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The ‘F’ word is alive and well

It is a common misconception that feminism is outdated, with some suggesting there is nothing left to accomplish. Women can vote, own property, and access birth control. What else do they need?

In short, women do not share equal standing with men in many ways, including social and economic equality. Political representation for women in the United States is not reflective of our populace, with women making up approximately one-fifth of congress despite being more than ½ of the represented population. The wage gap also remains a real problem, with women full-time workers making on average 79 cents for every dollar earned by men, and the average wage gap for women doing the same job as men currently sits at 3 percent.

Rape and sexual assault against women are also rampant issues. One in five women will be sexually assaulted while at college in the United States, and because of a culture that, despite proven statistics, paints many female survivors as attention-seeking liars rather than victims, an estimated 65 percent of rape cases go unreported. In reality only two to eight percent of rape accusations are false. Yet many police departments choose not to prioritize sexual assault cases when allocating resources, with tens of thousands of rape kits going untested each year.

In light of these facts, feminism is not irrelevant. It is being championed by a new generation, men and women alike, including popular stars such as Beyonce Knowles, Emma Watson and Amy Poehler.

In order to give women societally deserved status, we must be aware of the words we use. There are recent campaigns for gender equality sponsored by organizations such as the United Nations, and by corporations such as Google, to change old, bad habits such as saying, “you throw like a girl” or “you cry like a little girl”, and references to women when menstruating and the use of a word describing female anatomy as an insult. These societally ingrained slogans portray women as weak and enforce the stereotype that females are weaker or emotionally unstable.

Passed in 1972, Title IX — the federal law best known for its impact on high school and college athletics — also requires all entities receiving federal contracts to end discrimination on the basis of sex in hiring and employment. Wildly successful, this federal law was vigorously opposed.  Now we see its success in the legions of women athletes, among others. Katie Ledecky’s outstanding Olympic performance comes to mind.

Feminism is a movement for gender equality. Feminists believe women deserve equal opportunities, wages and treatment. The modern feminist movement is necessary because there is still more to achieve. Call yourself a feminist, an equalist, a women’s rights advocate.  In a nation with stated aspirations to equality, feminism is a real expression of that goal … embrace it!

Cecilia Petricone is an intern at the Office of the Community Lawyer. She is a graduate of Northwestern Regional High School and a freshman at Boston College.

Cady Stanton is an intern at the Office of the Community Lawyer. She is a graduate of The Hotchkiss School and a freshman at Georgetown University.

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