on coming last.
Equality, and I will be free.
Equality, and I will be free.
Take the blinders from your vision,
take the padding from your ears,
and confess you’ve heard me crying,
and admit you’ve seen my tears.
Hear the tempo so compelling,
hear the blood throb through my veins.
Yes, my drums are beating nightly,
and the rhythms never change.
Equality, and I will be free.
Equality, and I will be free.-Maya Angelou
N.d. Ecouterre. Web. 4 Dec. 2014.
N.d. Celebitchy. Web. 4 Dec. 2014.
N.d. Tumblr. Web. 4 Dec. 2014.
These photos displays three celebrities, Benedict Cumberbatch, Emma Watson, and Tom Hiddleston, wearing shirts with the phrase ‘This is what a feminist looks like’.
N.d. Wikipedia. Web. 4 Dec 2014.
Photo of acid victim.
N.d. National Geographic. Web. 4 Dec. 2014.
Image of a child bride in Yemen.
N.d. The Cascade. Web. 4 Dec. 2014.
Image of woman holding up paper sign stating why she does not need feminism.
Edwards, David. "CNN Grieves That Guilty Verdict Ruined ‘promising’ Lives of Steubenville Rapists." Raw Story. N.p., 17 Mar. 2013. Web. 17 Nov. 2014.
This news article discusses a recent rape case in Ohio.
Birmingham, Christy. "Equality and Vision." Poetic Parfait. N.p., 26 Aug. 2013. Web. 13 Nov. 2014.
This poem remembers how far women have come, including suffrage, and how they must progress in the future.
Maya Angelou. "Equality." Wordpress. N.p., 7 May. 2013. Web. 13 Nov. 2014.
In this poem the author calls for equality, the only thing that will make her free.
Owens, Taylor. Imbalance. 13 Nov. 2014. Poem.
This impeccable haiku from new youth writer Taylor Owens has been deemed the best of its generation. Although this piece possesses in-depth meaning, emotion, and finesse, it still maintains a simple message of pure brilliance.
RE: Feminism (REQUEST). Perf. Joseph Gordon Levitt. YouTube. Hitrecord, 21 Sept. 2014. Web. 16 Nov. 2014.
Levitt offers his opinion and relationship with feminism to viewers.
I chose the article “CNN Grieves…” to show one of the many examples of how American culture views rape, empathizing more with the accused rather than the victim. The newscasters expressed sadness over the loss of potential in two teen rapists rather as if the crime was justified simply due to their youth and athletic ability.
Joseph Gordon Levitt’s response about feminism served as an example of how men can be involved in the feminist movement. As a popular figure he has influence and it was inspiring to see him stand up for what he believes in rather than reject it for fear of backlash. I also liked that he expressed an open mind and wanted to hear others opinions on the subject, as some criticize feminism for not being welcoming or responsive to opposition.
I chose the poem “Equality and Vision” because I think it shows the spectrum of feminism over time, both acknowledging the gains women have made while also recognizing that there is more work to be done in the women’s rights movement.
I liked the poem “Equality” because it had a constant repetitive theme and showed the passion that many activists posses.
I included the photos of celebrities sporting shirts labeled with “This is what a feminist looks like” to break the stereotypical mindset and prove anyone can be involved.
I chose to include the photos of a child bride and the results of acid throwing to provide a visual reference of the content and its horrific nature.
I added the photo of the anti-feminist to showcase another opposing opinion and to give an example of the popular social media trend.