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Feminism

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Feminism is a well-known movement of substantial importance under the umbrella of gender equality. The majority of people today don’t understand what feminism stands for, and they don’t realize how important it is. There is no logical reason not to support gender equality and feminism. Gender equality is the belief that men and women should receive equal rights and treatment, unless there is a sound, biological reason for men and women to be treated differently (5). This belief is also the main goal of a feminist—to establish the same opportunities and rights for women as well as men. Feminists can also be male, since anyone who wants equality for both sexes is considered a feminist. Over time, feminism has gained a negative reputation, mostly due to ignorance. It is recurrently misrepresented by common stereotypes. Society views feminists as whiny, complaining women who hate men and in turn, people often perceive feminists to be ugly, hairy, bra-burning women with hostile motives (10).

While the rights and status of women have improved considerably in the last century, subtle and blatant sexism continues to exist throughout social, educational and professional areas (1). This has been a constant issue of debate in society, especially for the female population. Women are discriminated against because they are considered to be weak and unable to contribute significant, beneficial ideas to society. They are discouraged from pursuing certain professions and goals merely because of the oppressive roles that have been placed upon females to cook, clean, and bear children. Previous to the 19th Amendment, women in America were not even allowed to vote because men felt that they were less intelligent and too emotional to make meaningful decisions (4). In some cultures, girls are still bought and sold as young brides without any consent on their own part.

Rape culture has an extremely critical effect on the female population. It teaches the female population that what they were wearing or their behavior had an effect on their rape. They are made to believe that it was their fault and their responsibility for letting themselves be attacked. Rape culture excuses, forgives and victimises rapists. They are awarded sympathy and forgiveness while their victims are put to shame for their assumed seduction or invitation of the assault (7).

A quote from Ophir Shemer, a writer for Feminspire, sums up society’s view of women in rape culture best when she says: “Rape culture says that a woman who wears a mini skirt, a tight dress or a shirt with a low neckline is misleading men. Her clothes are an indication of her consent. Why would she wear such clothes, at a bar or club no less, if she wasn’t intent on going home with someone? She shouldn’t be surprised if she’s raped. She must have been asking for it.” This stigma means that women must constantly consider their steps and decisions so that if they do become the victim of assault or harassment, they can’t be blamed for it (7).

Undoubtedly, men are also harmed by sexism and gender roles. Patriarchy and society’s definition of ‘masculinity’ promotes violence, exerting dominance over women, and emotional detachment, among a multitude of other things. Male victims of sexual, emotional, or domestic abuse are told to “suck it up and be a man” and are often brushed off when they try to confide in someone they trust. They are told that it’s their fault because as a man, they should have been strong enough to fight back. The cultural stigma that sexual and domestic assault can only happen to women inhibits male victims from reporting cases and seeking help (8). Gender roles also pressure male victims to suppress their emotions because society suspects that men are not as traumatized by physical or emotional abuse as women. Contrary to popular belief, feminists also fight for male and LGBT rights. Women and the LGBT community are constant recipients of harassment, stereotyping, and prejudice. As a result of this, feminists and LGBT activists work together to oppose forcing traditional gender roles and male domination on others (10).

Shanzeh Khurram, a self-proclaimed feminist, writes: "Feminism is about gaining equal rights and opportunities for women, and allowing women to have control over their lives and bodies. At a time when women are sexualized and objectified in so many cultures, feminism is also about empowering women and young girls." Feminism is a movement that supports equality for all people, regardless of gender, sexual orientation, class, ability or race, and everyone should support feminists in their effort to make a difference and reshape societal norms for the betterment of all people. Feminism is about changing the gender roles, sexual norms, and sexist practices that limit males and females and punish them whenever they deviate from society’s sexist beliefs. Until society reaches the point where everyone can enjoy the same rights and opportunities, feminism will continue to be relevant and important.

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