Feminism uproots persistent gender inequality

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The United Nation’s 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that the attainment of freedom, justice and world peace requires the establishment of a societal foundation that recognizes the “inherent dignity” and “equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family.”

Freedom of speech, one of the most protected rights in the U.S., drives me to appreciate the opinions expressed in last week’s article “Women possess freedom to be unfeminist.” However, I relish the fact that this right also grants me an opportunity to wholeheartedly disagree with the article in a public forum.

The author’s perception and subsequent rejection of societal pressure to reduce herself to “the role of the discriminated victim” deserves recognition. I support and encourage your path to becoming an independent, strong and successful woman — precisely because I am a feminist.

Misconceptions, stereotypes and fabricated lies sometimes hound the feminist ideology, contorting the movement’s true objectives.

Merriam-Webster defines feminism as “the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes.” If you notice, there is no mention of misandry, or “man-hate,” a common preconceived notion of those critical of the movement.

Feminism does not encourage discrimination against men or their rights, but rather advocates for equal protection of rights for all genders. We do not aim to put women on a pedestal, nor are we demoting men to be beneath us.

Feminism rebels specifically against the historically edified patriarchal structure of society and the misogyny it fuels.

The domination of the patriarchy is undeniable, and it is imperative to note that the struggle for gender equality was a global movement well before the 19th Amendment granted American women the right to vote in 1920.

Oppression denied women not only their voices, but their economic independence, education and personal freedom. Save for a few examples, women could not own property or become educated, and were often reduced to objects as their husbands and fathers’ exchangeable property.

Feminism has allowed our society to make leaps and bounds since then, but true gender equality has not been accomplished.

Deeply embedded social structures that impede women’s attainment of the same levels of social and professional success as men persist. The U.S. is still a patriarchal society, which dominates and regulates the governing and business classes.

While our country’s population is about 50 percent male, Congress is 80 percent male, and 95 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs are male. Furthermore, there is a documented wage gap, in which females earn an average of 23 percent less than their male counterparts.

Patriarchy extends beyond women’s earning potential, however. Sexism and misogyny are ingrained in our culture, partly attributed to the gender roles we were inoculated with as children. Boys have to be strong and tough, while girls should be dainty and pretty. Clearly, we have not yet reached gender equality.

Though American women are subject to discrimination and prejudice, as the author points out, we are both privileged in receiving tertiary education in a first-world country. While an important cause in the U.S., feminism’s presence is indispensable in third-world countries.

Even in 2015, some countries deny women driving privileges, property rights and, in Saudi Arabia and Vatican City, voting rights.

Several studies prove that increases in female education correlate with poverty decreases, although women’s education tends to be poor or even nonexistent in many impoverished countries. It is estimated that four out of five victims of human trafficking are women, and femicide has increased worldwide. Ciudad Juarez in Mexico, for example, averages six women brutally assassinated every day.

Feminists stand together to combat systemic injustice, discrimination and violence against women. If you believe that women should have access to the same political, economic and social freedoms as men, then you are a feminist, regardless of your gender. Collaboration and solidarity will bring forth gender equality.

We need feminism because typical college shopping for women includes “pepper spray and rape whistles, while guys are buying condoms” according to #YesAllWomen.

We need feminism because the last article stated, “If women stop victimizing themselves, then men will take them more seriously.” Women should not rely on men’s approval to justify how to feel or act; we stand independently as our own human beings.

We need feminism because it took Union 45 years to consider female contributions to campus and officially include us as “sisters” in the motto.

Without feminism, women lack the voice to change detrimental ideologies and societal norms.

Fortunately, we have built a resilient movement that produces brilliant feminist leaders.

Malala Yousafzai, the activist for which the Malala Fund is named, survived a Taliban assassination attempt at 14 years old while demanding women’s education.

Emma Watson is the U.N.’s Women Goodwill Ambassador and is involved in global efforts to promote gender equality.

Look to these women as examples of feminists, and introspectively decide where you stand.

I will urge you to consider this: Women will no longer ask permission to be heard, to speak or act. We will not ask permission to dismantle the patriarchy. Actually, we’ve been hard at work for centuries.

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