Women’s rights and dignity should not be a partisan question.
“You know I’m automatically attracted to beautiful [women] — I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it, you can do anything. Grab them by the…”
In the infamous quote from the tape heard around the world, Donald Trump revealed what the right is willing to overlook to win an election. With these words fresh in their minds, many GOP congressmen defended him, many publications spun for him and many Americans traveled to their polling place and cast their vote for him. Why? I’m still not sure.
I am, however, sure that this revealed something to me and many other women who share my conservative bent. It revealed to us that the party we championed for so many years was not willing to champion us. It revealed that the men we had defended on charges of sexism probably didn’t deserve our breath. It revealed that the right — and the nation at large — has a problem.
Trump is not the extent of the problem. It is much worse than one charlatan. This is a far-reaching and deep-seated sickness that has seemingly permeated each and every aspect of our daily lives. If you’ve existed as a woman with opinions on social media, you probably have experience with some amount of disgusting behavior from men. Maybe they told you to get back in the kitchen. Maybe they told you your existence is all the evidence needed to overturn the 19th amendment. Maybe it was worse and they threatened you with physical or sexual violence.
Beyond the borders of the internet, the outlook is even more grim. This year alone, Roger Ailes, Bill O’Reilly, Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, Roy Moore, Louis C.K. and what seems sure to be more men of prominence have had their disgusting and predatory behavior brought into the revealing light of day. So, although revelations about Trump’s sexual misconduct were just the beginning in a long line of heart-breaking accounts, they also appear to have served as a catalyst that struck a chord with women who were determined they wouldn’t stand for this any longer.
This year is shaping up to be as enlightening as it is disturbing as we peel back the layers to discover the sheer magnitude of this issue. However, one thing has become abundantly clear to me. We need feminism. That’s right. We *need* it.
A Necessary Solution to Embrace
I know that will probably be a jarring sentence for some. In my experience as a woman with a conservative bent, the right’s treatment of the word “feminism” is similar to that of Lord Voldemort: you can only speak it in hushed tones or something bad will surely happen. I have read my fair share of opinion pieces decrying feminism as an ideology that has been lost to left-wing extremists, saying women have equal rights under the law and can therefore have no further use for it. Although there are grains of truth to this and women have made significant progress, feminism is nowhere near being made redundant.
So why am I so fond of the “f-word” anyway?
Feminism, noun, the theory of the political, economic and social equality of the sexes.
This is the simple definition for a complex set of ideas that span across many decades. Feminism has a particular focus on securing equality for women, but is also based in ideas of racial equality, among others. In my ideal world, everyone would find that definition rather reasonable. Men and women being treated with the same respect and dignity seems pretty good to me, but I’ve learned many times over that I do not live in my ideal world.
The idea, however simple, becomes somewhat complicated when applied to the real world. Like any other set of ideas, there are various derivations and forms that use the moniker. Just as conservatives and liberals argue amongst themselves about which applications of their ideas is best, so do feminists. As such, my practical definition of feminism may vary slightly from the next person, but the underlying theme remains.
As it stands, the work of feminists is far from complete. Women as a whole have not received anything resembling equal dignity in politics, business, education — you name it — and feminists, of every age, culture, religion and political affiliation are here to say, “We will not stand for it any longer.”
If there has ever been a need for feminism and feminists, it is now. For the overwhelming number of women coming forward, there has been an equally, and sometimes disproportionately, underwhelming response. I look around in a time that is supposedly a golden age for women to see capitulation and sometimes outright defense of sexual predators.
“What was she wearing?”
“How much alcohol was involved?”
“Why did she put herself in that situation?”
“Why didn’t she come forward sooner?”
“Well, he didn’t actually *rape* her.”
So no, we are not anywhere near the finish line.
In the disparity between what has been and what should be lies the necessity of feminism — not as a tool to hate men or promote a particular political agenda, but as an all-encompassing pressure to do right by the human beings who make up more than half of our population.
Until women can express an opinion online without being told to go make a sandwich, we need feminism. Until women feel safe walking across a college campus or through a parking garage, we need feminism. Until women who have experienced the earth-shattering trauma of sexual abuse can come forward knowing they will be believed, we need feminism. Until survivors are no longer pilloried with skepticism for telling their stories, we need feminism.
Until I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that a man who admitted to sexual assault will not make it to the highest office in the land, we NEED feminism. And as many strong survivors continue to come forward, I hope we can accept the necessity of feminism, not only as a way to right wrongs of the past, but as a way to reveal potential we didn’t see before, to give voice to new leaders and to lift us all up to a more prosperous future.