Today, if one was to hear the word “feminism”, one would probably imagine noisy rallies of angry women and Rosie the Riveter proudly flexing her powerful muscles, all complete with a neatly organized time frame of late 1800s to the 1960s, locked away expediently in a steel chest marked “Trials of the Past”. One would probably then feel relief that the key to said chest is buried deep in the garden of the convenient progression of basic human rights, and resentment toward anyone who should try to redeem the key and reopen the times of such conflict, such discomfort. After all, it’s 2014. Justice has been served. Women can cast a ballot and wear pants, so we’re good! Right? Unfortunately, wrong. Feminism is a necessary movement for freedom and equality for women, and one that has sadly slipped into shallow stereotypes and misconceptions with the passage of time.
So, what is feminism, really? What are these stereotypes and misconceptions? As Wikipedia states, “Feminism is a collection of movements and ideologies aimed at defining, establishing and defending equal political, economical and social rights for women.” While this is very true, I have my own definition. Feminism, to me, is a movement for freedom. Freedom for women to do whatever they want, be it walk on the moon or grow long, hairy armpits. Sadly, this fight for freedom has been minimized down to a stereotype of a bunch of man-hating, bra-burning crazies seeking to rule the Earth and destroy all males, dancing joyously in their ashes. Nope, it’s much more than that. To me, the ultimate goal of feminism is a world where being a female isn’t a disappointment or an inconvenience or a bad thing at all, where you are free to do whatever you want, even if you’re a woman.
In 1921, women won the right to vote in Canada. With the Roaring Twenties came scandalously dressed women, pushing the boundaries of their expected roles. In 1929, women were declared “persons” under Canadian law. During the Second World War, women entered the work force as manual labourers, pushing their roles even further. The 1960s brought great progress for women, including the formation and reports of the Royal Commission on the Status of Women. Upon hearing this beautiful progression that women have made in being recognized as people, one might say “How nice. It’s a good thing that’s all over with and we don’t need feminism anymore,” to which I would answer, “If only we didn’t.”
In 2011, Statistics Canada found that women are 11 times more likely than men to be victims of sexual offences. In a study called “Self-reported Victimizations: 1999, 2004 and 2009”, they also found that only about 10 per cent of all sexual assaults are reported to the police. Also, on average, a woman is killed by her intimate partner every six days.
Not only has abuse run rampant in Canada, the gender wage gap still stands strong. In 2009, Statistics Canada stated that based on full-year, full-time earnings, females have earned 72 per cent of what males do since the early 1990s. I don’t know about you, but those numbers don’t look so great to me.
It’s 2014, and it’s still not safe for a woman to walk home at night.
It’s 2014, and 90 per cent of sexual assaults go unreported. Why? Because women fear being blamed for rape on account of skirt length or alcohol consumption, and because they’ll be told they were “asking for it”.
It’s 2014, and women are stuck in abusive relationships, and instead of calling out the abuser, we call the victims weak for staying in these relationships.
It’s 2014, and women still aren’t being paid as much as males for doing the same work.
It’s 2014, and 90 per cent or more of anorexia cases are female, because young girls are fed unreachable beauty standards from birth, and raised on the idea that their worth depends on whether they’re a size zero or not.
What are we going to do about it? Write it off as “women’s issues”, or do something? I hate to tell you this, but if you chose the latter, you’re a feminist, like it or not.
So, maybe there is something to this hype of “equal human rights”? Maybe it’s understandable that women get a little angry at a society where victim-blaming is the norm, where abuse is OK, where wages are still not completely equal and where they’re told their appearance is more important than their brains. No, the need for feminism did not end when women got the vote, or when they were officially declared persons. As long as these injustices still persist, so will the need for feminism.
We look upon the past, and are thankful for all those women who made change. To us, the lack of rights “back then” seems outlandish. So it’s up to us to make a change today, and have future women look back and be shocked at “how things were back then”. Feminism, although locked behind silly stereotypes, is a movement that has done amazing things in the past, and is necessary today to continue the progress towards justice for women.
LoRae Blackmore is a Grade 11 student at Prince Charles Secondary School. The Teen Take is a column co-ordinated by Creston's Teen Action Committee.