Evolution of Feminism: Myths and Misconceptions

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Evolution of Feminism: Myths and Misconceptions

Harper Kolehmainen, Staff Writer

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From advancing voting rights, to career and education accessibility, feminism has  been, and will always be, about preserving and gaining women’s rights, despite the misconceptions held by many today. We now live in an age where the foundational issues of feminism for decades have been resolved, and, because of this, must adapt the focus of feminism today. The main issues feminists have focused on for years; voting, education, career opportunities, abolishment of laws allowing discrimination on the basis of sex, have been greatly lessened, leaving us to examine what issues remain to continue the cause of equal rights and equal opportunities, regardless of sex.

    While old feminism was mostly concerned with changing the law to reflect women’s rights, today, feminism is much more based around social justice and equal treatment. Prevalent modern issues include domestic violence, the pay gap, problematic maternity leave policies, sexual assault, and sexual harassment. Many movements have been launched to further the resolution of these problems such as the #metoo movement, which encouraged women to report and address sexual harassment, demolishing the culture that leads many men to behave inappropriately and oppressively towards women.

    Many view feminism today as unnecessary, most often those in the male population. One anonymous teenage male interviewed stated that “feminism originated like in the 1950s as women working hard to gain rights but now a lot of those rights have been gained so it isn’t as necessary today.” This highlights a very common misconception in this age: that, since we have already achieved so much progress, there is no longer a need for feminism to advance women. This viewpoint neglects not only the serious issues that continue to cause suffering for women in developed nations, like the U.S., but also the continued denial of basic women’s rights that is a common occurrence in many countries around the globe. This more drastic denial of rights is a contributing factor to another of the main pillars of feminism today: intersectionality.

Intersectional feminism seeks to uplift all women, regardless of race, religion, nationality, citizenship, sexual orientation, place of residence, or income. While old feminism evolved the world greatly in its acceptance and treatment of women, it failed to uplift all women equally. This allowed discrimination, leaving behind some women while advancing those with the most privilege. This new wave of interest in intersectional feminism promises a new outlook: the advancement of all women equally. Unfortunately, there are roadblocks along the path to intersectionality, one of these being the lack of knowledge the general public has regarding the definition of intersectional feminism. While most women interviewed in the process of writing this article had a general idea of what the subject was, few could provide a clear and accurate definition. This problem is exacerbated in the male population where almost all men interviewed lacked any knowledge of intersectional feminism, even an overlying idea.

    Another main issue that continues to plague women is the infamous pay gap. The United States is notorious for the well known statistic of women making seventy cents to each dollar that a man makes for performing the same job. New data shows us that, fortunately, the gap is projected to close for the U.S. by 2059 and for the globe in its entirety by 2089. To ensure that this timeline is kept, many continue to fight for equal pay regardless of gender. In fact, it is possibly the most well known of feminist issues today. After conducting interviews across both teenagers and adults, the vast majority cited the wage gap first when asked to name a current feminist issue.

    One issue that only women in the conducted interviews named when asked to state a current feminist issue, is the lack of quality maternity leave programs in the United States. The U.S. is the only developed nation in the world to have zero guarantees of paid maternity leave for the female workforce. Usually when a policy this severe exists it is fairly controversial; however, that is not the case here. In fact, 74% of registered voters wanted paid maternity leave to be guaranteed, yet the problematic lack of policy still exists. This may be due to the unevolved and overbearing societal expectations of modern working mothers. With a career being an increasingly accessible and viable option for women, 46% of households have both parents working full time. This is a massive change from our society’s ideals of family just decades ago. When this rapid change occurred, the societal expectations of a women’s role as caretaker did not adjust to fit the life of a working mom, resulting in many mothers being expected to hold two full time jobs: worker and mother.

    One issue spanning through the ages is violence against women, especially domestic violence and rape. 1 in 3 women will be abused or assaulted in her lifetime and, out of every 1000 cases of rape, 995 perpetrators will walk free. Those convicted will serve an average of 5 years incarcerated. Many feminists today wish to lessen the number of women suffering from domestic violence and to increase rape conviction rates and sentencing.

    Despite the misconception that it is not necessary, our current generation needs feminism to ensure equality. In fact, modern feminism is best suited to this task as it gives us the opportunity to advance intersectionality, something that had been abandoned by our previous generations. Overall, while the main focus of feminism has changed to fit the prevalent issues of this age, the idea remains the same: equal rights, treatment, and opportunity regardless of sex.