Why feminism is NOT a thing of the past

For a long time I used to avoid telling people I was a feminist out of fear. I was afraid of being associated with the man-hating extremists that much of social media seems to consider feminist. I would see nasty YouTube comments on sexual assault story videos asking what she thought was going to happen if she dressed that way and drank. I would hear sly comments from friends about female celebrities, saying they are skanky or slutty or just plain disgusting for having natural things like cellulite and stretch marks. I didn't want them to think of me as an overly-sensitive feminist who couldn’t take a joke when they told me to “go back to the kitchen,” or that I was being pissy because I “wasn’t getting enough D” or “was on my period.”

Now as an open feminist, I can’t imagine why I would ever hide that part of myself when there are statistics that show that one in six American women have been victim to attempted or completed rape in their lifetime, and that 31 states give parental rights to rapists. It’s easy to believe that we don’t need feminism when our daily encounters of sexism could be considered small and trivial, like being catcalled and pretending you didn’t hear it.

We’ve become accustomed to the way women are expected to look, as well as the way people are allowed to sit and judge. Because sexism is more passive than previously encountered in the past, some people feel that feminism is no longer needed. But these small instances lead to a bigger problem, and that bigger problem is the mindset that women are somehow lesser individuals.  

Recently, I’ve encountered a number of individuals who believe that making jokes about women and other individuals who experience prejudices is somehow “funny.” These jokes don’t come from a place of passion, or belief, but rather a place of ignorance. Once they notice I’m actually offended, or when they are straight up called out for it, they usually respond with “you know I’m only joking right?” It’s hard not to sound like an angry feminist when that’s exactly how their comments make you feel.

Feminism is still needed because we live in a rape culture society where we teach individuals how to avoid being raped rather than teaching people not to rape. On top of that, social media gives us mixed messages on how women should look and behave. On one account, advertisements further sexualize women, and on the other women are called out for being sluts when they follow these ideals set out by men.

At the end of the day, feminism isn’t about telling women that they have to be or act a specific way, it’s about giving them the freedom and empowering them to be able to do whatever they want to do: whether that means being an engineer, a firefighter, a stay at home mom, or anything in between.