In 1919, women gained the right to vote, ending their struggle for voting equality. Women finally had a right to have a say in their government, a move that was seen by many as the first step to acknowledging women as equals in society. Our society progressed by leaps and bounds since then, but our society far from winning equality for all.
There are many misconceptions about feminism. Some believe that it targets and degrades men, some think it’s unnecessary. This isn’t true. True feminism means equality for all. It doesn’t mean men are better than women or that women are better than men, rather that gender should never be a factor that determines someone’s rights. True feminism includes transgender women and advocates for and stands with racial minorities. The purpose of feminism is not to make anyone feel attacked or alienated. It unites everyone.
A big concept that a lot of feminists advocate for is the wage gap. According to the American Community Survey, which is conducted by the US census bureau, the average woman makes about 80% of what the average man makes, which is about twenty cents less per dollar. Iowa falls below that, with the average Iowan woman making 77% of what a man makes. This gap is even more prominent when it comes to women of color. On average, a Hispanic or Latina woman makes about 54% of what an average man would make. An African American woman makes about 63% of what an average man makes, and an American Indian or Alaska Native makes 59% of what an average man makes.
The wage gap between women and men increases as women age. Men and women ages sixteen to nineteen make about the same amount, but by the age of sixty-five years and older, women make about 77% of what men make.
There are a host of other reasons for feminism. Hundreds of millions of women and girls experience genital mutilation every year. Genital mutilation is the removal of external female genitalia. The cliterous is removed, the labia removed, and the vulva is closed. There is no medical reason for this, and this practice causes humiliation and oftentimes leads to other medical complications. It is so prevalent that in some countries that up to 85% of women have experienced genital mutilation.
Another reason that feminism is important is rape and sexual harassment. On average, there are 321,500 victims of rape each year, and statistics can only account for reported rapes, so in reality the number is much higher. Believing that women are not equal to men leads to more victim-blaming behavior, more cultural acceptance of rape, and ultimately more rapes. Sexual harassment is another huge issue. According to RAINN, in the EU, around 50% of women have experienced sexual harassment. However, in America that number is much higher. In America, 80% of girls ages 12 to 16 have experienced some form of sexual harassment.
Feminism is not the belief that women are better than men. It is the belief that women and men should be equal, and that your genitals should not determine your value. It is important to work to resolve issues such as the wage gap, rape and sexual assault, and genital mutilation in order to achieve an equal and just society. A society where girls can go to school and work, where they are not attacked and killed, and where they can progress is better for everyone.