The modern feminist movement is often under attack by misinformed and uneducated individuals who are frequently young women. Frustration does not begin to exemplify the emotions that well inside of hard-working feminist activists when the very women we are working for denounce the rights the movement has created for them.
An anti-feminist Badger Herald opinion writer is often one of these women and recently asked whom the feminist movement represents. Within her inquiry, she discusses the actions of the National Organization for Women, and as the vice president of the Wisconsin chapter of NOW, I would like to offer to her — and anyone else who questions feminism — that the movement represents all women and men in search of equality.
The backlash against the feminist movement of the late 1980s and early 1990s still vibrates through today’s society. The media portrayal of feminists as man-hating, whiny radicals is the only vision many people know of (but, after all, you can’t always trust what the media allow through their conservative filters).
To understand today’s feminists, one must look deeper than “Newsweek” and “Dateline.” We are mothers, students, doctors, teachers, politicians, women and men.
Feminists seek to end the oppression of women worldwide. We work to ensure women and girls can receive an education, as well as live and work in safe environments where they are free of abuse and harassment.
Feminists in America fight to lower the appalling sexual-assault rate — one in four women will be assaulted in her lifetime. Here in Wisconsin, where our pay-equity rate is 46th in the nation (women make 54 cents on the male dollar), we try to break the glass ceiling. Feminists celebrate diversity in all forms — we don’t hide from it. We support every woman’s life choices to have a career or raise a family, and we try to create a society that accepts and appreciates women who chose to do both.
NOW advocates reproductive rights, including birth control access, prenatal care, all-options pregnancy counseling, emergency contraception for rape victims and the right to have an abortion.
While the topic of choice is a heated debate and has no foreseeable reconciliation, even anti-choice individuals cannot deny the groundbreaking change the feminist movement has created. Rape-crisis centers and domestic-abuse shelters were started by feminists. Because of the movement, women can obtain birth control and own property. We can vote!
The movement has opened the heavy doors of the political arena for women, and now, very slowly but surely, we will reach equal representation in the House, the Senate, the White House and all other executive positions. Title Nine has created equality in higher education, and because of it, women’s sports are finally taken seriously.
If not for the feminist movement, conservative and liberal women would have no place on political campaigns, in Ph.D. programs, on staff at newspapers and sitting on the bench of the Supreme Court.
So while anti-feminist women revel in the world of freedom feminism created, I urge them to keep using their voices to speak their minds but to remember that behind the scenes a feminist is making it all possible.
Lauren Besser ([email protected]) is a junior majoring in political science and English. She is the vice president of Wisconsin NOW.