Is Feminism Relevant Today?
What does feminism mean to young people?
The terms “feminism” and “feminist” summon many reactions and mythical imagery of bra-burning hippie women, who refuse to shave their legs in defiance to men’s preferences. The actuality is quite different; the bra-burning incident never happened and there is no substance to the tales of personal grooming habits. The difference in understanding the complex issues that pertain to gender and equality, at least in part, can be attributed to the competing attitudes and schools of thought. Today, feminism has many male followers who agree that to achieve true democracy; issues of equality must permeate every facet of political, social and cultural life in our contemporary world.
Beginning as a political movement with a nationwide agenda, Feminists campaigned to raise awareness of unequal opportunities for women; that the personal is political, especially when laws perpetuate discrimination and exploitation because of one’s gender. Conceptions of women’s rights have evolved since the historic Seneca Falls convention in 1848. The “Declaration of Sentiments” marked the beginning of this movement. Drafted by Elizabeth Stanton and presented at the convention, the document cited portions of the US constitution as evidence of the unequal treatment of women simply based on gender.
The continuation of the women’s liberation movements in both the United States and the United Kingdom throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries have shaped the world that we live in today. Many freedoms activists fought for are taken for granted today. The relevance to our youth therefore, is minimal, and could render the feminist movement to the history books
Our young people, girls in particular, have a greater sense of equality than previous generations. Their “voice” can be heard in the classroom and in the workplace. Although still thought of in terms of the nurturing mother, expectations of childbearing and marriage have altered drastically and women are free to choose their paths in life. In fact, the National Bureau of Economic Research reports that women outnumber men in higher education institutions in the United States. One reason for this could be the shift in early education and parenting techniques, however we cannot rule out political forces either. Women’s labor is a valuable commodity, and they are now encouraged to seek careers outside of the home. Our young people are thinking about their career prospects at a younger age – often completing career interest surveys in middle-high school. They are not constrained by traditional gender stereotypes that inhibit the choices that are available to them. Many parents and educators alike, instill this equal opportunity philosophy. The only inhibitor to success is a lack of effort!