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Manfull: Continuing feminism’s legacy

BY ERIN MANFULL | OCTOBER 27, 2014 5:00 AM

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Growing up, I had constructed the idea that “being a feminist” was something a woman shouldn’t be. It was taboo, considering all feminists were bra-burning radicals who felt that they deserved more than their male counterparts, right? From a young age, I had shunned feminism and the feminist movement because I had associated the “f word” with a negative connotation that I, as a woman, had no desire to be apart of.

Then I came to college, and the culture of feminism had suddenly changed. Celebrities such as Miley Cyrus, Jennifer Lawrence, and Lena Dunham all began to open up about what it really means to be a part of it. After years of stigmatized feminist ideologies, it’s about time we start to realize that the “f word” isn’t as horrifying as we once thought.

In fact, Dunham, of HBO’s “Girls” fame, spread that message in her visit to Iowa City on Oct. 7 at the Englert Theater.

“If you believe that a woman and a man who do the same job deserve the same pay, you’re a feminist. If you believe that when a man or a woman commits the same crime deserves the same punishment, you’re a feminist,” she told the audience.

As defined by the dictionary, a feminist is advocating social, political, legal, and economic rights for women equal to those of men. When it’s spelled out in black and white, it’s hard for anyone to argue that women don’t deserve equality.

But equality isn’t always easy to come by. In 228 years, Americans have dealt with discrimination based on their skin color, gender, religion, nationality, to most recently, sexuality. Discrimination is nothing new, but the way we are openly discussing it is.

As for gender discrimination, we need to realize that women make up half the work force. Yet, as of 2013, women earn 79 percent of what men are paid.  This isn’t an idea a feminist group created, it’s a documented fact from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. As a society, this is something that we can no longer excuse, especially because more women are graduating with higher degrees than men nowadays.

But it’s a breath of fresh air to see celebrities share their thoughts on modern feminism. With idolized people standing up for female rights, it makes it easier for us mere peasants to do the same.  In Dunham’s words, women and men deserve equal rights.  It sounds so simple when she puts it like that.

We have to realize that the stigma doesn’t just fade away over time; it takes a movement to make a change. Without feminists, women wouldn’t be able to attend college, vote, or even own property.

Feminists paved the way for basic human rights for women, but that doesn’t mean the buck stops with that. With modern feminism making waves with a big celebrity push, I think more and more women will begin to acknowledge that the radical feminists of years past no longer headline the movement. Instead it’s the woman who lives next door to you, the one you ride the elevator with, the one who walks past you on the way to work. The modern feminist isn’t a radical; she’s you and me.


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