Feminism: Why we Have it and Why we Need it

Updated: Nov 2, 2018

By Amanda Wheeler and Marisa Braga

This article was retrieved from Volume 15 Issue 3.

Marchers at the 2018 Women's March in Providence, Rhode Island.

Since the feminist movement was first introduced, the topic has always been extremely controversial. At first, it was controversial because it was bringing forth new ideas that people didn’t want or understand. The idea of women actually having any kind of power was completely absurd to men, and even some women, since it was traditional for women to play the “housewife” role. Now, it’s controversial for different reasons. Whether it’s because of the belief that feminism isn’t necessary any longer, or the fear of what will happen when the feminist label is pushed into view, or the negativity that people have created around the ideas of feminism, the controversiality of the movement can’t seem to go away.

Problems women face now are certainly different than problems faced by women in the past, but some age-old issues still exist. When you're a woman in power and you're authoritative, you're seen as rude, cranky, and THAT boss everyone hates. If you're a woman and you cry, you're seen as weak and over-emotional, and incapable of handling yourself. It’s as if we can’t do anything right and can’t escape judgment. This carries over to areas beyond the workplace as well. It’s no secret that high school is a harsh, judgemental place, and it’s even worse for girls. Crushed by the pressure of our peers, we’re left unsure of how we’re ‘supposed’ to feel and what we’re ‘supposed’ to do to fit in. Are we supposed to be seemingly emotionless, or are we supposed to be vulnerable? Growing up, we’re told that if boys are mean to you, then they like you. If you say no to anything, it means yes. And to imagine, all of this is just in the early stages of life, when we’re still developing and learning the unwritten rules of the world. Now we have a distorted view of the world, and we believe that these actions are normal. Feminism is here to twist that idea around, and show that this conduct isn’t what we deserve. It helps us unlearn stereotypes and push back against unfair treatment and expectations.

Supporting feminism and equal treatment seems obvious, but to some people, it’s not.

People think being a feminist is being “anti-men,” and supporting the belief that women are superior to men. There is the belief held in society that feminism is solely based on beliefs of female superiority, and men deserve hatred and scorn. This is not the reality of feminism, but people don’t see that, often referring to feminists as “feminazis.” There are people who claim to be feminists that have these extreme beliefs, but they do not represent what feminism stands for. Around the halls of ORR, this stigma hangs heavily. But this isn’t only at ORR. It’s seen in schools and workplaces around the world. People think feminism isn’t needed anymore, that everyone's already equal, and women just want more power. Most of this lack of support comes from the absence of education around the topic, and as stated above, the stigma. In the media feminists are portrayed as crazy man haters, and, for some reason, people believe this. With all of the memes about “triggered feminists”, it’s hard to take them seriously. People see this and they don’t actually know the true meaning of the movement, or the goals. Proper education could end these misconceptions and have people backing the movement and supporting it.

My friends and I have even dealt with many thoughtless comments about feminism, such as people genuinely believing that feminism was a synonym to complaining, and people asking whether or not you’d want your future child to be a feminist or have cancer (as if that’s even a question). We’re made to feel bad about fighting for equality. This, once again, ties into the idea that women aren’t allowed to be authoritative and loud about what we believe in. It also brings up the issue of men being ridiculed for being feminists by their peers. Men will be called stupid for supporting the movement, due to the stigma that is put upon them by their fellow peers, and since it’s not “usual” that men are the ones being feminists. Women will get called whiny and complaining, and needing to recognize that problems we believe we face aren’t real or true.

Marchers at the 2018 Rhode Island Women's March. Photo credit: Elise Mello

People are actually scared to call themselves feminists, even if they secretly are one. But, in reality, feminism is necessary in high school a lot more than we let on. In the age group that we’re in, sexual harassment and sexual assault are more likely. This topic is something that people, especially teachers, are very hesitant to talk about, even though it’s something huge that people have to face all too much. According to a study by Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN), every 98 seconds an American is sexually assaulted. That same study shows that women ages 16-19 are four times more likely to be a victim of some form of sexual assault. And this problem isn’t just for women, men face the same thing. 1 in every 10 rape victims are male, and 3% of men in America have experienced attempted or completed sexual assault. This isn’t just a simple problem, and it’s definitely not the only issue we face.

Starting education about equality and fair treatment at a young age seems to be the most beneficial thing we can do to help resolve this ongoing problem. Educating young boys and girls helps later generations understand and develop the, what should be conceived as, correct treatment towards everyone. Though it helps younger kids who are still developing opinions, teenagers and adults already have their strong opinions on what is the norm for the mannerisms of everyone around them. So as we teach younger people, we still need to fight to change the minds of the older generations, and the people in the high school environment. Even if the feminist education isn’t started at a young age, it can begin any time. Which, in a way, is one reason why this article was written. There are definitely people in high school, and people in ORR specifically, who don’t support feminism. Of course, everyone is entitled to their opinions. If people don’t want to support feminism, then they won’t support feminism. But, if there’s a chance that we can get these ideas out and hopefully encourage the people that don’t support it to recognize why it should be supported, then we’d be achieving some of our goals. We are making change, but social change is a slow process. As long as we keep fighting, change will be made, and our voices will be heard