Women's History Month should include discussion of feminism

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Behind every great man is a woman who makes 78 percent as much as him. This fact, along with other stories of many types of sexism told by women and men alike, shows exactly why in 2015, feminism is still very necessary. As Women’s History Month begins to wrap up, everyone, male and female, should claim the title “feminist.”

March is Women’s History Month, but this fact doesn’t seem to be as widely celebrated or as well known as other historic months — perhaps not specifically due to devaluation of women but a lack of emphasis on women’s empowerment. Feminism and the fight for women’s rights have been going on for centuries, but they seem to have hit a plateau with the complacency present in our generation. Gaining the right to vote and own property as well as the ability to enter positions of power in the workplace are powerful rights obtained by those before us; however, the fight for gender equality isn’t over.

Even after women were integrated into previously male-dominated workplaces, they continue to hit structural barriers. Often, women get placed in lower rungs of careers than men or, as sociologists have noted, positions requiring skills traditionally associated with “women’s work,” like care and keeping of the company rather than the actual work to progress it. Underlying this is an inherent gender bias that suggests that, since men and women are biologically different, they should take different places within a company — keeping men in positions of power and women underneath them.

Feminism affects college students directly as soon we enter the real world and the workforce, where gender discrimination and bias have real consequences for women. Positions of power and specific fields have historically been dominated by older, white males. Even today, women only make up 4.8 percent of S&P 500 CEOs — studies show the old boys’ club often, perhaps unintentionally, maintains the status quo by promoting from within. Our generation has more power than ever to shatter the glass ceiling.

Part of the issue with people refusing to label themselves as feminists lies in the bra-burning, man-hating stereotypes associated with the label. The “f-word” is often portrayed as a negative thing, rather than an empowering one. The truth is, feminism simply means believing in the equality of men, women and often non-gender-conforming individuals. It comes in all forms — varying between cultures, countries and even from person to person.  

The campus Gender and Sexuality Center and ally organizations aim to promote feminist ideals within the UT and Austin community as well. The center’s Feminist Action Project holds meetings, conferences and discussions surrounding female and related intersectional issues, opening the eyes of those who believe society has reached a point of equality.

“A lot of people think that sexism is somehow over — there’s a lot of work we still need to do,” said Liz Elsen, program and outreach coordinator at the Gender and Sexuality Center. 

Ilse Muñoz, a member of the Feminist Action Project, agrees.

“There are many ways that women, men and nonbinary people from all backgrounds and identities are oppressed by patriarchy that we still need to overcome,” Muñoz said. “They’re all included in the feminist community, and we should all care about the lives of others to make the world a better place.”

To be a feminist, or even to believe in gender equality, makes things better for everyone. Not only does it help to eliminate harmful stereotypes depicting women as inferior, but it also helps break down the hegemonic masculinity that men are expected to uphold and criticized for defying. It allows personal choice, individuality and the right to be yourself without being compared to what a specific gender “should” be. Feminism, in the simplest of explanations, is a step toward social freedom for all. Feminism, in addition to group solidarity, aims to tighten the gap between those at the top of the social ladder, those at the bottom and everyone in between. 

Griffin is a journalism freshman from Houston. Follow Griffin on Twitter @JazmynAlynn.