Let’s talk about sex, baby – no, not that kind. I’m talking the sex that determines whether you make 78 cents or a dollar, whether you’re subjected to unsolicited “compliments” while walking down the street, and whether or not you can attend a school like Marlborough.
Feminism has been quite the buzzword in 2014, both on-campus and off. The media hurls articles on the hot topic left and right. While scrolling through Facebook, I can’t help but notice stories about instances of sexual harassment across the country. Girls are slut-shamed out of their high schools and blamed for unreliable stories in college rape allegations, all while being idolized for teen pregnancy on MTV. I turn on the radio to hear Nicki Minaj and Meghan Trainor calling for the return of big-booty pride, but only at the expense of the “skinny (expletive)s” who don’t have enough to shake. A new video on the daily struggles of womanhood goes viral nearly every week, editorials on hookup culture grace the pages of nearly every respectable news source, and Hillary Clinton 2016 is already in motion. I have to say, for the most part, I’m pleased that topics involving women and women’s rights are getting so much notoriety, as I think it encourages a dialogue about the importance of gender equality, and the places where society falls short. I also feel very lucky to grow up surrounded by many amazing, powerful women, including Tina Fey, Zadie Smith, Michelle Obama, Malala Yousafzai, Sheryl Sandberg, Mindy Kaling, J.K. Rowling, and countless others. I see these women not only as role models, but also as Knights of Equality, if you will, serving to combat sexism, racism, and the other bad -isms of the world one witty tweet at a time. Each one of these aforementioned Wonder Women not only excels in her field, be it acting or activism, but also takes responsibility and advocates for changes in laws and attitudes everywhere to make the world a better place for girls.
There’s lots of good coming from the rise of feminism within mainstream media. However, the other day, when I scrolled to the bottom of a list of “female role models for your daughter,” I found a link to “50 shocking celebrities without makeup.” Internet, are you kidding me?! Every bit of good done by the first list was immediately discredited, and we’re back to square one. It all makes sense: feminism isn’t confusing because the concept of gender equality is radical or difficult to understand. It’s confusing because it’s nearly impossible to see positive news about female role models without running into some scandal over their post-baby body.
It seems that for every amazing woman changing the world, there is a Carl’s Jr. advertisement selling the female body along with its latest burger creation. Male writers and inventors aren’t expected to be supermodels. Mark Zuckerberg is not expected to look like he walked out of a Calvin Klein shoot and into the Facebook offices. So why are women held to a different standard, and, I might add, what is that standard supposed to be? How can you believe that “every inch of you is perfect from the bottom to the top” when Victoria’s Secret launches a “Perfect Body” campaign, featuring only itty-bitty, tan, toned Angels? (Vicky’s Secret quickly changed the campaign to “A Body for Every Body” which, I’ll be honest, doesn’t seem to fix much, seeing as the ads still feature just one body type… boring.)
This isn’t all just about bodies. No matter how successful a woman may be in her field, she still is not considered equal to her male counterparts. This was proven in the recent Sony leaks, when word got out that Amy Adams and Jennifer Lawrence were paid far less for their award-winning performances in American Hustle than Bradley Cooper and Christian Bale. Both actresses received Golden Globe wins, while Cooper and Bale did not, and yet, they still received better compensation, simply because they are men. Sigh.
I guess you could call this my open letter to the whole world, asking everyone to please take a step back and focus on the important stuff: the gender gap isn’t going to get any smaller if we keep widening it over bad red carpet looks and botched plastic surgery. The fact of the matter is, just about 50% of the humans on the planet are women and girls, which makes gender equality not just a women’s rights issue, but a human rights issue.
And, to the girls struggling to find their feminist identities in some middle ground between topless rioting and surrendering to the patriarchy, I’m with you. The truth is, our generation is an important one; one that will probably see a huge amount of change in social justice, among other things, and it’s our responsibility to enter into society with something to say. So, ladies, do your homework (as if you don’t already have enough – blame inequality for the extra load)! Find one idea, one thought, one phrase, which resonates with you, and form your philosophy. Empower yourself with knowledge, and continue the dialogue that’s happening all around us. Go forth and spread your power and your mind and all that you’ve got to give. In this day and age, YOU are what a feminist looks like.