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Opinion

Feminist movement goes beyond battle of sexes

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April 1, 2015

Already four weeks ago now, it was International Women’s Day, apart of Women’s History Month. To celebrate, I shared an apple-walnut pancake with my seven-year-old niece at a cafe, making a point to not even worry about how many calories were in it, and instead use that energy to scheme how we can best conquer sexism, and discussed just how awesome it is to be a woman.

We can bring new people into the world now with just our egg cells (seriously, look it up). We can wear pink, lace dresses or corduroy jeans and no one will think anything of it. We can express our emotions pretty much wherever and whenever we want, and it’s not regarded as strange. The female brain is hardwired to process more than seven tasks at once. Since 1982, we’ve earned 10 million more college degrees than men. And, women actually are better at driving.

That night, though, I was walking to my car across town alone, quite late. A man walked across the street towards me, and instinctively I changed the grip on my keys to use as a dagger if I had to. Of course, this guy was just walking to his car too, but I was sickened by the realization that I automatically reacted as if I may have to defend myself. I know I’m not the only female who practices this when walking alone at night.

The frequency of violence against women is not the only area where inequalities remain, though. According to an oft-cited study, one in five college-aged women will experience some type of sexual assault. There are more men named John in executive positions than there are women as a whole. In the developing world, one in nine girls will be married before she is 15. In China, about 1.1 million baby girls are abandoned, aborted or killed every year, due to the preference for male children.

By now, one could probably make the assumption that I identify as a feminist. For too many people this garners images of hairy-legged, bra-burning, man-hating, and angry women. This is not an accurate portrayal of a feminist. I shave my legs, I admittedly shop at Victoria’s Secret, and I am grateful everyday for the respectful, thoughtful and kind men in my life, especially when I need jars opened.

In the media, “feminism” was a hot topic in 2014. It was suddenly hip for famous women–and men, for that matter–to “come out” as feminists and to give their two cents on the trend, and this has definitely continued into the new year. From Taylor Swift to John Legend, everybody had something to say about gender equality.

However, feminism isn’t just a “trend,” it’s a movement for cultural reform that affects every single person on Earth. Far too often, the feminist movement is viewed as synonymous for “women’s issues.” This isn’t the case. Feminism is simply the belief that the sexes should be regarded as equal politically, economically and socially.

Actress Emma Watson was made a United Nations Goodwill Ambassador in early 2014. In October, she gave a powerful speech launching the United Nations’ HeForShe campaign; if you haven’t watched it, you should. She highlighted exactly why men need to be a part of the feminist movement, and formally extended an invitation to all members of the male sex to join in the conversation about gender equality.

It’s been my delight to discuss these problems at length with the guys I’ve gotten to know this year, and have been overjoyed at the number of them who have readily embraced the term. After much contemplating, it’s clear that feminism isn’t about putting women ahead of men, but bringing everyone to the same level. Anybody that believes men and women should be equals socially, politically and economically–and acts on that belief–is intrinsically a feminist.

To the male students of this university: when was the last time you felt honestly able to cry when you were extremely overwhelmed, or talk deeply with your male friends about your emotions?

Do you think it’s fair that you are still socially expected to spend thousands of dollars on a piece of jewelry if you want to spend your life with someone?

Is it right that you’re less encouraged to pursue the arts and humanities than your female counterparts?

Are you okay with the fact that you are far less likely to win custody of your children if you ever get a divorce?

From what I’ve personally gathered, most men don’t have the benefits of gender equality, either.

Since the evolution of the human species, no person has been exclusively masculine or feminine. Psychologically, as well as physiologically, everybody possesses both qualities on some level. Perhaps the most impactful moment of Watson’s 13-minute speech was when she said to the United Nations, “It is time that we all perceive gender on a spectrum, instead of two sets of opposing ideals.”

Between race, class, sexuality, nationality, environment, species, etcetera, feminism has many intersections. Sadly, there is for some reason still a stigma about the word, and only 20 percent of Americans identify as feminists. Only four percent of those people are men. Everybody should take the time to become informed about the movement; we need your help if equality is ever to be achieved, increasing the quality of life for all of Earth’s citizens–regardless of gender.

Molly Kinney is a journalism student with a political science minor. She enjoys reading, camping, music, art and exploring new cities in her free time. In the future, she would love to travel the world and cover politics for NPR.