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LauraGrace Orner
Mrs. D. Hackett
AP Language and Composition
March 14, 2016
A Brief History of Feminism and Why the Movement is Still Necessary
The Gender Equality movement has greatly evolved within the last two-hundred and fifty
years; however, the fight for equality is not over. The global community continues to need
feminism. Feminism is the advocacy for equal opportunity for all genders on the grounds of
political, social, and economic equality. Equal opportunity is referring to access to civil rights the fundamental rights of citizens to political, economical, and social freedom and equality.
In 1848, the representatives of the Seneca Falls Convention declared, we hold these
truths to be self evident that all men are created equal (Carmon and Knizhnik 15). The Seneca
Falls convention was the first womens rights convention, and was organized to discuss the
social, civil, and religious condition and rights of women (Seneca Falls Convention Begins).
The two-hundred women in attendance would be the founders of the suffragette movement. The
truths these women declared were extremely controversial, for women were not allowed to
participate in political conventions at this time. These women were discussing topics of
inequality that are still a burden for women today. As the suffragette movement continued to gain
momentum, it began to strike fear in those following the traditional (patriarchal) social rules. In
1870, Queen Victoria warned people of the movement noting:
I am most anxious to enlist everyone who can speak or write to join in checking this
mad, wicked folly of Womens Rights, with all its attendant horrors, on which her poor
feeble sex is bent, forgetting every sense of womanly feelings and propriety. Feminists

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ought to get a good whipping. Were woman to unsex themselves by claiming equality
with men, they would become the most hateful, heathen and disgusting of beings and
would surely perish without male protection. (Elizabeth)
Feminists of the time were publicly shamed and tortured due to their beliefs. The
suffragettes were mistreated in prisons and in protest the imprisoned women went on hunger
strike. They were then subjected to force feeding, where food was aggressively shoved down
their throats by way of rudimentary
feeding tubes; many women died as
a result of this practice. Figure 1
depicts a propaganda poster used
during the movement to depict this
cruel phenomenon. The womans
eyes are wide and aghast, and the
man pouring the hot soup down her
throat is smiling maniacally while
the officer angrily holds the woman
down. The box labeled ICWT that the man is sitting on is in reference to a popular slogan among
suffragettes in corruption we trust (Shepard). This slogan was a moniker for the oppressive
men in power refusing to vote for womens rights; the two men are literally and figuratively
holding the suffragette down. This was an unsettling sight for those who refused to recognize the
ignorance of their anti-suffragette mentality.
In the late 1940s and into the 1950s, there was a reemergence of anti-feminist
propaganda; the advertising industry was monopolizing on the degradation of women. Women

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were treated like objects to serve and pleasure men, for example, a textbook on land ownership
at the time, using women as an analogy noted, Land, like women, [were] meant to be
possessed (Carmon and Knizhnik 15). Over one-hundred years after the Seneca Falls
Convention, women were still struggling to establish themselves of equal value to men in the
eyes of mainstream society. Figure 2 displays an advertisement for Drummond Sweaters from
the 1950s; this ad perfectly exemplifies the
societys idea of a womans place stating: Men
are better than women! Indoors, women are
useful- even pleasant. On the mountain they are
something of a drag. According to this ad and
popular culture at the time, a womans place was
in the home, pleasing the men in her life. This
idea was even further ingrained into mainstream
culture when on November 20, 1961, the United
States Supreme Court ruled jury service could
be optional for women because women [are] still
regarded as the center of home and family life
(Carmon and Knizhnik 17).
Beginning in the early 1990s came a
feminist revolution in the music industry with an
emergence of punk-rock girl power bands such as Bikini Kill, Babes in Toyland, and Heavens to
Betsy; together these bands and their followers formed the Riot Grrrl movement. Unlike previous
womens suffrage movements, these women, in an effort to avoid media bias, stayed

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underground in a media blackout (Riot Grrrl). From across the globe, these women gathered in
forums to discuss the days feminist agenda. The topics discussed included: sexism, gender
representation, and self-identity (Riot Grrrl). These young women spread their message through
the creation and distribution of zines, magazines relating to a particular following. These zines
included personal stories and political statements with explicitly feminist themes (Riot Grrrl).
In the early 2000s many women began to
participate in the Raunch Movement. This movement
was an effort by women to reclaim their sexuality by
hypersexualizing themselves in media and advertising.
Advertising was beginning to revert to the
dehumanizing style of the 1950s, Figure 3 is an example
of such advertising; it depicts an unnecessarily raunchy
ad from 2009 encouraging people to become organ
donors, though the woman's body, not the organ
donation organization, is the focal point of the ad. The
American Psychological Association's Objectification
Theory classifies objectification as a state in which
many women are sexually objectified and treated as an
object to be valued for its use [such] occurs when a womans body or body parts are singled
out and separated from her as a person and she is viewed primarily as a physical object of male
sexual desire (Szymanski). According to the American Psychological Association, the practice
of objectification is damaging to the individuals mental health and may lead to depression due to
the feeling of being of no value (Szymanski).

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In response to this phenomenon, the American Psychological Association encourages
individuals to examine issues of diversity and oppression under patriarchy at micro-social
[interpersonal interactions] and macro-social [institutional interactions i.e. public policy/
legislation] levels and to advocate for social justice for women and communities (Szymanski).
Many women felt and continue to feel that this self-objectification was the only solution to
taking back the chauvinist (showing or relating to excessive or prejudiced loyalty or support for a
particular group) male ideals from the century before (Female Chauvinist Pigs); though, in
actuality it may have just given the advertisement agencies the go ahead to create more salacious
material and perpetuate societys notion of a woman's value being in her sexuality.
This institutional suppression of an entire portion of the population is damaging not just
to the oppressed but to all members of the global community. In the United States, women
continue to struggle with underrepresentation in government with just 20% of Congress being
comprised of women (Bump). Women are woefully outnumbered in congress, however,
according to United States Census Bureau women outnumber men in most states (Maraniss).
One might think this is acceptable on account that these women are voted in; however, this
underrepresentation is actually caused by the archaic micro-social and macro-social systems in
the United States. According to Pew Research Center, women are equally as qualified as men to
hold leadership positions, but are faced with more barriers to entry, these barriers being gender
stereotypes (Women and Leadership).
In their recent survey, the Pew Research Center found that, when surveyed, Americans
saw no distinguishable differences between the sexes (Women and Leadership). If this is the
case, why are women so grossly underrepresented in the legislature? The reason lies in the
institutionally ingrained gender stereotypes. As evidenced by the earlier discussion of the female

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societal role, women are considered to be the domestic sex; and though, when surveyed
Americans saw no difference between the leadership abilities of the sexes, when surveyed about
what leadership roles suit which sex Americans profiled women to run retail outlets, while men
were profiled to run the government (Women in Leadership).
One might think that developing countries are the worst culprits of under representation,
but this is not the case. The United States ranks sixty-ninth among countries with women in alllevels of government; Afghanistan and Pakistan rank higher than the United States (Dawn).
The United States ranks 80th in the percentage of women serving in government at the
congressional (parliamentary) level (Dawn). Sudan, and Iraq, are on the list above the United
States and the developing country of Rwanda is number one on the list with 49% of their
parliament being women (Dawn). Individuals often talk about Islam being oppressive toward
women; however, with predominantly Islamic countries ranking above the United States, it
appears that it is infact an oppressive micro-social system in the United States, not a religion
oppressing women.
In both the United States and abroad, people are being oppressed by transmisogyny; this
being the purposeful bigotry against those with nontraditional gender identities, predominantly of
transgender and nonbinary identities. Transgender individuals are people identifying with a sex
other than the sex they were assigned at birth, and nonbinary is a catch all term for individuals
identifying as feminine, masculine, androgynous, or anything outside of cisnormative standards.
Cisnormative meaning people who identify within the traditional binary gender constructs, which
are cis female and cis male. According to the World Prison Brief .007% of the cisnormative
population will be incarcerated in their lifetime, while 16% of the trans gender/ nonconforming
individuals will be incarcerated (National Center for Transgender Equality); a person is over

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2000% more likely to be incarcerated if one strays from traditional genders. This is not a
coincidence, but an institutional prejudice; the United States justice department is targeting these
individuals due to their gender identity.
Trans and gender nonconforming individuals are also subject to assault, harassment, and
arrest simply for using the restroom due to Bathroom Bills; these bills are laws put into place
requiring people to use the bathroom in line with their biological sex (Bianco). Florida State
Representative Frank Artiles, a sponsor of Florida's Single Sex Public Facilities bill, is quoted as
saying that the bill is a preventative measure and was not spurred by a specific incident when
he was unable to provide evidence of a reason for the legislation (Bianco). These laws are
prejudiced, for they lack conclusive evidence as to a reason for their implementation, for there
are zero reported incidents of trans or non-binary people assaulting cis-normative individuals in
public restrooms (Bianco).
The population of gender nonconforming individuals is not a minority, in fact, the
majority of individuals fall outside of traditional binary biology. When you consider that there
are 7,000,000,000 alive on the planet, there are almost assuredly tens of millions of people who
are not male or female (Kennon). While many believe that the population is comprised of just
two, there are actually six main karyotypes; these chromosome patterns include: X Roughly
one in 2,000 to one in 5,000 people , XX Most common form of female, XXY Roughly one
in 500 to one in 1,000 people, XY Most common form of male, XYY Roughly one out of
1,000 people, XXXY Roughly one in 18,000 to one in 50,000 births (Kennon).
Transmisogyny stems from the confusion of gender and biological sex. Gender is based on
certain characteristics manifested in an individual, regardless of ones environment or
upbringing; biological sex is typically determined by an individual's karyotype, and as evident

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from the list above, there are more that two sexes (Kennon). Transmisogyny is an inherent part of
traditional culture, due to lack of education and understanding of basic biology and bigotry stems
from this confusion.
American citizens are required to attend school until the age of 16, no matter their gender
identity; however, across the Globe many girls and women are forbidden to pursue an education.
According to the United Nations Children's Emergency Fund, UNICEF, An estimated 31
million girls of primary school age and 32 million girls of lower secondary school age were out
of school in 2013. This education gap is largely due to archaic gender constructs placed upon
women in developing countries. While the boys enjoy the freedom of school and sports, girls are
made to tend to younger siblings, haul water, and tend to the household chores. Young boys as
old as three years have more freedom than women in their fifties; in Kabul, Afghanistan families
are shunned if they do not produce a son. In an effort to avoid this shame and afford their
young daughters the same freedom as their male counterparts, families will dress their young
daughters as young boys and present these girls as their sons, until they reach puberty
(Nordberg). Afghanistan, while it has a greater female presence is government than the United
States, is still a largely developing nation. The government has little control in rural areas where
these archaic gender traditions are taking place (Nordberg). The country of Afghanistan was
largely progressing in the 20th century, but took a sharp decline for womens rights as a result of
the Talibans invasion of the country in the late 90s and early 2000s (Women in Afghanistan:
The Back Story). The women in the government are currently taking bold steps to break down
gender barriers in even the most remote areas of Afghanistan through the Gender Equality
Project (Gender Equality Project (GEP II). Women involved in the project have voted legislation

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into place to prevent the systematic legal discrimination of rape victims; they have also created
Womens Assistance Centres in all provinces (Gender Equality Project (GEP II).
Individuals struggle with the gender pay gap, no matter what side of the political
spectrum they happen to be on. According to the United States Department of Labor, the gender
pay gap has narrowed but has certainly not disappeared (Closing the Gender Wage Gap). While
discussing this issue: conservative television host, John Stossel, notes, after controlling for
occupation, experience, [and] other choices, women earn 95% as much as a man (Lott). In this
same episode, Stossel notes that among young people, women earn 8% more than men (Lott).
Closing the gender wage gap is not simply a liberal womens cause. The gender wage gap needs
to be closed on both sides; individuals performing the same task should be compensated equally.
As evidenced above, feminism is not about simply allowing women a better life, but it
allows for a more freeing environment for all. When signing up for selective service, individuals
are immediately struck by the exclusion of women from the draft. Under Reasons to Register
the United States Selective Service System notes that males are required by law to register
because Its what a mans got to do (Why Register?). This is the 21st century, yet the United
States government still feels that it is politically, socially, and morally acceptable to appropriate
masculinity and manhood with the military. This is blatant use of exclusive, sexist language.
Education is the first step to creating an equal global community. Basic education must
be available for those of all genders. Communities must also educate each other in how to
promote equal opportunity and do away with traditional patriarchal social constructs. Gender
Diversity education is an important step in eliminating the stigma around those who outside of
cisnormative identifies, for reducing this stigma will lead to a reduction in the targeting by law
enforcement of these individuals. Language education is important in reducing sexist language

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use and in turn promote language inclusivity, The next step towards gender equality is increased
representation. There needs to be an increase in women in positions of power, because the people
who determine the laws for 100% of the population should not be comprise of 45%.
Lastly, the global community needs legislation. The draft should not be mandatory for
only one gender. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg discussed this idea brilliantly
when in 2010 she said, I dont say womens rights - I say the constitutional principle of the
equal citizenship stature of men and women (Carmon and Knizhnik 70). The global community
will only find peace through feminism because it is only through feminism that all persons are in
one community.

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