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Lauren Echols
Dr. Terman
WMNST100U Section 001
4 December 2014
Why We Still Need Feminism
Feminism took its roots in 1848 with the womens rights movement (Womens).
At this point in our history, the ultimate objective of this newly founded group of feminist
thinkers was to gain rights for the American women, to gain rights equal to those of their
male counterparts. These feminist thinkers not only fought for these rights, but they won
them and in just over 150 years, we have seen extreme shifts in the position of women in
society, from objects, with little to no human rights, to independent beings with virtually
all of the rights of white, heterosexual men. However, I would like to highlight the
word virtually in saying that there we have still not reached full gender-based equality.
Although, we may have superseded the obvious human rights, such as the right to vote,
control money, and work, there are still some straggling ideas, rooted deeply in
patriarchy, that keep women under the glass ceiling. The invisibility of sexist ideas that
continue to detrimentally affect women in our society has created an odd phenomenon.
People have started to disbelieve the relatively intangible evidence of the continued
sexism, oppression, and objectification in our world today, and people have begun to shy
away from the feminist movement. However, these lingering ideas that are still linked to
the patriarchal system make up the glass ceiling, they keep women from gaining all of the
human rights that they deserve as human beings and they are a huge detriment to the
position of women in society and to society as a whole. These very ideas promote the

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discrimination of human beings on the basis of uncontrollable things. The only
reasonable way to uproot these ideas is to cling to the thing that has brought us all of this
way, feminism.
To begin speaking about this ambiguous word, feminism, we must first define
what it is and what its not. bell hooks defines feminism as a movement to end sexism,
sexist exploitation, and oppression, in her article titled Feminist Politics: Where We
Stand. In this article she explores the concept of this definition and its implications. She
centers sexism as the fundamental issue that should be targeted and in doing so, she pulls
the blame off of men as a gender. The point being that feminism is not an anti-male hategroup, after all you cant fight discrimination with discrimination. In fact, if we analyze
the definition, it is obvious that feminism is all-inclusive. A world free of sexism, sexist
exploitation, and oppression is a world free of any form of gender-based discrimination,
including the discrimination of men. The feminist movement is simply fighting for
equality on the basis of gender.
Fortunately, the majority of relatively educated individuals are able to define
feminism, today, however we are still experiencing a misconnect between the definition
and the necessity of feminism. Most know that feminism stands for equality, but most
people also dismiss its necessity. I confirmed this theory earlier this week by creating a
casual survey via google docs, which I then shared on facebook in the hopes of receiving
several responses. I received just over one hundred responses from my peers and the
results proved my theory just as I supposed they would. Out of 101 individuals, 84
individuals were able to correctly identify the definition of feminism from a group of
other stereotypical definitions of feminism. However, when asked if our society still

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needed the feminist movement, only 63 of the 101 individuals responded that the
American society still needed the feminist movement. Clearly there are factors affecting
our opinions about the world around us. Thinking critically about the things we see
everyday in the media is one step towards the identification of the necessity of feminism
in society and therefore one step closer to complete gender equality.
One of the most common reasons for the disillusionment surrounding the
necessity for feminism is due to the way the media portrays women, which changes
societal views of women in the process. The issue is that human beings are not always
naturally critical of what they see, understand, and believe, mainly because humans learn
absolutely everything from the world around them. Humans are some of the only animals
that have no knowledge at birth and develop knowledge and skills directly from their
surroundings (Phillips). That being said, humans are largely susceptible to accepting
construed information and since it is easier to believe what they are told or shown,
humans are much less likely to think critically about the world around them and more
likely to accept things without explanation. We can see examples of this in all types of
media outlets. As Susan J. Douglas explains that the media is ahead of reality in her
article titled, The Rise of Enlightened Sexism. The media portrays great numbers of
women playing roles that are traditionally dominated by men such as doctors, lawyer, and
CEOs. Unfortunately reality tells a very different story. The most common female jobs
havent changed since the 1950s. Women continue to typically hold female positions
such teachers and secretaries. However, the media tells an entirely different story, which
ensures people that the feminist movement is no longer necessary because blatant
displays of sexism are now few and far between and women are seemingly now equal to

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men. Unfortunately, people have now even begun to revert back to sexist ways with the
justification that women can now make their own choices, ignoring the fact that gender is
a socialized concept and that many of the choices women make have reasons rooted in
things they have been socialized to believe. Douglas defines this concept as enlightened
sexism. She explains that this concept, although seemingly progressive and very
celebratory of womens achievements is really just another thing that keeps women
beneath men. Unfortunately, with the overrepresentation of women in the media and
resurrection of sexist ideas, women once again find themselves pushed up against the
glass ceiling, fantasizing about things that society makes virtually impossible to have.
To dive even further into the issue at hand, I want to talk more specifically about
concept of equality. For many years now, one of the only feminist issues commonly
talked about in politics is the wage gap. However, true is much more than just economic
equality. Im not to trying to imply that the wage gap isnt an issue, however its only part
of the issue, and perhaps the only issue discussed because its the only obvious issue.
The point being that life is sustained through many other things apart from the economy.
Vandana Shiva explains in her article titled, Our Violent Economy is Hurting Women,
that focusing so strongly on economics is highly detrimental to women. The reason being
that women continue to hold stereotypical jobs with little to no pay whatsoever and
therefore women have little to no value in the economic world we value so much. The
only viable solution would be to switch some of the focus to other issues that are
important in sustaining life as well, such as the social and environmental aspects of life.
Shifting the focus away from the economy would shift the focus to issues that equally
involve and value both men and women. After all, feminist issues are rooted in the social

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constructions of gender, so why arent we focusing on social issues as opposed to
economic issues? The main point is that equality is so much more than earning the same
wages. There are more other important things in life, apart from the economy.
Lastly, I want to discuss how these changes are possible. Another aspect of why
people have given up on feminism, even if they can recognize the ongoing discrimination in our society, is that these unobvious issues seem virtually impossible to
solve in a world that doesnt recognize them as issues. However, if we focus on the roots
of these societal issues, we undoubtedly have to make some progress towards liberating
women from gender-based discrimination, sexism, and oppression. As before, I would
like to stress the fact that we learn most things from our environment and we are
susceptible to accepting norms without giving much thought to them. Similar to Adrienne
Rich in her article titled, Claiming an Education, I believe that claiming an education
and a focus on education in general is the only way to break through the glass ceiling.
The feminist movement needs to start at the root of our problems, which begins with
education, leading people to criticize and understand the norms of society instead of
taking the easy way out and succumbing to norms constructed solely by society. In
conclusion, these issues may be cumbersome and seemingly impossible to solve,
however through education, anything is possible.
I would like to finish off by stressing the importance of the feminist movement as
a whole. We have completely normalized gender-based discrimination in our society. We
continually see the overrepresentation of women in the media, but these fantasies of
power as Susan Douglas refers to them continually keep women from making any real
progress towards gender equality. If we dont fight to end to gender-based discrimination

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we are going to continue to allow people to die of eating disorders created by the social
construction of beauty, we are going to continue to promote violence against women as
people accept this type of violence as an unsolvable norm, and we will continue to
unknowingly support sexism, sexist exploitation, and oppression in all sorts of different
ways. The power to change these problems is in our hands, but will we use it?

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Works Cited
Douglas, Susan J. "The Rise of Enlightened Sexism." On The Issues Magazine: The
Progressive Woman's Magazine Winter 2011: The Rise of Enlightened
Sexism

by Susan J. Douglas. N.p., n.d. Web. 02 Dec. 2014.

Hooks, Bell. Feminist Politics: Where We Stand. Feminism Is for Everybody: Passionate
Politics. Cambridge, MA: South End, 2000. N. pag. Print.
Phillips, D.C. "Philosophy of Education." Stanford University. Stanford University, 02
June 2008. Web. 02 Dec. 2014.
Rich, Adrienne. Claiming an Education. Open Questions. Ed. Chris Anderson and
Lex Runciman. New York: Bedford/St. Martins, 2005. 608-611. Print.
Shiva, Vandana. "Our Violent Economy Is Hurting Women." YES! Magazine. N.p., n.d.
Web. 02 Dec. 2014.
"The Women's Rights Movement, 18481920 | US House of Representatives: History,
Art & Archives." The Women's Rights Movement, 1848-1920. N.p., n.d.
Web.

02 Dec. 2014.