If you are a woman in the United States, you are often times going to receive less respect than you deserve and less respect than your male counterpart. Sometimes this will be openly expressed to you because with the pay gap nearing 34% in some states, you will lose tens, if not hundreds of thousands of dollars to a male in the same position of you, entirely on the basis of gender. As you get older, that pay gap will get even worse. In your workplace, you will find that if you are in a position to make decisions and command respect, many will call you “bossy” or a “bitch,” while a man doing the same thing will be deemed a leader. You will be taught to have a guy with you at night when walking places because men respect other men. This idea becomes unconsciously engrained in you as it becomes natural for you to tell a guy who is bothering you at a bar that you have boyfriend instead of truth that you are not interested, because he will respect that there’s another man around, rather than your own opinion, which could insight anger. When you go jogging, you will pile on multiple sports bras and a loose t-shirt but even then will catch uncomfortable glances and cat calls, because you are not given the respect of a human being, but that of a zoo animal.
If you are a woman in the United States, there are a lot of people who do not value you as a human being. Your worth is often times measured by your appearance and purity. Rather than being valued as a person, you are valued on particular qualities. Many of you will grow up being taught, either for religious or social reasons, that your ability or willingness to remain “pure” makes you more eligible for marriage and more worthy in the eyes of others. You are expected to remain attractive and appealing at a young age. You will be burdened early on with the expectation to be beautiful. Anorexia is the 3rd most common chronic illness in adolescents. By age 13, 80% of girls have already tried to lose weight. To many, these qualities measure your worth. Instead of focussing on school or character development, girls are told to also focus on an unattainable standard of physical attractiveness. Your “hotness” and virginity are commodities to be traded and standards of measurement. One day, as your body changes or you make any sexual decision, you will innately feel as though your value has dropped. It is because you are taught your value is contingent upon your body and what you do or do not do with it and how it looks. This concept, along with issues like sex trafficking and objectification of women, leads to a world where women themselves are commodities to be owned, traded and used.
If you are a woman in the United States, your gender is an insult. Boys will be taught not to be “sissies” or “girls” about things. Teenage boys will be taught not be “little bitches” or many other terrible and vulgar terms pertaining to the female body. They are told to "man up." Girls will be taught not be bitches and numerous other gendered and offensive words. Think about the terrible words we call each other. All of them are words about women. Little girls are not condemned for being a tomboys but fathers fear even a remotely feminine son. The worst thing that someone can be, either male or female, is a female.
If you are a woman in the United States, you are taught dislike your fellow females. You are taught that women are mean and dramatic. In junior high, girls will fight with other girls, all the while trying to impress boys. You learn not to work together, but to compete against each other. Women are not to be collaborators but competitors. You will want to identify as a "guy's girl" because other girls are so "bitchy," mean, or fake. We use words to put each other down that insult our own gender. Instead of working together, we work against each other, making it impossible to get ahead. We are taught early on that that is simply the way it is supposed to be.
If you are a woman in the United States, you have little to no say over what happens to your own body. While assault is a lingering threat that takes from control from you, you lack control in many other ways. Of the people voting on your reproductive rights, right to earn equal pay and many more bills concerning the rights of women, only 10% are actually women. If you are assaulted, 26 states will require a waiting period for you to have an abortion if that is what you want. In 31 states, a rapist is allowed to sue for custody rights. Your body is a political battleground. It is a public matter. In 2014, there were 468 proposed bills concerning women’s bodies and the rights concerned with them. In all of history, there have not been any concerning the bodies of men. People are legislating your body and most of them are not even women.
For those of you women who not identify as feminists, making it a point to clarify that, or do not believe you need feminism, I want you to understand a few things. You need to understand the disservice you are doing to not only yourself, but to fellow females everywhere. This has nothing to do with hating men or believing you are better than the opposite sex. It is about believing you deserve equal opportunity and treatment because you are a human, rather than discrimination because you are a female. You may think these women are just jaded or angry, but you are wrong. Their eyes are just open. One day someone will discriminate against you, hurt you or crush all sense of equality on the basis that you were born female. It is then that your eyes will be open also. It is then you will no longer slander feminism. One day you will realize that you need it. It is then that you will like it. You are not equal and there are people who may not want you to ever be. It is ugly and mean. But it is the truth. It is dreadful. So when I lay awake at night and wonder how we are still at this point, I realize that it is because we are not all working together. I realize that it is because we need more men advocating and we certainly have to have all women advocating for women. The problem is, there are those who do not believe feminism is important or that they need it. They do not align with it and sometimes even condemn it. It causes the system to fail for all of us. For those of you who believe you do not need it or have a misconception about what it is or what it means, understand that you are hurting your fellow sisters, mothers and friends. You are hurting us all. The truth is, the fact that we can not all stand together, as women, on a common ground, is further evidence for the need for feminism. The fact that we are divided is devastating. I ask you, do your research, listen, ask question...learn. As I hear young women in my classes clarifying that they are not feminists, often times in the same way you would explain you are not racist, as if feminist is a dirty word, my heart breaks, and I feel one step further from reaching equality on the basis that I am a human being and an American citizen. If you are a woman in the United States, you do need feminism.