Feminism isn’t a bad word

Ashley Sysyn, Contributing Writer

To some, “feminism” is a scary, embarrassing word in today’s society. It’s associated with man-hating, bra-burning, matriarch-advocating, unfeminine females. In fact, “feminist” was on TIME’s list of words to ban in 2015. Pat Robertson infamously dubbed feminism to be, a socialist, anti-family political movement that encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism, and become lesbians.”

Most people today would not go to such an extreme. They will, however, claim that men and women are already equal in the eyes of society. They still won’t take seriously men and women are still not on equal ground.

For example, the wage gap is still a problem in today’s work force.  On average, white women earn 77 cents to the white man’s dollar. African-American women earn 70 cents, and Hispanic women suffer even more, earning only 54 cents per men’s dollar. America has the widest reported wage gap at 36%, according to NBC. (Sweden, for those wondering, has the lowest, at 4%). Frankly, this isn’t surprising, considering how women are portrayed in the media.

This discrepancy is seen even with women in positions of power and authority- though they are few in number, as women only make up 20% of Congress, and only 35 out of 2,354 governors have been female. Nancy Pelosi has been on the cover of zero national weekly magazines in her four years serving as the (first female) Speaker of the House. The man that came after her, current Speaker John Boehner was on the cover of both TIME and Newsweek, “before he even got his hands on a gavel,” says Washington Post writer Karen Tumulty. Boehner was on five major magazine covers in less than a month. Pelosi was not.

Women  face sexism no matter how they behave in the public sphere, as shown by the misogyny directed towards both Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin in the media. Clinton, who ran with a, “masculine toughness” according to Anne Kornblut of the Washington Post, was called “a tank, a scold, a lousy mother, a lesbian…Hecklers would call on her to iron their shirts,” ultimately commanding her to fit their idea of femininity. Sarah Palin, on the other hand, ran while deliberately being as feminine as possible. She was called a “caribou Barbie”, condemned for having a career and a newborn, and conservative male commentators seemed to only focus on her appearance.

They can’t win, and if women who help run the country can’t win, then who can?

Certainly not the average women, the ones not in politics or movies, but who still get judged. They get judged for their body types, their weight and their body hair. They’re forever being compared to the women that are regulars in magazines and on television, who have photoshop and professional makeup artists to assist their every move. Victoria’s Secret launched a ‘Love My Body’ campaign, way back in 2010. Every model in the ad is conventionally attractive, skinny, photoshopped. In 2004, Dove launched a “Real Beauty” campaign, in which all women portrayed are of more average sizes. The Internet backlash comparing the two is fervent, with people insulting both campaigns. Those who favor Victoria’s Secret’s models call the opposition “obese women who don’t care enough about their health.” The people on the opposite side of the argument resort to calling the VS models “disgusting anorexics who should eat a sandwich.” A woman of any size is going to meet criticism from all different kinds of people.

The influence of the media’s depiction is widespread.  “This problem is here in Rockaway, too. It’s everywhere. I feel bad for the kids that have to grow up seeing these kinds of things on T.V or in magazines or online,” said Alexandria Drewes, a junior at Morris Hills. “The purpose of feminism is to make men and women equal in every way that we can, and I personally think that everyone should be a feminist.”