Sexism is not dead.
It permeates American culture, infecting the minds of the young, old, male and female. Songs like Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines,” –which essentially encourages date rape–constantly play on mainstream radio and in night clubs across the country. These types of dehumanizing images abound in pop culture. A universal understanding and practice of feminism is vital in order for change to take place.
The problem remains that many people don’t fully understand the ideals of feminism.
“We’re all bra-burning, man-hating, just raging, angry at the system, lesbians,” said Courtney Boyce, vice president of the Gender Studies Club at Boise State, about people’s perception of feminists. “It’s really changed a lot, but I think the connotation developed in the 90s, like with Rush Limbaugh coming out and saying ‘feminazi.’”
Although some feminists may fall into these stereotypes, most simply want equality for all.
“I do like [feminist expert] Bell Hooks’ definition, which says that feminism is a movement to end sexist oppression. It think that’s pretty all-encompassing and something that all feminists have in common,” Hansen said.
Current struggles facing feminism
With the emphasis that feminism stands for equality for all individuals, a recent push sprouted up to reclassify feminism as humanism.
A danger of glossing over issues presents itself when the name is changed.
Dr. Reshmi Mukherjee, professor at Boise State, said changing the name to feminism would inadvertently lead to its disappearance. While feminists adhere to the same ideals and objectives as humanists, they also try for different ones as well.
“Humanism is going to benefit having feminism under its umbrella, but feminism is going to lose out on some of the ideals,” Mukherjee said.
Feminism itself continues to change, developing into a more inclusive philosophy.
Many feminists strive for the rights of transgender (trans) individuals, particularly in the workplace. Inclusivity remains the major goal of feminism, but the conversation often excludes trans individuals.
Trans-exclusionary radical feminists believe that since trans individuals weren’t socialized as women from the beginning, they don’t and never will fully understand the female struggle.
As Boyce said, not including trans individuals in the conversation only perpetuates the oppression.
Policy may change in some instances, but that doesn’t always denote actual change. This means the way people feel about women and how they treat them sometimes stays the same despite legislative and philosophical progression on some fronts.
While women receive more college degrees, they typically make 5 percent less than their male counterparts their first year out of college and 12 percent less after 10 years working the same exact jobs, according to the Center for American Progress.
“We have this system where we’re able to make things look good on the surface, like, ‘Wow women are getting degrees!’ But it’s still really shitty,” Hansen said.
Not a man hater’s club
“One of the biggest misconceptions, like everyone has heard this, is that feminists hate men,” Hansen said.
Most feminists actually want men to align with them in order to promote equality for all and to demonstrate the issue’s importance. It adds more poignancy to the mission of feminism if men take a stand against sexist practices such as unequal pay.
“Feminists believe that once we get past that gendered notion of what a woman should talk about or what a man should talk about, what should be personal and public, until we resolve these issues, we cannot move forward,” Mukherjee said.
In addition to fighting for equal treatment of both genders, feminism looks at issues that effect men.
“Feminism does examine men’s issues a lot, but it does understand that there is that hierarchy in place,” Hansen said.
The Women’s Center at Marshall University describes rape culture as, “an environment in which rape is prevalent and in which sexual violence against women is normalized and excused in the media and popular culture. Rape culture is perpetuated through the use of misogynistic language, the objectification of women’s bodies, and the glamorization of sexual violence, thereby creating a society that disregards women’s rights and safety.”
Every two minutes someone in the United States is sexually assaulted, according to Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN).
It ultimately comes down to education and helping to educate others.
“If we have gender sensitization in every unit, not only in schools or universities, but the workplace as well, feminism wouldn’t be such a dirty word,” Mukherjee said.
Although recently brought to the spotlight and dissected, there remains much to do in terms of remedying the deplorable culture of rape that exists. What needs to be done now is continued encouragement of education and understanding.