Why I’m a Feminist and You Should Be Too
Isabella Bozkent '16 | On 08, Jul 2016
If given the opportunity to change one thing about the world, what is it that you would change?
Most people responded to this question with short boilerplate phrases such as “End poverty,” “Stop world hunger,” or “Make world peace.” All very important things. Then someone said to me, “I would strive to make equality possible.” That answer struck out to me the most, so naturally I asked, “Equality for whom?” And the person responded, “For people of all different races to look past the color of their skin.” I began to wonder why all those things mentioned above were considered of the utmost importance, and yet, dare I point out, gender equality was not brought up as an issue.
Around 49.6% of the world’s population is female, and that equals a female population of around 3.52 billion globally. For every 102 men, there are 100 women. At birth, men outnumber women 107 to 100, but the male life span is shorter. But not everyone celebrates the birth of beautiful baby girls. Since the beginning of time, having a daughter has been looked down upon in different regions and cultures, where daughters are considered shameful. In China there are laws in place that allow families to have only one child in city settings and two in rural areas. Many families in China are forced to get abortions and because of this, families abort female children far more often in order to have a male child. Gendercide is considered one of the world’s leading problems, in fact. In many poverty ridden countries, the abortion of the female child is considered best for the child versus having to her live her life as a woman in a world where she may be viewed as less than or as property.
In today’s world, a female will face greater obstacles than a male. For instance, worldwide, more than 700 million women alive today were married as children. Child brides are often unable to understand the act of having sex, leaving them vulnerable to sexually transmitted infections, including HIV. In large parts of Africa, many believe that AIDS and HIV can be cured by taking a young girl’s virginity or carrying around a virgin’s genitals, thus leading to rape and death in young girls, even infants. These acts further spread AIDS, HIV, and other sexually transmitted diseases. Around 200 million women and girls alive today have undergone female genital mutilation/cutting in over 30 countries. Many of the girls are being mutiliated before the age of 5.
Some people like to comment that heinous acts against women and girls are only restricted to those in “third world countries” or extremely poor regions, but as a young woman, I am aware of the obstacles I face even here in America. Walking home on a desolate block, I look over my shoulder a few times; walking around in a school uniform, unfortunately considered an open invitation for conversation with men of ill intent. Passing a group of men on the street and getting called names and whistled at, like some animal. Never feeling totally safe.
One UK study found that more than 1 in 10 women have experienced forced intercourse or other forced sexual acts at some point in their lives. Women also account for almost half of all human trafficking victims globally. Women and girls together account for about 70%, with girls representing two out of every three child trafficking victims.
With statistics like those, living carefree happy lives seems almost impossible for women and girls. The outside world is a scary place for many people, but even our homes and “safe havens” can be hell. Almost half of the women that were victims of homicide globally were killed by intimate partners or family members. 88% of women reported having experienced some form of sexual harassment in the work place. An estimated 240 million girls experience school-related violence every year, and 1 in 4 girls say that they never feel comfortable being in the classroom. Those studies have shown that girls are at greater risk of sexual violence, harassment, and exploitation at school and in the workplace.
Even more troubling is the new age of technology that allows these acts to flourish. Pedophiles and sex offenders can easily travel to other countries and sleep with young children, marry young girls, using them as slaves. Pictures of young girls are all too often exploited. The Internet has also become a breeding ground for sexual predators, and social media has become just another place for women to be mocked and harassed. The European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights found that 1 in 10 women report experiencing cyber-harassment since the age of 15 and or have received unwanted messages and pictures at a very young age.
While the world is making certain strides to reduce various forms of inequality, there is much more work to do. In the workplace, the fear that becoming a mother or simply being a female could cause a woman to make less money or never get the opportunity to get a promotion is unfortunately validated through facts: AAUW reports that even in 2016, men’s salaries far surpass those of women working in the same positions with the same credentials.
A feminist is a person who fights for the advocacy of women’s rights on the grounds of political, social, and economic equality to men. I am proud to call myself a feminist and believe that being a feminist is no different than being human. After all, we all are just striving to be treated as equals. To rid the world of poverty, hunger, war, racism, and inequality, we need to educate ourselves and others. Ignorance and a lack of understanding only feeds hate. As cheesy as it may sound, we all do need to come together. There is power in numbers, and we can all help in succeeding to change the world, regardless of gender.
“Something which we think is impossible now is not impossible in another decade.” — Constance Baker Motley, the first black woman in the U.S. to sit in the state senate and the first to become a federal judge.