What feminism means for the majority; and why we need to promote the correct terminology for what we
Feminism has a bad rep. This is a reality that must be understood to a novice feminist trying to promote the philosophy to their unknowing contemporaries and elders. In the 21st century, the future is no longer just composed of the millennials; the future is Gen Z, and what they will accomplish. For the feminists of Gen Z, that will be exposing the feminism that empowers women to a degree of equal rights; the one that appeals to all out of rationality, in effect sparking the movement with support from everyone.
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What is this mix of New and Liberal Feminism?
If you mention the word 'feminism' in some public places these days, there’s a good chance you’ll get some looks. These looks can come from a variety of people: old people who think liberals (which is the group that most people assume feminists fall under) are just whiny millennials; millennial conservatives who think liberals (again because most will assume they always go hand in hand) are the downfall of this society with their outlandish and offensive requests; and then the rest who don’t know enough to have an opinion but have heard enough to know of the term under a negative connotation - one example: in the United States, where the lovely Kellyanne Conway referred to feminism as "anti-male". “Feminism? The audacity of these young folks to still be promoting such a rude anti-male concept!” they’ll say. They jump to the assumption that 'feminism' is equal to the stereotypical perception of feminism, yet it’s actually the most rational and agreeable philosophy to be discussed between a feminist and a misinformed non-feminist.
New Feminism is the sector of feminism that promotes both genders co-existing in a state of equality while still acknowledging physical differences in between. The philosophy surrounds the idea of the right to do anything, but not the requirement to, naturally and structurally. This means that if a woman wants to have a child and family, it is accepted; they don't have to, but they have the ability to and that is acknowledged. Not to say that other forms of feminism don’t support motherhood and more emotionally based duties, but New Feminism makes it a point to mention these ideals. New Feminism finds that its utopia would be where the only difference between man and woman has to do with biology, and that these differences do not alter the social, political or economic aspects or perceptions of society, but are still acknowledged in the scheme of life. It’s naive to expect a future where different physical attributes and capabilities go ignored, but it isn’t naive to expect a future where these attributes have little effect on what is expected of both genders in a more intellectual sense.
For most of Generation Z, the supporters of 'feminism' have ideals that ultimately fall under aspirations for equality socially, politically, and economically, also known as Liberal Feminism. The main goal of Liberal Feminism can be limited to a single word: equality. Equality no matter the measures taken to achieve it. It’s all about the choice and option. In New York State, women have the right to walk around topless as men do; a teacher who asked his class if they would use this right received a negative response, but the point is that they have the option. It is at this moment that some will say “if one doesn’t execute their new rights, what did they fight for?” The answer is freedom and choice, which works as the building blocks for the equality Liberal Feminists hope to eventually achieve. The people asking these questions are the non-proactive ones, Neutrogena would frown. In defeating certain existing walls dividing women and men socially, politically, and economically, what happens in the moment is not as big of a deal as the ripple effect that it sparks. It’s all about small steps; by sparking a ripple effect, women in the 21st century create an even stronger foundation and assist building the movement which will result in widespread equality to be achieved by future feminists.
The goals of feminism in the 21st century are realistic; and is basically a combination of New Feminism and Liberal Feminism, the ratios of the two varying on the person. This widespread form of feminism has a rational appeal in not neglecting the truth that there are physical differences between men and women, whilst promoting the fact that men and women have the same capabilities in all other aspects of life, unaffected by their these biological distinctions. Since it makes sense, it appeals to more; and when it appeals to more, it makes a change. The problem comes when the stereotypical view of feminism makes the cause less effective out of a lack of support. Feminism in previous generations only promoted women’s rights; there were fewer rules as to where it began or ended, giving an invasive stigma to the term 'feminism'. The majority of today’s feminists have rational goals, making the philosophy less threatening to the public. We don’t hate our fathers or our brothers, we just want to have a completely equal opportunity to succeed in the way that they would be able to. We live in a society where change doesn’t happen unless people are proactive, whether it’s liked or not. This non-threatening form of feminism that represents the majority has to become the stereotypical feminism, to achieve full support for the movement.
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Why effective action will only come with the establishment of 21st century majority feminism as the framework of a 'stereotypical feminist'
There is no doubt that in this 21st century world, gender equality has still yet to be reached. Equality among all different types of humans is necessary for human rights; and in the case of feminism, we specify human rights on the type of human that is female. People don’t like feminism because it has had its minuscule moments of being anti-male, or promoting the idea of a complete matriarchy among other unpopular opinions; but the feminism that the majority support isn’t as vague as the veil of feminism that covers the radicals and rationals alike. Feminists today asks for a fair and equal society. This being said, the ideas of modern (majority) feminists have not caught on to the public as what 'feminism' is enough for it to overcome the opinions that other people already have; those that have been tainted by the occasional extreme (in a negative sense) strides taken in the name of feminism.
To reach gender equality, everyone must come to the conclusion that asking for an equal society isn’t absurd, but morally correct. To get to this point, many people must change their opinions. Opinions are what make us who we are, but if they come from false interpretations, such as the media's portrayal of feminists as 'feminazis', are they fair to keep? It’s kind of like the saying “if it bleeds it reads”; people don’t want to hear about the fundamental ideas feminists fight for, they want to hear about a feminist who made a huge scene over a man making a sexist comment. It’s easier to paint these movements as nonsense or even offensive, if only the more energized displays of the movement are exploited. It is these opinions built on inaccurate assumptions for foundations, that keeps gender inequality alive. It is for this reason that the public who were misinformed must be educated on who the majority is, and the majority must promote the truth - that is the only real differences between men and women are physical, and these physical differences do not determine the capabilities in any other aspects between men and women.
The social, political, and economic differences between men and women don’t get the attention they need from influential people, because for them the differences are less obvious, or they give people in power their power. The non-influential people in the world, however, suffer immensely as a result of these inequalities, these injustices. Women ask not to be catcalled as they wouldn’t catcall men; they ask to not be objectified; they ask to not be assumed as a weaker option in comparison to a man. They ask for the same pay, the same occupational amenities and rights that men receive at their respective positions. Women ask for assistance from governmental organizations, other women, and men in promoting these just requests.
Via reframing the 'stereotypical feminist' to be the equality seeking women that a feminist actually is, there is a possibility of a shift into a fair society in the future. When a request makes sense rationally, people are more likely to be accepting of it and sometimes proactive in making it happen; this world needs more people to understand how feminism is a construct that should be aided in growing. While stereotypes tarnish the movement, an action such as providing and popularizing a term that represents what feminism really is must be taken. With technology and the media, everything moves ten times faster, attention spans are ten times shorter, and there is a small window to get any mention of feminism into the minds of the public. It is necessary now more than ever to promote the idea of what the majority of feminists truly stand for. When the widespread interpretation of 'feminism' is simply a movement for equality, society will have taken a large jump towards reaching gender equality.
Avery was born in New York City and has lived there her entire life. She is the head of her school’s Model United Nations club and an active member of FLAG, a gender equality club, the Student Improvement Team, and Save the Children. In her free time, she enjoys painting, playing classical guitar, and listening to music. Within her community, she works on educating her peers on vital issues that society faces today. Her main goals are to promote female empowerment, to reach gender equality and childhood education on an international scale. It is Avery’s hope that her efforts will stimulate awareness and action among her contemporaries to achieve these goals.