Saturday, January 18, 2014

What is Feminism? Part 2: Modern US & Global Feminism

Modern American Feminism
Feminism doesn't mean women and men are the same and have to be treated exactly the same, it does mean they shouldn't be treated less just because they are female.  Women don't have to be treated equally - but they should be treated equitably.  Studies have proven that men and women are different, but there are more variances within a gender than there is variance between the two genders.  
The image below shows the suggested results in Google when I type "women should" or "women shouldn't".  Google suggestions are items that are frequently searched for. 
Which is why today's feminism is founded on choice, because there is more than one way to be a good woman.  There shouldn't be a set standard of what a woman looks like or does.  A woman can choose her path in life, and there shouldn't be anyone telling her she can't do something. 

Women are able to make their own choices.  She can choose to work or she can choose to stay at home.  She can choose to be an engineer or she can choose to be a stripper.  She can choose to be a mother or to not have children.  She can choose to dress in all skirts and makeup or she can choose to dress in pants and short hair.  She can like gossip mags or she can like comic books.  She can choose to use contraception or not, she can choose abortion or not***.  Where do men fit in?  Wherever they want, the beauty is that feminism seeks to empower expanding choices for men and women, as an acknowledgement that some men are better nurturers than women, because we are individuals first.  He can to choose to be stay-at-home dads or to work.  He can choose to be school teachers or nurses or welders.  He should have more support in custody cases where fathers rarely win.

But, but -- women are choosing bad things, you say?  Like being a stripper or working or not having children?  Or by choosing no-fault divorce just because you fell out of love (when no other abuse is present)?  Sure, by gaining the freedom for women to make choices, some of them will make poor choices.  Some of those poor choices harm families.  But does that mean we should restrict and take their choices away from them?  Go back to the days when women suffering in abuse couldn't escape?  That they weren't considered for employment positions by being female?   I don't think so.  I also don't think that by making choices outside of cultural expectations (short hair, no makeup, pants, working PHd in bio-nuclear engineering) that it precludes me from raising a family in love.  Being a good woman has everything to do with your character and who you are on the inside. 

***p.s. I'm going to save this topic for another post (abortion)

Modern Global Feminism
Has there been and does there continue to exist a systematic oppression of women, a restriction of their choices in life, and ability to empower themselves to succeed?  You know that women still can't drive a car in many countries because it would require them to uncover their face and leave their homes?  Um, have you seen Half the Sky?  Two journalists whose mission is to spread the word about the worldwide, under-reported oppression of women.  You don't have to be feminist to care about the plight and suffering of fellow humans (all statistics taken from their website):
  1. Economic Empowerment: Women comprise 70 percent of the world’s poorest people and own only 1 percent of the titled land, according to a U.N. report. They suffer not only from unequal access to education and training, but also from discrimination by their employers. For every dollar a woman earns, she invests 80 cents in her family. Men, on the other hand, invest around 30 cents and are more likely to squander money on alcohol and other vices.
  2.  Education:  Today more than 75 million primary school-age children are not in school. More than half of these children are girls and 75 percent of them live in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. Of all the primary-school age girls globally, 20 percent are not in school, compared to 16 percent of boys in this age group. That’s 1-in-5 eligible girls worldwide who aren’t going to primary school.
  3. Forced Prostitution:  Economic necessity, a lack of employment options, drug addiction or coercion by family, pimps or traffickers are all factors that can force women into sexual slavery. Paradoxically, it’s the countries with the most straitlaced and sexually conservative societies, such as India, Pakistan and Iran, that have disproportionately large numbers of forced prostitutes. Since having sex with girlfriends may not be an option for most men in these cultures, prostitutes have become an acceptable solution.
  4. Gender Based Violence:  A leading expert on safety and violence, Gavin de Becker, says, "Men's number one fear is that a woman will reject them.  Women's number one fear is that a man will kill them." In fact, women aged 15 through 45 are more likely to be maimed or die from male violence than from cancer, malaria, traffic accidents and war combined. This violence can take many different forms, and is constantly mutating into new forms, be it acid attacks, bride burnings, rape or domestic violence. Surveys suggest that about one-third of all women globally face beatings in the home. Another major study found that in most countries between 30 and 60 percent of women had experienced physical or sexual violence by a husband or a boyfriend. The figures for female murder by male partners are also astounding: Up to 70 percent of female murder victims are killed by their male partners, according to the World Health Organization. 
  5. Maternal Mortality. Around 1,000 women die from pregnancy- or childbirth-related complications globally every day, according to the World Health Organization. That’s one every 90 seconds. Some 99 percent of maternal deaths occur in poor countries, particularly in Africa and Asia.  A majority of these causes are easily preventable with access to basic health care.
  6. Sex Trafficking.  Far more women and girls are shipped into brothels annually now, in the early 21st century, than African slaves were shipped into slave plantations each year in the 18th century.  And the problem of sex slavery is getting worse.  Trafficking for sexual exploitation is one of the fastest-growing organized crimes, generating $27.8 billion each year. The collapse of communism in Eastern Europe and Indochina, which opened up markets for commercial sex, and globalization have added to the problem. So has the fear of AIDS, leading some customers to prefer younger girls, whom they think are less likely to be infected. Some men target virgins, believing the girls can cure AIDS.
There are many different kinds of feminists.  Yes some are more radical and militant than others - but that doesn't mean we limit the definition of the term to loud outliers and extremists.  Please, before judging a feminist, try finding out what issues they care about and are passionate about.  It may surprise you that one-on-one, you have more in common with a feminist than you think you do.

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