I’m Not Ashamed to Admit that I Need Feminism
By: Juhi Varshney
With a vicious consumer culture that preys on insecurity and anxiety, corporations are making billions of dollars of profit off of women’s bodies. 53 percent of 13 year-old girls report being unhappy with their bodies, and the number only rises to 78 percent by the time those girls turn 17. Nearly one-fifth of girls have cut themselves, 67 percent have struggled with an eating disorder at some point in their lives, and depression rates are at an all-time high. The pressure of living up to society’s stringent standards is crushing some of this country’s most innocent citizens.
In the realm of politics, 2319 different men have been American governors but only 34 women have served in that same capacity. Sixty-seven countries have had female presidents or prime ministers. America is not one of them. Women make up half of America’s population but hold less than 20 percent of the seats in Congress, making them the most underrepresented group in American politics. Legislation on women’s health is written primarily by men, and proper access to contraception and abortion is constantly under fire. Most importantly, the women who are in politics face vicious, unceasing, virulent sexism each day from the media and their fellow politicians instead of the respect they deserve. No one would ever think to question a male politician about his favorite designer shoes or status as a future grandparent, but America’s most powerful women are without a second thought.
From an economic standpoint, women, on average, make 77 cents to each dollar a man makes. Women of color have it even worse; black women make 64 cents and Hispanic women make54 cents to a white man’s dollar. Controlling for occupational differences, experience, and education level still does not account for 40 percent of the discrepancy. Over a forty year career, a woman will lose almost half a million dollars to the gender wage gap. The United States is the only industrialized nation without paid family leave. Out of the five-hundred Fortune 500 companies, only 21 have female CEOs. Despite the numerous organizational barriers and startling lack of role models holding career women back, these discrepancies are not due to a lack ofwomen ready to take on corporate responsibility.
Sexual assault is one of the most rampant, devastating crimes perpetrated daily; someone is sexually assaulted every two minutes. One in five college women will report sexual assault during their undergraduate tenure, and one in three will report it during their life time. One in six men will report it as well. Furthermore, it is estimated that only half of the sexual assaults that happen are actually reported because, more often than not, the victim knew and trusted the aggressor and did not feel safe coming forward. Reporting rape takes immense courage butsociety is quick to blame the victims of sexual assault for drinking too much or “asking for it.” The legal system often fails these assaulted women who do file reports with the police, as 97 percent of rapists will never spend a day in jail..
These facts are disheartening. We all want to believe in an America that supports women and helps them achieve their dreams, but the stark contrast between our hopes and reality is disappointing. It is so comfortable to believe that women have it easier now, but it is also dangerous to overlook the hurdles countless women still face. Many people acknowledge the struggles of women in the past but believe that everything has improved in this modern era. While we have come a long way, there is still so far to go.
This is why I need feminism. I need a movement that calls out injustices and champions the women in dire need of respect and love. I need feminism because I can’t live up to some unattainable beauty ideal. My heart hurts to see so many of my fellow women insecure and unhappy about their bodies. A woman is worth so much more than what she looks like, and women should be able to use their brains and hearts and souls to succeed, not just their sexuality. The sheer weight of social pressures and impossible expectations drives too many women to eating disorders and depression. I want to see healthy, happy, fulfilled women following their dreams.
I need feminism because I want to see more women represented in politics. Because it’s not okay for a committee of men who have never had a menstrual period or gone through a pregnancy to write legislation on birth control. Because I’m disgusted by how the media belittles and objectifies female politicians and other women in power. I abhor these double standards.
I need feminism because women who work just as hard as their fellow men deserve the same pay and the same respect as their male counterparts. Women should not have to choose between having a career and having a family. Hard–working and deserving women should rise to the ranks of top companies without their gender holding them back. New mothers deserve paid maternity leave.
Because no rape survivor should have to stand up in court and hear about her rapist’s stellar athletic future and how her case against him will destroy his life. Because no woman should have to share her beautiful baby with the rapist who fathered her child. Because no domestic violence survivor should ever feel forced to stay with her abuser because she has no other option.No woman should ever feel like her sexual assault was her fault.
I’m a feminist for the innocent little girls, for my insecure but oh so beautiful female peers, for the female politicians, for the career women, for the working mothers , for the sexual assault survivors, for the domestic violence survivors, for the princesses, for the dreamers, for the leaders, and for the future.I’m a feminist because the vast majority of Americans just are not privy to the truth. Because I want people to know about the injustices that women silently face each day and because I want them to be as outraged as I am. Because as disheartening as patriarchy can be, I’m an optimist at heart who believes that the world really can change. I need feminism for not only others, but for myself as well, and I’m not ashamed to say it.