By Madeline Burak
Feminism is an antiquated term. I realize this will sound crazy, but hear me out. It’s antiquated because it harkens back to a time in women’s issues were not representative of the issues that women face today. That is not to say that women do not still face challenges; as women we live with them every day. After all, this is why legislation like The Lilly Ledbetter Equal Pay Act exists. But today feminism connotes negativity. As popular actress Emma Watson recently said in a speech to the United Nations, feminism has become synonymous with combative “man hating.” With all due respect to my “Suffragette” sisters, the “feminism” that I am describing is an older form of feminism that addresses the issues of times past.
Back in older forms of feminism and women’s suffrage, we would not have had a female Secretary of State, female members of Congress, amazing world leaders like Malala Yousafzai or business leaders like Marissa Mayer, CEO of Yahoo. Equality for women was seen as extreme, on the fringe and outside of the mainstream. Now, feminism, or better yet, the goal of equality, has become a more universal issue. For example, in the news we recently saw NFL player Ray Rice beat up his wife on camera in an elevator. Not to sound completely heartless, but this sort of domestic violence happens all the time. Only now since feminism has become a mainstream idea does an issue like this get brought to the forefront of the media and men are facing serious and deserved consequences for their actions.
Every day for women is like game day for a male football player. Questions come to mind such as: How ready for the game is he? How prepared is he? How is he performing? These are the same kinds of questions that women face every day. Are you pretty today? Are you feeling fat today? Having a bad hair day? Until those types of thoughts are gone and our futures are no longer influenced by lingering questions, then the view of women will remain unchanged. Men get a pass as far as appearance goes while women are expected to be held to a standard. Then again as most women know, you get nicer treatment in department stores when you go shopping if you look good. Women do it to themselves and to each other to a certain degree. But I say that is a product of our upbringing, and a symptom of the bigger problem which is that women don’t support each other.
Historically, through any cultural change, there have always been the internal players upholding the status quo. Generally speaking, growth comes with pain, and we need to be willing to say and do the uncomfortable thing so we can change and no longer be bound by the feminism of our foremothers. We must be responsible for creating the world that we want for our daughters. We need to expect more of women, and we need to behave differently and not just preach but act equality! Because until we do, we are relying on words.
Men have always had networks such as Rotary, the Prospector’s club and fraternities to work together and support each other. Today, women are creating networks to support each other, and that’s great. Women do not want to emulate men. Women need to form a unified front to combat inequality and start to work together for each other as much as men do.
I have had the privilege of meeting incredible women throughout my life, across the state and the country who have worked tirelessly to create opportunities for themselves and other women. As I have honed in on my passion for politics, I have been inspired by female leaders who I have met who represent our Silver State at the local, state and national level. These women are accompanied by other outstanding women like Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, Sen. Barbara Mikulski, Sen. Barbara Boxer and many more at other levels of government who are working to shed light on issues such as equal pay in the workplace, combating sexual violence against women and ultimately paving the way for women in the coming years to have a seat at the figurative decision making table.
It is time for women to work with and for each other, not against. There are still significant milestones on the path to women’s holistic independence and equality. It is the responsibility of all women to collaborate with each other in the coming years as advocates of equality.
Madeline Burak studies political science and international affairs. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.