Feminism will always needed because even with laws to protect women, men have remained rapists and supporters of the hierarchy. Without feminism, some men will continue to think it is acceptable to rape women because this is what they are taught at birth. As long as some men are raised this way, feminism will be needed as well as anti-racism and LGBTQ advocates. There are many reasons why we still need feminism in our supposedly post-modern society.
Women are taught not to get raped, rather than men being taught not to rape. Men should be offended when someone claims that women should prevent rape by not wearing certain clothing items, or not going to certain places at certain times, or not acting a certain way. This line of thinking presumes that men are incapable of self-control. It assumes that men are so based and uncivilised that it takes an extraordinary amount of effort for them to walk down a street without harassing or raping a woman. It assumes that men need women to maintain a standard of clothing and dress in order that they won’t rape a woman. It presumes that a man’s natural state is rapist. But men are not helpless, d*ck-driven maniacs who cannot help but rape a vulnerable woman. It is disrespectful to everyone involved. This is one reason why we still need feminism.
Women, ethnic minorities, working classes, transsexual and transgendered individuals tend to find life harder than those who experience male privilege. Exploitation, oppression, scapegoating, misdirected rage, harassment, and abuse are amongst some of the things these groups experience on a regular basis. Women and gender non-conforming people are systematically disadvantaged. Those within the parameters of male privilege (white, middle-upper class, heterosexual males) rarely experience these things themselves (although, of course, some do). Male privilege is therefore the ability of this specific group, usually unintentionally, to manipulate society for their personal betterment over other people. Yet those in a position of experiencing male privilege can choose to challenge the structural discrimination in society. They can challenge misogyny, assault and racism wherever they see it. They can take risks to support their fellow peers to create a fairer society. They can make good use of their male privilege and redefine the negative connotations for the better. It should not be the struggle of individual persecuted minorities to deconstruct the nature of society. It should be the struggle of us all.
Income is one area which particularly highlights gender inequality in the contemporary UK. Recent figures have shown that the average UK salary is £26,500. Women earn on average £24,000 whilst men earn £31,000. This is demonstrated by the Chartered Management Institute who note that the average female executive is earning £32,614 a year, £13,655 less than the average male executive, who earns £46,269 a year. The CMI estimate that it will not be until 2195 that women’s pay begins to outstrip that of men. Moreover, Trevor Phillips from the Equality and Human Rights Commission pointed out that women who work full time earn on average £330,000 less than a man over their working lives and, at the current rate, it will take at least another two decades to close the pay gap. Additionally, the Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings found that the average earning of all full time employees were £457.00 per week. The figure for men was £496, and for women it was £394.
Amongst other reasons, we still need feminism because…
- The existence of the friendzone disrespects a woman’s right to say “no”
- Pornography is a $57 billion industry worldwide
- Women, on average, still earn 20% less than men in the same job positions (source)
- In 2011, only 11% of protagonists in films were female (source)
- The sociologist Robin Morgan said, “pornography is the theory and rape is the practice” – this statement shows the connection between pornography and violence against women
- Victim blaming is still a thing
- Women are discouraged from taking “harder” subjects, and this can lead to horizontal segregation (Dept. for Education and Skills)
- Famous men are allowed to sing / rap about sexual abuse, yet when famous women do the same, they are criticised
- Complications from pregnancy and childbirth claim the lives of nearly 300,000 women worldwide and permanently disable many more every year (source)
- People claim that feminism is dead, yet still attempt to undermine and disregard the values of the cause
- Men are 7 times more likely to be quoted in the news about women’s reproductive health (source)
- Derogatory terms relating to a woman’s vagina are used as an insult to men who are supposedly weak
Moreover, the rise in people participating in Women’s Studies has received quite a backlash. It is argued that the existence of this elective is inherently sexist because there is no Men’s Studies. I would like to dispel this negative argument. There is a Men’s Studies, only it goes by the name of History (I would, however, like to state that it should not be renamed “His-Story”). History does study women, but not in great amounts of depth. But the discourses of historical textbooks have been told exclusively by the typically privileged gender: men. Women’s Studies is NOT an alternative, but an expansion of traditional historical study in which women are given a voice.
Feminism will be relevant for as long as there is inequality in the world. All of this is a humanitarian issue and it needs to be taken seriously so that we can transform this socially constructed and hierarchical ideology that has undermined the value and power of feminism. When women are no longer blamed for being raped, questioned for not automatically wanting children, or actively discouraged from participating in traditionally male fields (maths, science, technology), then this will be when feminism is no longer needed. But we are not there yet.
Therefore, we still need feminism.