Feminism still relevant

By Emily Merlino

K. Sawyer Photography/Flickr

“So, I’m not a feminist, but I do believe in the strength of women.” Aside from being paradoxical, the above statement Katy Perry ironically made during her acceptance of Billboard’s 2012 Woman of the Year award, is also revealing. In a post-“Leave it to Beaver” world, many believe that feminism’s time has passed.

However, “… feminism’s greatest trick must be to convince the world it should still exist,” writes Helen Lewis for the New Statesman. Once an emblem of progressivism and fearlessness, feminism has become a dirty word, and stars like Katy Perry and Taylor Swift, who, upon being asked if she considered herself a feminist, answered that she doesn’t “really think about things as guys versus girls,” aren’t helping. This kind of too-cool-for-school, shoulder-shrugging attitude towards 21st-century gender equality certainly won’t close the gender gap, and blithe ignorance is ultimately dangerous and self-sabotaging.

It has been 50 years since Betty Friedan’s “The Feminist Mystique” was first published, and 50 years of progress has been made. Since 1963, women’s participation in the workforce has increased from 40 to 60 percent. Hillary Clinton, the most serious female presidential candidate in our nation’s history, received 18 million votes in the 2008 primary. Women today also have far more reproductive control and sexual freedom.

This absolutely does not mean that the feminist movement is passé. Women earned 81 percent of what men earned in 2010. Women hold only 17 percent of the seats in Congress, and women of color only 4 percent. In 2011, only 2.4 percent of Fortune 500 CEOS were women.

However, the case for feminism’s place in 2013 is strongest when discussing domestic violence and international women’s issues. Domesticviolencestatistics.org highlights a number of facts about violence against women: “Every 9 seconds, a woman in the United States is assaulted or beaten,” and “at least one in every three women around the world has been abused in her lifetime.” The site also states that “domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to women, more than car accidents, muggings and rapes combined.”

How can women be truly equal when their very bodies continue to be threatened on an hourly basis?

These statistics don’t even begin to factor in the egregious offenses to gender equality seen worldwide. Women are still not allowed to drive in Saudi Arabia. More than half of all women in Egypt and Indonesia still undergo female genital cutting, according to The WomanStats Project. More broadly, maternal mortality, low rates of government participation, education discrepancy, son preference, child marriage and sex trafficking are all stark realities for women across the globe. To say that feminism is no longer needed is to undermine the atrocities committed against women around the world every day. Women may have gotten out of the house and into the workforce since “Feminist Mystique” was published, but challenges and hurdles persist. Until these problems are solved, feminism’s place is here and now..

Emily Merlino is a Collegian columnist. She can be reached at [email protected]