Feminism is a dirty word. Do young women still need feminism today?

Feminism was once described as a movement by women who fought for equal rights, independence and aimed to stop sexism; however today our generation is losing the true meaning of feminism. Women no longer associate themselves with feminism because not only has the true meaning been misinterpreted, but women no longer feel that they need to fight for these rights. “I think my generation is the first to enjoy equality and the fact I don’t feel the need to identify as a feminist indicates how far we’ve come.” [1]Sally Urquhart has stated in the article The F Word that she believes the reason women no longer wish to identify themselves as feminist is that they believe we have come as far as we can. However Sally Urquhart does go on to explain that she does understand and appreciate what her mother’s generation went through in order to gain the equality that western women experience now. Unlike most contemporary women today who do not understand what the generations of women went through in order to gain some sense of equality between the genders.

Despite the efforts of the first wave feminists, contemporary women are still not experiencing equal rights; however modern women seem to have given up on fighting for them. Women now seem to have forgotten that it is feminism which is responsible for the advancement of women’s rights to vote; with the dedication of women such as Emmeline Pankhurst and Elizabeth Cady Stanton as first wave feminists, also recognized as the first suffragettes. It was the movements of women such as these two which resulted with the passage of the nineteenth amendment to the United States Constitution in 1919 when women’s rights to vote were granted. But despite the actions taken by the first wave and second wave women, third wave women still have far to come. The perception of feminism is what stops young women; people such as Pat Robertson who have brought forward the negative and untrue meaning of feminism and feminists themselves. “Feminists encourage women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, become lesbians, and destroy capitalism.”[2] This is why young women no longer want to associate themselves with feminism because of what others may think of them because feminism is now a word which many associate with “radical or militant women who want to be men”[3]

“While the professional and legal positions of women have improved enormously in the last half-century, socially and domestically, we’ve barely progressed at all…” this statement from Emily Maguire perfectly expresses the view that those who are part of the third wave do not believe that the progress we have made is not yet enough.  The gender pay gap and the lack of equality in representation in our parliamentary systems are examples of today’s issues; however the voices of the third wave feminist are silent. The reasons behind all of this avoidance of feminism are from the mass media who negatively advertise its meaning and the lack of education on the true meaning of feminism; and what the point of feminism is. Such as images of bra burning at the protest, even though the burnings didn’t occur, they were still portrayed by the mass media to the public; sending out the wrong message rather than the intended message of commenting on women being only judged by their looks rather than brains.

While there was no bra burning however during any of the second wave protests there were other symbolic acts; such as the tossing of clothing into bins in order to represent the message of women being judged by looks as well as some women, including Emmeline Pankhurst, from both the first wave and the second wave going as far as to go on hunger strikes to continue their fight even when in jail. The mass-media being recognized as having taken part in the stereotyping of feminism as anti-male lesbians; this explaining why most women tend to avoid associating themselves with feminism. The effects of, in particular the media, describing feminist as hairy-leg lesbians has not only stereotyped them but also turn women off from associating themselves as a feminist as they do not want to be linked with this term.

So despite women these days understanding and supporting gender equality, particularly within other countries they are avoiding the idea of feminism, bringing the idea to younger girls that feminism was only a part of our past and not to be brought into our future. This avoidance of feminism is creating a form of dis-empowerment for women; women have lost a sense of unity. “Now, don’t get me wrong, women can be great friends with other women, but in certain contexts and often in the case of unknown women, a woman considers another woman, especially one who is making a big deal out of her femininity, as being something of an enemy. Or at least a potential threat.”[4]  Throughout all of the First and Second Wave women fought against patriarchy figures. However women are now fighting against each other in order to receive the attention of men, taking women back to the beginning rather than progressing.

[1] Sally Urquhart, Newspaper article, The F Word

[2] Pat Robertson,  Right-wing conservative & opponent of feminism

[3] Stephen Lunn, The Australian, What Young Women Want

2 thoughts on “Feminism is a dirty word. Do young women still need feminism today?

  1. A lot of our generation have definitely lost sight of what feminism is. I have lost count of the amount of discussions I have had with women who don’t seem to have a clue what feminism is about, their views are distorted and they only seem to associate feminism with all the negative connotations. It is unfortunate, I think educating these women on what feminism is really about is so important because there is a lot more that needs to be done!

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