The sentiment that feminism is unnecessary in today’s society is a disturbing one, especially when so many facets of that society are geared in some way to the oppression and repression of women, to the point that it has become normal. This is more of an introduction than anything: there will be far more in depth coverage of all the facets of this very serious problem. Domestic violence statistics, the link to homophobia, the continuous attempts at infringement on women’s right to do what they wish with their own bodies, the double standard of sexuality…the list goes on. It can all be gathered in one umbrella term: rape culture. Our society is steeped in it (see http://www.huffingtonpost.com/news/steubenville-rape-case and other cases). We teach our boys that they have a right to harass women, that they have to be macho and take control. We teach our girls that they need to be wallflowers, always considering their attractiveness to the male half of society: they need to dress for them, put on makeup for them, walk for them, talk for them, think for them. We teach girls they need to cover up: that boys cannot control their impulses. The stereotype of a “red blooded American male” is often brought up by the American Republican (conservative) party as the reason for their victim blaming: that he absolutely cannot control himself if a woman wears something revealing. The idea of women as objects, passive, easily controlled, submissive sources of titillation for males is antique and obsolete, but is somehow still accepted as canon.
Our society has ingrained this idea into our collective minds so well that even women are advocates for this kind of culture. Mothers who pride themselves on being “good parents” freak out when their daughters go out wearing short shorts, or crop tops. They fret over push up bras and high heels. Why? Because they fear it will attract inappropriate attention from men, who, according to societal strictures, cannot be expected to control themselves when confronted with preteen to teenage sexuality. They must cover up! The exposure of flesh is unacceptable, because men have no control. This brings up the major problem of victim blaming, something highlighted in the recent Steubenville Ohio rape case, and, to a lesser extent, in the case of Melissa Nelson and her former employer Dr. James Knight. (http://houston.culturemap.com/news/city_life/07-16-13-firing-a-woman-for-being-too-attractive-and-irresistible-is-perfectly-legal-only-in-iowa/) You may recall a similar case in which a female business banker was fired because she was “too distracting” (http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/debrahlee-lorenzana-sues-citigroup-claims-bank-fired-sexy-article-1.178086)
Yet somehow these creatures with no control over themselves when it comes to women’s bodies have control over our entire world, with very few exceptions. The “record high” of female CEOs controlling Fortune 500 Companies in 2011 was 18. That that was the record high just two years ago is pathetic. (http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/money/companies/management/story/2011-10-26/women-ceos-fortune-500-companies/50933224/1) We pride ourselves on being an advanced civilisation, we call our era the ‘Post Modern Age’. Yet our politics and our business remain predominantly male, while our female businesspeople and politicians are constantly criticised for their looks, their age, the way they dress, their mothering skills, everything but their ability and success in their career of choice. They are often labelled as bitches (the conservative stance on Hilary Clinton, anyone?) because they do not sit comfortably with male stereotypes and expectations. We have taught our men to feel emasculated when a women sits on the same board as they do, when a woman does her job as well as they do theirs. So we come up with the idea that women should not be allowed to hold that much power because we are fragile and delicate, unstable, prone to mood swings, etc: not suited for big responsibility. We should stay in the kitchen and have babies and raise them (which, by the way, is one of the biggest responsibilities on earth), out of harm’s way, and let the men do the talking.
I for one have a problem with this worldview. I am a woman. I have a mind and identity of my own. I am not a convenience. And I refuse to be corralled into the roles of cook, mother, and sex object. This is why feminism is necessary today: so that this generation of girls and women and those to come can be free to be, do, and say what they like, without fear of repercussion and with a guarantee that they are equal citizens under the law.