BANSAL: Modern, Western feminism still has its place in society

Opinions Column: Call for Change

Through several years of paying close attention to exchanges dealing with ideas of political and social reform, I’ve encountered my fair share of opinions dealing with women’s issues and the general stigma around feminism. While most encounters are positive, there are far too many people contributing to political intercourse that express a negative attitude toward modern American/Western feminism with little background or perspective on the subject. Views on moves for modern Western women’s equality are often looked upon as being pointless or asking for too much. We have the right to vote and work amongst men, so why are there still complaints? In reality, though, defining the validity of women’s rights issues solely by comparing the situations of different countries is ignorant. When people think of women’s issues, they refer to a cry for help from disadvantaged girls in India, where social restrictions cause approximately 40 percent of all child marriages to occur there. They think of Ethiopia, where literacy rates indicate that around 82 percent of women lack a basic education. Saudi Arabia comes to mind, where social values discourage women from driving. These are statistics that can easily be Googled by anyone trying to argue a point. It takes a deeper understanding of the women’s rights movement to know that the Western world suffers from the same stigmas against women that affect girls in eastern cultures. Although the repercussions may not be as extreme, and we certainly aren’t openly forced into child marriages or subject to female mutilation, the atmosphere still exists. The women’s rights movement still holds valid points in Western cultures.

Too many people are quick to disregard modern Western feminism. There is a stigma surrounding feminism in Western cultures because it is seemingly unnecessary here and is subsequently a waste of time. Too many people believe that gender equality has been reached in Western cultures and that further outreach for help is just women being stubborn or spoiled by the media. The truth is that Western cultures are nowhere near where we need to be in terms of equality in any sense. Our society has reasons to fight for women’s equality just as any country does, but the reasons show themselves more subtly.

Here in the United States, our society’s attitude against women faces repercussions that show in the economy or our less than excellent marketing skills. Let’s skip the fact that Barbie dolls and other toys are still marketed towards teaching toddlers how to have self-esteem and body image issues, normalizing the submissive and domesticated behavior expected of women. When we even have pens specifically designed in pink and purple, packaged with sparkles and sold at up to 70 percent more than the price of generic black and blue pens generally targeted at men, there is an issue. This is often referred to as the "pink tax," where our society is willing to normalize the increased price that women face on everyday items — even pens. We also face problems in the field of women’s maternity leave. It has been pointed out that New Jersey, California, Massachusetts and Rhode Island are the only four states with funded maternity leave. Women are at many times forced to choose between their child or their career due to a lack of progress in maternity leave policy. This causes unhealthy relationships, mental illnesses and many negative economic effects.

Perhaps the most straightforward piece of evidence pointing toward the fact that women's rights movements still have a right to prevail in America are the constant societal issues such as the victimization of women in rape cases and rape culture in general. Scandals, or rather crimes, show up on news feeds every day with headlines summarizing the case of one man or another that was “falsely” accused of rape by a woman. Or, arguably even worse but far too common, are headlines that read about men that were convicted of rape but never faced any consequences. Statistically, while only 2 percent of rape accusations are actually false97 percent of the perpetrators never face any jail time. According to society, why should they? How could she ruin his life like that? He has a career to follow, a family to support, a life to lead. And so it goes.

Misogyny exists in every crevice of the world. Whether it’s the more obvious cases in Pakistan or the more subtle cases in New York City, both are valid reasons to want to make a change. Negatively stigmatizing the women’s rights movements across the Western world is not going to stop anyone, clearly, it is just slowing things down.

Priyanka Bansal is a Rutgers Business School first year majoring in business and journalism and media studies. Her column, “Call for Change,” runs on alternate Tuesdays.

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