Do We Need Feminism?

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Saad Mahmood, SlideShare, 2016.

This would not doubt prove to be a divisive question. It is true that the rights of women have come a very long way in the past century. Feminism as feminist scholars define it, after all, is “about equality, about creating a world where we can all receive the same treatment, regardless of gender” (1). Feminism looks to challenge the system of patriarchy that affirms the superiority of men, and hopes to achieve political, economic, and social rights for women (2). However, has such a world been realized? Well, though progress has no doubt been made, not really, according to many feminists.

Globally women hold just 24% of leadership roles in businesses meaning leadership power is overwhelmingly placed in male hands (2). Women in leadership roles in North America stands at only 22% while Japan and Germany represent the lowest of countries examined with just 7% and 15% respectively. The highest countries are Russia (45%), Philippines (39%), and Lithuania (39%). In the UK women representation in leadership roles has dropped slightly from 22% in 2015 to 21% in 2016. Dina Medland, a prominent contributor to Forbes, explains that “Almost four in ten businesses in G7 countries have no women in senior management positions. Globally, the proportion of senior business roles held by women stands at 24%, up slightly from 22% in 2015. However, this minor uplift has coincided with an increase in the percentage of firms with no women in senior management, at 33% in 2016 compared to 32% last year” (3). It is also important to observe that a number of feminist commentators have argued that within the US, women make an average of 78 cents to every dollar earned by a man for doing the exact same job (4) (5). Women also represent less than 20% of the United States Congress (6i) while in the UK only 19% of the MP’s are women (6ii).

Sexual violence against women and children is also very high (7). For instance, in the United States a woman is raped every two minutes, and between 9 and 32% of women claim to be victims of sexual abuse and/or assault during their childhood (8). Some 33% of women in Washington State alone have been sexually assaulted in their lifetime (9). Female Genital Mutilation (FMG) is also cited as a big factor for why we need feminism. FGM is the act of cutting off and restitching female genitals to prevent pleasurable sex. It can happen to girls as young as 5 months old, and is still practiced in 29 countries (10). Globally the WHO estimates that about 35% of women have experienced either physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence in their lifetime (11).

Women and girls living in developing nations also lack basic human rights. According to the United Nations Population Fund, an organization that works to protect reproductive rights and support equality in developing countries, women “are still much more likely than men to be poor and illiterate. They have less access to property ownership, credit, training and employment. They are far less likely than men to be politically active and far more likely to be victims of domestic violence” (12). Roughly two-thirds of the 774 million illiterate people in the world are female (13), and women make up 60% of the world’s poorest people (14). Every year some 20.9 million adults and children are bought and sold worldwide into commercial sexual servitude, forced labour and bonded labour (15). Of this number women and girls make up 98% of victims of trafficking for sexual exploitation. Trafficking women and children for sexual exploitation has been cited as the fastest growing criminal enterprise in the world (16).

As feminists have observed, these are all issues that millions and millions of human beings are experiencing simply because they were born female. Thus, though positive steps have been made, we are still a far distance from achieving gender equality. To ever achieve gender equality we need to work collectively, as Ban Ki-moon, the former Secretary-General of the United Nations, says, “Achieving gender equality requires the engagement of women and men, girls and boys. It is everyone’s responsibility” (17).

See why I am a feminist here.

References.

1. Hall, C. 2016. This is why we Still Need Feminism. Available.

2. Medland, D. 2016. Today’s Gender Reality In Statistics, Or Making Leadership Attractive To Women. Available.

3. Medland, D. 2016. Ibid.

4. AAUW. 2017. The Simple Truth about the Gender Pay Gap. Available.

5. Gray, E. 2015. This Map Of America Shows Our Equal Pay Failures. Available,

6i. Rutgers Eagleton Institute of Politics. Current Numbers. Available.

6ii. London Feminist Network. Why women only? Available.

7. Washington Coalition of Sexual Assault Programs. How often does it happen? Available.

8. Douglas, E., & Finkelhor, D. 2005. Childhood Sexual Abuse Fact Sheet. Available.

9. Office of Crimes Victims Advocacy. Sexual Assault Experiences and Perceptions… Available.

10. Cavanagh, C. 2014. Why We Still Need Feminism. Available.

11. World Health Organization. 2016. Violence against women. Available.

12. United Nations Population Fund. Gender equality. Available.

13. UNESCO. 2013. Girls’ Education – the Facts. Available.

14. United Nations Development Program. Gender Equality and UNDP. Available.

15. Equality Now. Trafficking FAQ. Available.

16. Hill, R., & Rodriguez, A. 2011. FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin: Human Sex Trafficking. Available.

17. United Nations Secretary-General. 2014. Secretary-General’s remarks… Available.

 

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