The definition of feminism as the effort to achieve political and social equality for men and women doesn't need to change: It just needs to be broadened. Recently, the Internet has been lit aflame, with feminism as a trending topic. With celebrities like Emma Watson leading campaigns like He For She to male stars like Benedict Cumberbatch voicing their support for feminism, there is a new wave of discussions on the role gender plays in our society.
Despite all these great achievements and continuing positive activism today, there are still some areas that I, as a woman, believe could be improved upon. My father always spoke of the "pendulum swing." Here, social ideas tend to be drawn toward the extreme. It would seem that the feminist movement has swung too far with regard to a couple of areas:
1. Feminism should really represent a variety of female characteristics and attributes.
It seems that there are times when feminism supports a narrow definition of what and who women should be. This is obviously the exact opposite of the things feminism should stand for.
For example, there are now several female celebrities who are also feminist icons. In interviews, they will point out the disparity between the questions asked to female entertainers and the questions asked to men.
Some will highlight the struggle women face in order to be represented in certain industries, and they will advocate for this to change. The problem I've noticed, though, is many times, these women express only certain female traits. They have crafted a singular image of what a feminist looks like.
They may be crude and use foul language, as if that somehow makes a woman "stronger." They often talk about how women don't need to rely on men, and how women shouldn't feel pressured to have children. They will "talk up" their desire to not have children.
Though it's true that women shouldn't feel like they are incomplete without husbands or children, I think it's problematic when the message women are given seems to sound like the best way to be a woman. It's counter-feminism, really.
In addition, embracing a feminine style is sometimes attacked. It is seen as demonstrating weakness.
Even actress Zooey Deschanel has experienced this. Feminism should represent the validity of women to have a huge variety of traits and ambitions, whether they are traditionally "girly-girl," tomboyish, athletic or career-oriented.
2. Feminism should truly advocate for the end of objectification of women in media.
Many feminists would argue that part of elevating women in society is acknowledging and affirming our right to do what we please with our lives and our bodies. Even so, I believe many would agree that there is a disparity between the ways men and women are portrayed in the media today.
From movie and TV scenes containing nudity to our representation in music videos and the industry at large, it is clear that women are often valued in the entertainment industry for their bodies above all else. I'm not trying to delve into a discussion about whether women should or should not take on roles that are highly sexualized. I'm simply focusing the conversation on the perception of women as objects, as that is perpetuated by these sort of roles.
A modern feminist response to this line of thought might be that expressing sexuality is freeing and empowering to women, but I respectfully disagree. Women who continue to be objectified are playing right into the patriarchy. Rich, mostly male producers increase their bank accounts off song lyrics and movie roles that reduce women to sexual objects.
Yes, there's the occasional "Magic Mike" film. But overall, women are objectified at a disproportionate rate as compared to men.
Besides this, there's also the "elephant in the room:" Producers and screenwriters continue to put these sorts of objectifying roles and scenes into movies because our society demands it. When women are reduced to nothing more than objects, they serve to fulfill male fantasies.
Regardless of what feminists might say about a woman's value and worth, when the image that is presented in the media is so often focused on a woman's body, her mind, talent and character are ignored. If we don't address this, it will seem like we approve of ourselves being relegated to that shallow definition of what a woman can be. I find nothing liberating or empowering about this situation.
3. Feminism is limited by abortion activism.
I know many women could be upset about this last statement, but hold on for a moment. Let me explain myself.
Even as a pro-life supporter, I can understand why abortion is seen as necessary for women. However, hear me out on this point: Abortion isn't going to be abolished anytime soon.
So, here's what I propose: Instead of simply advocating for abortion, feminist goals should include encouraging community and political resources that support any women who find themselves pregnant, no matter what the scenarios may be. As feminism attempts to become more open-minded about the issues women face in society, it seems that this position is reasonable.
If pregnant women could be given the resources to actually have the lives they feel they would have to give up by having children (through education, income and opportunities for careers), it would further the goals of feminism.
First, this would support a woman's freedom to become whoever she wants to be. Second, it would truly lend value to every aspect of a woman's life by elevating the unique position women are in as child bearers.
Even though women have come a long way in American society, an open discussion on these and other major issues is still a necessity. Part of what has made us embrace change and progress is our desire to debate valuable topics with people who have a variety of opinions. I believe feminism is no different.