By Belinda Sacco
National Women’s History month is upon us once again and, while many U.B. students continue to celebrate how much progress has been made towards gender equality, some still struggle with exactly how to define “equality” and “feminism,” and whether there exists any further need of either. They are not alone in their confusion.
Every March the internet floods with articles from news sources like The Huffington Post, The Atlantic, and Forbes debunking the concept of the wage gap between men and women based on discrimination. These articles assert that men make more money because statistically they choose to enter more lucrative fields and work longer hours than their female counterparts. “5 Feminist Myths That Will Not Die” by Time contributor Christina Hoff Sommers further dissects conflated poverty, sexual assault, and domestic violence statistics, ending with the line, “My advice to women’s advocates: Take back the truth.”
What is the truth? Is feminism dead? Should it be?
An entire internet movement says yes. Over the past three years, anti-feminist men’s movement Men Going Their Own Way (MGTOW) has cropped up on social media sites while promoting masculism and disparaging women. Their website currently lists 13,207 members.
Feminism’s choice of battles has garnered some critique as well. “I’m all for equal pay, equal treatment, and equal expectations professionally,” says U.B. junior Sierra Thompson.
“But some things I just don’t get- like the fight for women to go topless
[legally]. Sure, breasts shouldn’t be sexualized, but they are. And when there’s women getting stoned to death for wearing pants in Baghdad, is the right to be half-naked really what [women’s advocates] want to focus on?”
When asked if and why feminism was still needed in first world countries like the U.S., UB student Alexis Jeter stated, “I think the question of whether it’s needed in first world countries boils down to the question of legislating sexual assault and domestic violence against women. Feminism has always led the fight on these issues. Think back to Take Back the Night and the Riot Grrrl movements… I believe feminism should stay around as [a] means for women to advocate for women.”
Many point to the debunked wage gap myth and lowered sexual assault rates as an indication that sexism no longer poses a threat. When asked about this argument and her experience with it, UB graduate student Ann Margaret Zelenka said,
“There is a strong emphasis on male pride both in Europe and in America. I experienced this particularly among the Catholic and Christian denominations. I have been told on several occasions I should not work hard and get into law school, but instead stay at home all of the time and be with a spouse. In America, we should be rid of misogyny, but that is simply not the case.”
Arthur Magida, UB Professor and author of The Nazi Seance, says of feminism’s value, “I don’t think [feminism] is dead. I don’t think it’s dormant. I think it’s changing because expectations are different.”