I am a feminist.

I believe in feminism and believe it is necessary and useful for our society.

“Feminism” is a word that became an epithet for a while there (and still is to some), a word spat instead of spoken, a word that needed to be (and is being) ‘reclaimed.’ It is also an essential concept to modern society.

Feminism is, as Emma Watson (United Nations Goodwill Ambassador and HeForShe Campaign spokesperson) defines it: “the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities. It is the theory of the political, economic and social equality of the sexes”. Teresa Younger, CEO of the Ms. Foundation, defines it similarly, as: “the belief that men and women should have equal social, political, and economic rights and opportunities.” (and there’s obviously a gender-binary inherent in those definitions that is potentially problematic – a more inclusive phrasing might be substituting “all genders” for the phrase “men and women”)

Some push back on that definition though, saying “If feminism is about equality, why not call it ‘equalism’ (or the something similar)?” or “If feminism is seeking equality for women, then ‘meninism’ is a necessary component to advocate for the male side of the equation.”

My rebuttal to that line of thought is the reason I am a feminist: I believe in equality. I believe in equality and right now the scales are unequal, most often to the harm of non-men. If equality means balancing those scales, then equality means advocating for non-men. Simple as that.

The more complex reason?

I am a feminist because we introduce a critical weakness to our society if we undervalue half of our population. To again borrow the words of Teresa Younger, feminism is “about equality for both men and women and a playing field that respects the voices of women. True equality, true feminism is recognition of the dynamics that each person brings to the table.” Leaving half of our societal resources underutilized, disrespected, and ignored is a gross error.

What does that error look like?

It looks like the lack of female voices in the workplace. As of 2009, only 24% of CEOs in the United States were women. As of this April, there were only 23 female CEOs at S&P 500 companies (4.6%) and only 14.2% of the top 5 leadership positions at those companies were filed by women.

The 114th Congress currently governs in Washington. Of the 435 members of the House of Representatives, only 19.3% (84) are women. In the Senate, there are 20 women and 80 men. In Hollywood, only 17 of the 250 top-grossing films of 2014 were directed by women (6.8%). In the five years from 2009-2013, only 4.7% of major studio films were directed by women.

That’s a severe lack of female voices in business, in government, in media. If female voices were water, the institutions that shape our society would be deserts.

Some may contend that women are more likely than men to prioritize things other than career and thus less likely to advance to the higher rungs of these fields. One, that gender disparity seems to be less than is often believed (if it even exists). Two, even if real, the systemic issues (e.g., entrenched attitudes) are much more significant. And three, that still wouldn’t explain the issues I just mentioned when discussing the highest levels of influence.

I personally don’t find it a compelling argument that there aren’t 250 women in the US Population (of 318.9m and counting) determined to and capable of running an S&P 500 corporation. That there aren’t 268 women in the country willing to make the sacrifices necessary to become members of the House and Senate. That there aren’t 125 women ready, willing, and able to helm major motion pictures. One is free to make that argument, but I personally find it extremely unconvincing (especially in light of all the evidence saying it’s about systematic institutional inequality).

And everything I just mentioned is only to speak of the United States – the inequality described is often much worse globally. As a global society we are even more deeply entrenched in this error.

Diminishing One Diminishes All

I’ll finish on a more philosophical note. There may be no more fundamental harm and no more injustice more grievous than inequality. It is a blow against our essential humanity. For an individual or institution to say (explicitly or implicitly) that one person is less than another isn’t just a harm against that person, it’s a harm against every member of the human race.

Right now, we live in a global system that privileges men and disadvantages non-men, and I have no problem saying that to recognize your privilege and work to maintain it (whether actively or passively) is an immoral act.

That is why I am a feminist.

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5 thoughts on “Why I am a Feminist”

  1. Interesting article, but it doesn’t convince me that feminism (at least how you describe it) is ” necessary and useful for our society.” You sight the percentages of women in leadership roles, but the idea that women are being actively discriminated and that people that seek to prevent them from attaining power solely based on the fact that they’re women seems to be a bit of a stretch. First, you talk about how a very small fraction of successful CEOs are women. This isn’t really due to sexism as it is to simple biology. Women have children. Men don’t. Sorry, but pregnancy was not invented by the patriarchy. Women get pregnant, a process with takes 9 months, and tend to be the primary caretakers of infants for at least the first few years of their life. Women also care more about having a balanced life and maintaining a family even once they’ve had kids, and raising kids takes up a lot more of their time. Men simply do not face this problem. More men than women are able to work 12 months out of the year, 6 out of 5 days a week, 14 (not 9) hours a day, and cut vacations short. Therefore, more men rise to the top. There are simply less women able or willing to take on the challenges that come with being powerful corporate leaders. There’s clear evidence of this. In Norway, for example, it is required that women make up 40% of board memberships. This policy kind of backfired, because it’s created a new class of women who sit on the boards of multiple companies, referred to as “golden skirts”. Mimi Berdal, a Norwegian businesswomen, sits on the board of 90 companies (http://www.dnaindia.com/…/report-the-golden-skirt-and…).

    You then go on to sight the small percentages of women in congress. But once again, this isn’t so much because of overt discrimination as it is because of the differences between men and women. Women are much less likely to even run for political office than men. This isn’t just because of the whole pregnancy thing. There are also pyschological differences between men and women that exist. According to May 2013 paper from the American University School of Public Affairs (https://www.american.edu/…/Girls-Just-Wanna-Not-Run…): “Female respondents were 50 percent more likely than male respondents to say that working for a charity is the best way to bring about change. Men, on the other hand, were nearly twice as likely as women to see running for elective office as the best way to bring about change.” Because of the ruthless egotism, greed, corruption, aggression and ambition that men are much more likely than women to have, more men are able to attain the skills needed by American politicians to be serious contenders for elected office (pathological lying, whoring yourself out to corporations in order to further your own personal power, lying, backstabbing, ass kissing, breaking promises, etc.). And even if the disparity between male and female politicians is because of sexism, that’s (slowly) changing. There’s more women in congress than ever before, and also more stage legislators are women (http://www.ncsl.org/…/women-in-state-legislatures-for…). Positions of power in congress, and politics in general, are practically inseparable from seniority, and a longtime incumbent congressperson is much more likely to be male than female. As more women get elected and more old men retire, that’ll start to change.

    You claim that you “personally don’t find it a compelling argument that there aren’t 250 women in the US Population (of 318.9m and counting) determined to and capable of running an S&P 500 corporation. That there aren’t 268 women in the country willing to make the sacrifices necessary to become members of the House and Senate. That there aren’t 125 women ready, willing, and able to helm major motion pictures.” Well, please, show me 250 women who have been prevented from becoming CEOs because of sexism. Show me women who have been voted out of office solely because they were women. Show me women who have been kept from directing major motion pictures. I read the McKinsey report that you linked, but it still doesn’t provide sufficient evidence to show that women are held back by “imbedded institutional mindsets”. It just gives an unsourced claim that diversity officers have their suggestions shot down by managers who claim you “just can’t put women in that position.” By your logic, the gender disparity of authors on the New York Times bestseller list (https://ufkidlit.wordpress.com/…/the-nyt-best-seller…/) is due to “systematic institutional inequality,” and not the fact that women are more attracted to (and better at) writing young adult novels than men. Men constitute 92% of workplace fatalities and 57% of all hours worked (http://www.bls.gov/iif/oshwc/cfoi/cfch0013.pdf) but I doubt you would chalk that up to systematic bias. Feminists also seem oddly complacent with men making up the majority of workers in blue collar industries like agriculture, construction and truck driving, as well as making up the majority of prisoners. Men are given longer sentences than Perhaps true equality isn’t really what you desire

    I agree with you that women deserve the exact same rights men have. There are plenty of gross displays of sexism that exist in occur in our modern world, that a rightfully condemned by most people. I believe that women are just as capable of being strong leaders and great thinkers as men. In that regard, perhaps, I am a feminist. That being said, I think you ignore the fundamental physiological and psychological differences between men and women (that science has confirmed and that have evolved over thousands of years) in pursuit of an egalitarian utopia that cannot exist. Men are simply more ambitious, competitive, aggressive, and more likely to be geniuses. Here’s some studies to back those claims up:

    The bottom line is, women simply don’t behave the way feminists want them to.

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