Fighting for Feminism

I am a feminist. No, I’m not a bitter, man-hating witch. I’m a feminist. Today’s society has misconstrued and manipulated the word “feminist” into something ugly. It’s just mind-boggling to me that people have managed to turn “feminism” into a dirty word. Really, Rush Limbaugh, “feminazi?” When feminism came up in a conversation a couple weeks ago, I jokingly asked the question, “Who isn’t a feminist?” I had meant it as a rhetorical question, but two friends of mine, one male and one female, said, “I’m not.” I guess that in my naiveté I had just assumed that everyone adhered to the concept of feminism. I wondered how anyone, especially a female, could not support the idea that women were equal to men. It sounds basic to my generation. As a child, I never had anyone tell me that I couldn’t do something because I was a girl. Granted, there are people who cling to the stereotype that all feminists are man-haters and bra-burners. And I’m not saying that there aren’t radical feminists in the world. But a feminist, by definition, is someone who believes that women should have the same rights as men. I’ve heard that feminism it isn’t necessary anymore. I don’t believe that. Ask those who grew up in the second and third waves of the feminist movement if that’s true. These women were raised with the belief that they can have a family and a career. And that should be true, but it isn’t always. Look at Jane Swift, Acting Governor of Massachusetts from 2001 to 2003, who was dubbed “Governor Mom” bu “Time Magazine.” She got a tremendous amount of criticism after getting pregnant in office and was criticized by the press for not being able to handle being a mom and a governor. Or what about Sarah Palin during the 2008 elections? How many people questioned her ability to be a vice-president and the mother of a newborn son? Now, compare that to the number of times a male candidate has ever been given any trouble for having young children. Chelsea Clinton was born two years into her father’s term as Governor of Arkansas. The current Governor of Louisiana ran for office with a one-year-old child at home. When a male candidate has young children he’s called a “family man.” When a female candidates starts a family, she’s called “irresponsible.” The feminist fight is not over, not in America, and definitely not in the rest of the world. Women are continually being oppressed in the worst ways possible. Girls as young as seven or eight are being sold by their own parents and relatives into the sex trade where they are forced into prostitution. One could raise money to buy these girls their freedom, but that’s not going to stop the trafficking. Rescuing girls is the easy part. The hard part is changing a society’s views of the value and duty of women. If females were valued as much as males were, then a wwoman wouldn’t be dying of childbirth every minute. Here in the United States maternal mortality is quite low, but the same does not hold true in other parts of the world. Why? Because people don’t care. In rural Africa a woman may die during childbirth because it’s too expensive to get her to a hospital. If this woman were a son, then the family and the husband might have scraped the money together to save her life. In these societies, a woman is viewed as replaceable. To us Americans that sounds inhumane and unfathomable, because Americans value women. Because of the feminist movement in America, women have the same rights as men and the value of a woman is equal to the value of a man. Therefore, the cost of losing a woman during labor is so high that we do as much as we possibly can to prevent it. But it’s not the same worldwide. In some places of the world women are not held equal to men. Progress has been made towards complete gender equality in recent history, but still more effort is needed. If we are truly dedicated to the moral imperative of women’s rights and female equality, then we must act to bolster the feminist movement. As Hillary Clinton said “Woman’s rights are human rights.” And we all need to remember that. Amanda Zhu is a two-year Lower from West Hartford, CT.