I am not free while any woman is unfree, even when her shackles are very different from my own.Audre Lorde on feminism

I had a discussion with a male friend a few years ago about feminism. I remember discussing the topic with him because he told me feminism was not needed anymore. He told me that we have already arrived at gender equality because women have the same rights as men. That women have the same opportunities as men. And for this reason, among many others, is why the movement for female equality is unnecessary in today’s world.

Initially, I thought my friend was absurd. That there was most definitely still a need for gender equality. But what started off as a simple water-cooler conversation with my friend turned into a journey of fruitful debates with others who agreed with him. I started seeing more people agreeing that feminism is an old flame that needed to be extinguished. And I discovered that there has been an entire anti-feminism movement right under my nose.

The Definition Of Feminism

Before we talk about the anti-feminism movement and my response to it, let’s understand what feminism is. Simply put, feminism is about advocating for women’s rights with a focus on gender equality. It focuses on issues that affect women because they are often urgent and widespread.

This makes sense when you look back to first-wave feminism in which suffragettes fought for the right for women to vote. In second wave feminism women fought for equal representation and opportunities in the workplace. Nowadays with third-wave feminism, we are focused on reproductive rights, sexual exploitation and equal pay. It also addresses issues like sexual assault and the need for more women in positions of power.

Important Note

It is important to note that the perspective I just presented of first, second and third-wave feminism mainly relates to developed nations. This perspective does not consider countries in which women’s issues have not progressed as much.

Saudi Women 2 Drive (feminism)

LEt’s take Saudi Arabia for example. Women gained the right to drive cars as recently as 2018. They still need to have an official male guardian‘s permission to get married, travel or have a medical procedure. It is clear that feminism is on a completely different level in Saudi Arabia when compared to many other countries. This is why this argument needs to consider that your position on feminism will be defined largely by the country you live in or come from

The Anti-Feminism Movement

Now that we have an understanding of the essence of feminism, let’s take a look at these ‘anti-feminists‘. 

Lauren Southern - I don't need feminism

A particularly strong advocate for the anti-feminist movement is Lauren Southern. A few years ago her video entitled ‘Why I am not a Feminist’ went viral. The video currently has over a million views. It sparked a worldwide debate on the meaning of feminism and how it has turned into a movement against “true” gender equality. The crux of her argument is based on the premise that feminists aren’t fighting for equality because they remain silent on men’s issues, and I have to say I somewhat agree with her. 

Men’s Issues

There isn’t enough support for men’s issues such as imprisonment and prison conditions, and suicide and homicide rates. As well as being more likely to lose custody of children than women. Although these are hugely important issues, we can’t forget that just because some feminists are silent on these issues, doesn’t mean all are. In the United States, for example, feminists fought to change the federal definition of rape to include male victims. They also fought for the Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2003. They continue to fight to end sexual violence in the military. Feminists also fought for an end to gendered segregation at work and in school. Because of this, men can be nurses and primary school educators.

Now, as a counter-argument to Lauren’s rhetoric, I could offer you all the statistics in the book on women’s oppression in every country around the world. From the proven gender pay gap to the fact that women’s sexual and reproductive rights are constantly at risk by male lawmakers. But for the sake of argument, and the fact many of us are familiar with them, I would like to propose a different perspective on why feminism is still crucial even in 2023. And why it’s so much bigger and more complex than you think.

We Shouldn’t Underestimate The Power of Gender Micro Aggressions

As important as the facts and statistics of inequality are, we should never overlook the power that micro aggressions have on someone’s life. In a TEDxTalk from 2017, Paula Stone Williams discusses what it is like to live as a man and a woman. Paula transitioned from being a man to being a woman rather late in her life. She has seen very clearly what the experience of living as a male is like, versus living as a female, in the United States. She explains how she began to feel “stupid” becoming a woman because men would always mansplain to her. Paula felt angry because people consistently told her she was wrong, didn’t take her seriously, and diminished her voice simply because she was now a woman. The stories she detailed revolve around the unique hardships of experiencing gender micro aggressions.

According to Momentous Institute, “Gender microaggressions are small, seemingly innocuous comments that can pile up over time and affect a person’s sense of self and identity. These microaggressions can become so commonplace that we don’t even notice them”. From the “harmless” jokes in the locker room to the language we use to describe genders. It affects all of us on either a conscious or unconscious level. People tend to describe a man as a leader, whereas a woman is bossy. A man is smart and logical but a woman is overly emotional and hysterical. So, it’s no surprise that women have a large disadvantage when trying to obtain a leadership position, no matter what country they are in.

The late Kenyan Nobel peace laureate Wangari Maathai put it simply and well when she said “the higher you go, the fewer women there are”Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Gender Biases and Stereotypes: How They Shape Our Future

Another harmful problem in society is gender biases and stereotypes. Both of which can strongly influence both men’s and women’s lives. For instance, stereotypes about women’s abilities can affect how they perform on exams. In one study, when participants were informed that a math test showed gender differences, women did worse than men. However, when researches informed women that no difference existed, they scored the same as men. This phenomenon, known as ‘Stereotype Threat, contributes to ongoing gender gaps in academic performance.

Women in STEM

Girls pick up on these gender normative biases as early as six years old. In one experiment, girls and boys aged 6 were told a story about a person who is really, really smart. When asked who they thought the protagonist is, both girls and boys picked a male character. In a similar experiment, boys and girls aged 6 were asked if they wanted to play a game which was for people who are really, really smart. The boys wanted to play the game but the girls had decided that the game wasn’t for them. It is clear to see how growing up these biases can shape your life as an adult too. It may also be a strong contributing factor to the lack of opportunities for women to work in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fields.

The Ongoing Struggle for Equal Pay in 2023

Studies show clear gender barriers in STEM fields. In a double-blind study, science faculties rated job applications for a lab manager role without knowing the applicants’ gender. They found male names more competent and deserving of mentorship, offering them higher starting salaries, $30,000 for men versus $26,000 for women. Even though the applications with female names were identical.

In 2023, the World Economic Forum reported that a gender pay gap still exists. Women earn only 63 cents for every dollar men earn, impacting their financial security, retirement savings and overall economic empowerment.

Final Thoughts

Feminism is a movement that fights for women who are facing monumental odds. But it is also paving the way for gender inclusivity and equality that benefits society as a whole. Feminism involves supporting and empowering individuals, a need that persists even in 2023. We have made great global strides towards gender equality but that doesn’t mean we should slow down now. Inequalities persist in every country and society, emphasizing the ongoing necessity of feminism.

Goal number 5 of the united nations Sustainable Development Goals concerns gender equality. The UN aims to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls. But as of right now no country is on track to achieve this goal by 2030. And the implications of the pandemic are presenting an even bigger challenge for achieving this goal.

There Is a Way to Be Part of The Solution

In conclusion, 2023 reminds us that feminism remains crucial for achieving real gender equality. While we’ve made progress, gender differences persist in many parts of society. Feminism isn’t only about women’s rights; it demands a fair world for everyone, no matter their gender. Even in 2023, it keeps pushing for a better and more equal future.

We must shape a life without society’s expectations and subtle prejudices based on gender. Plus, we should actively fight institutionalized sexism and strive for equal opportunities and lives for all.

Get Your Journey Started!

At SPEAK, we stand for inclusivity and equality on all levels. Are you interested in being part of a multicultural community and learning a new language? Do you want to share your language and culture, by becoming a buddy? Start your journey at SPEAK!

If you’re interested in reading more about how prejudice, discrimination and stereotypes affect our society, then you may also like to read about stereotypes and how to overcome them.

Finally, starting a dialogue is one of the best places to start when it comes to addressing gender inequality. So please share your fruitful thoughts down below. I am also leaving a link below to an informative Instagram post. Maybe this post will get you started on your journey to becoming an ally to women and girls. We can all be changemakers, so let’s do this together!

6 Replies to “Why Feminism Is More Important Than Ever In 2023

  1. Absolutely loved reading your article and it became a discussion for our family walk. Very well written. Congratulations Jess look forward to reading more of your articles. Shared with my 17yr old daughter who also loved reading your article. Great work.

  2. Very well articulated article. I have asked my three daughters to find time and read this! We need to be affirmative and stand strong as women and show the world together we can do wonders. We are grand rising

  3. I think this was very informatif and i learned a lot from reading this i do think that here and there it was missing some information about the Male gender like with the study results, you used the math and science tests for An example but those are the exams men usually score better on than woman while woman usually score better on languages and all together usually have better grades in generale. But for the rest i thought it was very Well written and would love to read some more of these blogs. Also sorry if i didn’t write everything correct i am from Belgium and the auto correct can work in dutch.

  4. Your link to gender pay gap assumes that gender is the only reason for a pay gap. I didn’t check the paper thoroughly but it tries to apply a univariate analysis to a multivariate problem. You have to account for many more factors when predicting salary and not just gender which include type of job, country they live in etc.

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