Ziel: Modern feminism has lost sight of equality

Renee Ziel

Editor’s Note: All opinion section content reflects the views of the individual author only and does not represent a stance taken by The Collegian or its editorial board.

With March being Women’s History Month, the term “feminism” is making its way back to daily conversations.

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Today, when someone says they are a feminist they often mean it when it serves their interests. Women in modern society struggle to lift one another up regardless of identity, especially when the “other group” is facing a struggle they don’t want to be part of.

The Merriam-Webster definitions of feminism are “the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes” and “organized activity on behalf of women’s rights and interests.” Feminism, therefore, is the advocacy of all women’s rights on the basis of lifting them up to the standard men have been at.

It is not the exclusion of women of color nor transgender women. It is also not blatant hatred for men. Or rather, it shouldn’t be.

Some call this stance idealistic, but the only reason it seems so is because they don’t want to strive for better. The idea that people can coexist without being oppressed on the basis of their gender identity or race is by no means radical or unattainable. This is especially true in a society where harmony and kindness are needed.

Early women’s rights movements are rooted in discrimination. Women’s suffrage notably left women of color out. Some more infamous female leaders of the late nineteenth century were  Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. They made great strides for women, but they only advocated for those that were white.

Black women have gotten the short end of the stick for too long. Even as our generation stands as the most educated and diverse yet, African American women are among those left with the most disadvantages, such as the pay gappolice brutality and inferior healthcare.

The idea that people can coexist without being oppressed on the basis of their gender identity or race is by no means radical or unattainable.

Although women legally gained the right to vote in 1920, women of color were also barred and beaten for years more. White women collectively did not stand with them. The same toxicity of white feminism still occurs today and warps into the idea of being a “white savior.”

“The issue now with [modern feminism] is that, although it’s more inclusive than in the past, a lot of white feminists want to give a voice to women of color instead of having women of color use their own voice,” said Leah Snyder, a First Year Women’s Studies major.

Race is not the only obstacle in the way of true equality among women. TERFs, trans-exclusionary radical feminists, are a recent movement that has consistently acted against transgender women. Earlier this year, distinguished transgender activist Sarah McBride was harassed by TERFs at a Washington D.C. meeting. They consistently misgendered her and accused her of hating women and lesbians.

Another issue with modern feminism is that it doesn’t include men.

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There is a common misconception that feminism is about putting women higher than men. Feminism is about liberating women from misogyny and providing women with rights they have long been denied. Equality in this sense is about finally putting them on the same level as men rather than treating them the same.

As psychologist Joe Kort discusses with Psychology Today, microaggressions are subtle and indirect forms of discrimination that people easily overlook. While microaggressions are prominent among several groups, I’ve heard too many from supposed feminists to men.

Kort begins by addressing familiar statements against people of color, women, and LGBT+ individuals. Then he addressed the ways in which these have been used against men.

It is true that patriarchy has consistently put women below men, but as Kort states, “Patriarchy includes a rigid standard of looks and behavior, and men who fail to follow the standard are tormented ruthlessly.” Society puts a lot of pressure on women, but it puts a lot of pressure on men too.

Feminism is not feminism if it does not include the rights of women of color, transgender women, and men. Feminism is not feminism if one group is forced to stand on the sidelines or is treated less because of their identity. Feminism is not feminism if it loses sight of equality. In the words of prominent feminist and actress Emma Watson, “[W]e should stop defining each other by what we are not and start defining ourselves by who we are.”

The fact of the matter is, we’re all human.

Renee Ziel can be reached at letters@collegian.com or online at @reneezwrites