People assume that because we live in 2018, feminism is an unnecessary movement towards a non-existent goal; that the fight for equality between genders has already been won. However, as a teenager growing up in this generation I know the truth: sexism is just as prevalent now as it was decades ago.
Eighty-nine years ago, five determined women fought for their rights, until under the eyes of the law white women were considered as people (Women of Colour and Indigenous women weren’t given the right to vote until decades later). Since then, some say that women should be grateful for the change and settle, to not be greedy because things could always be worse. People always want women to settle. Which in my case, makes it all the more enticing and fun defying gender roles, correcting misconceptions on feminism, fighting for equality, establishing the prominence of ending rape culture and calling out people’s bullshit.
At my school during one of my classes, feminism was mentioned in a lesson about rape culture. I was shocked to find out that men and some women still perceive feminism as a cult hating on men. If they googled the word feminism an accurate definition would appear: “Feminism defines, establishes, and achieves political, economic, personal, and social equality of sexes.” After that, it was apparent how under-educated some people are about gender bias, and how ignorant people can be towards sexism woman face in their everyday lives. It’s as if some people live life through rose-coloured glasses, not acknowledging the pay gap between genders or sexist structures in a workplace. Maybe, they don’t see the magazines with naked women draped behind fully clothed men, or the bold headlines continuously talking about women’s body parts and not women themselves. It could be that they simply don’t know that “the purpose of a women’s life is just the same as the purpose of a man’s life: that she may make the best possible contribution to the generation in which she is living” – Louise McKinney.
“I was shocked to find out that men and some women still perceive feminism as a cult hating on men.” – Keyana Zimoch
Not only does prejudice exist, it manifests like an epidemic in schools, and in the media. Weekend parties showcase stories of boys that do not understand having sex with a girl who is under the influence of alcohol is rape, when the law clearly states people are unable to give consent under the influence. When confronted, their argument puts the blame on the victim because it was her fault for getting so drunk. I would argue they get this way of thinking from the media they grow up watching and listening to.
Popular teenage movies twist the meaning of consent sending mixed messages to young viewers, like in Superbad and Pitch Perfect 2. The entire plot of Superbad is that the two male teenage protagonists want to make there last year of high school memorable by inebriating two teenage girls, then proceeding to have sex with them at a party. Throughout the whole movie there is no mention of consent, or the fact that no one can give consent under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Therefore it normalizes drunk non-consensual sex, playing it off as the peak of a story arc instead a serious topic. In Pitch Perfect 2 there is a specific scene where a male character asks a female is she wants to have sex later, to which she replies with a loud “No!” followed with a wink. The male character is confused by her conflicting actions and words so he re-asks the question, but the woman replies the same. The media perpetuates rape culture and mocks the idea and necessity of consent, teaching young viewers the wrong idea that “No doesn’t always mean No”.
Not to mention all the songs that endorse the idea that men are entitled to choose what consent means, and normalize aggression from men towards women as a natural sexual primitive. “Blurred Lines” by Robin Thicke celebrates violence against women, repeating on multiple occasions that men get to decide what women want, regardless of what the woman has indicated. It suggests that it’s is a man’s right to interpret what women want – rather than enabling women to articulate their own desires, reverting back to a time when women were silenced.
Women in the Media
Sadly, some of the most toxic relationships in school are how girls treat other girls. This can include shaming and comparing each other, instead of standing by and supporting each other. Of course, they have grown up with unrealistic expectations, thanks to media. There’s an agonizing amount of pressure to act/look a certain way and they are taught as infants that other girls are competitors in the lifelong race to please men. As children, people will tell girls how beautiful they are and how they better watch out for all the boys that will be after them. The don’t realize this is harmful and insinuates that boys are going to use them for their appearance (and that it’s their fault if they let them).
Those little girls grow up and begin to watch television shows with only have female characters for the purpose of being a girlfriend. They have little to no character development, and are there to stand beside the male and look pretty. As they age, girls completely miss out on watching female protagonist movies where the women is a hero without any supernatural or super strength abilities. Media is just starting to release movies with a female heroes, but is profoundly lacking in the genre where a normal, human, girl takes the spotlight of a film and is portrayed in a healthy, intelligent, confident, independent way. Forget the Fairy Godmothers, the princes and the dystopian worlds with the unrealistic ability to save the world, girls need a show to look up to that is relatable.
If not they are stuck watching “Reality TV” that can potentially destroy self-image, and once again promotes unhealthy female based relationships. A study found that 78% of regular reality TV viewers from the ages 11 -17 agreed that “gossiping is a normal part of a relationship between girls,”. 68% agreed that “it’s in girls’ nature to be catty and competitive with one another”, 86% said they “often pit girls against each other to make the shows more exciting” and 70% agreed that reality TV makes “people think it’s okay to treat others badly.” No wonder walking down the street or the hallway women refer to each other as “bitches” and label each other by the length of their clothing, weather that be a “prude” or a “slut”. According to the media, that seems to be the only proper way to addresses women.
“A lot of people say my generation is lucky to have information at the tips of our fingers – which is true to a certain extent – but when most of the information online is either false, has negatives effects or encourages negative behaviours, I am not so sure social media is as great as we once thought is was.”
A lot of people say my generation is lucky to have information at the tips of our fingers – which is true to a certain extent – but when most of the information online is either false, has negatives effects or encourages negative behaviours, I am not so sure social media is as great as we once thought is was. Feminists are needed now more than ever, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Without feminists, who is going to acknowledge this serious problem we have in our society? That something just isn’t right about how men versus women are represented in the media, and how its affecting our youth. Who is going to re-educate the youth hyped up on lies and false entitlement to others bodies? Feminist are needed to eliminate girl on girl hate and raise men of quality, so that both genders can escape the toxic stereotypes and ideals of “real” masculinity and femininity. Often, just drawing attention to inequality can be enough to get people on board with tackling it, and whatever you do matters because you matter. I didn’t even know feminism was a thing until last year and now I whole-heartedly believe that everyone should be a feminist, because if one thing is certain, it’s that our world doesn’t seem to be learning from it’s history. If the sex- ed curriculum can revert back to the 1990’s, who knows what else can regress. I truly hope for a future where feminism is an unnecessary movement towards a non-existent goal and that the word rape, let alone rape culture, disintegrates from our vocabulary. For now, in a society that still thinks “a powerful man is a born leader and a powerful woman is an anomaly” (Margaret Atwood), I encourage you to raise your voice, stand your ground, be empowered and never be afraid to call out someone’s bullshit.back