We need feminism because working for a just and equal society isn’t about not shaving your legs or burning your bras, because Susan B. Anthony, Gloria Steinem and bell hooks will never go out of style, because the fight is never over. We need feminism even though Taylor Swift and the CEO of Yahoo don’t think the label applies to them and that “feminist” is a dirty word. (We need feminism because if Mayer openly identified as a feminist in a male-dominated workplace, she might not have gotten her position.) We need feminism because my grandmother could have never been the CEO of anything — because women were thought of as being lesser beings back then, ones not as intelligent or capable as men. We need feminism because a lot of people still feel that way.
We need feminism because women are still told that their work is less valuable than a man’s — 77% to 82% as valuable, depending on statistics. We need feminism because empowering women matters, and educating women correlates with happier marriages, lower contraction of HIV and decreased infant mortality rates. We need feminism because women otherwise marry young, get low-paying jobs and uphold a system of poverty. We need feminism because my mother didn’t graduate high school or go to college, just like her sisters and her mother didn’t. We need feminism because as her son, I was the exception, and I didn’t have to worry about getting pregnant or raising a family instead of going to college. We need feminism because I have a privilege that needs to be shared.
We need feminism because my mother and too many women like her are statistics in a world where 1 in 3 women are beaten, assaulted, sexually assaulted, molested or abused during their lifetime, and if I’m standing in a room with three of my female friends, my heart can’t help but hurt. We need feminism because another woman becomes a statistic every two minutes, and I can’t help but worry that my best friend or my sister is one of them. We need feminism because millions of women experience intimate partner violence each year, and many never speak up, afraid of retaliation from their partner and shame from their loved ones or rejection from their community. We need feminism because many of these women will be taught to hate their bodies and the last thing our culture needs more of is hate.
We need feminism because we live in a culture that silences the experiences and narratives of women, where men are told that the worst thing you could want to be is female. We need feminism because our society views it degrading to throw like a girl or act like a girl, and it almost tore my cousin’s family apart when his father found the women’s jeans and makeup he owned. We need feminism because we should all be allowed to make decisions about our bodies and to define our genders on our own terms. We need feminism because we need to honor the transgender women who are proud to be female and who have fought to own their bodies, the ones we hang our heads in remembrance for every year — our Tiffany Goodens and Paige Clays.
We need feminism because many women I know are scared to walk alone at night out of the fear that they could be attacked or assaulted — even though most rapists are someone the victim knows. We need feminism because some douche nozzle at Miami University thought it would be funny to tape up a list of instructions and tips for men on how to rape women, because men like him or Daniel Tosh don’t realize that their humor reflects a brutal reality, because they might not know what it feels like to have your victimization laughed at and marginalized. We need feminism because men like that represent a norm that needs to be challenged. We need feminism because women should not be alone.
We need feminism because women who speak out against rape culture, victim blaming or gendered double standards and called “bitches” or “loud” or “angry” feminists, because society feels women need to be liked to approved of, because women always need to apologize for having an opinion. We need feminism because — having a gender-neutral name — I’m often mistaken for being female, which people think I should be ashamed of or embarrassed by. We need feminism because when someone wants to dismiss my writing, they often do so on account of my perceived gender — citing me as “this girl on the internet,” “some girl” or “some cunt.” We need feminism because if I were perceived to be male, my gender wouldn’t be an issue.
We need feminism because a war on women is a war on everyone — on men, mothers, daughters, sisters and young girls — and a Facebook page can exist to shame “12-year-old sluts,” young girls for expressing their individualities. We need feminism because this slut-shaming is a culture, because women are born into this. We need feminism because Sandra Fluke gets labeled a “slut” for demanding reproductive options for women and positively advocating for women’s health. We need feminism because abstinence only isn’t enough and in order to build a sex positive and healthy culture, our society needs to know what sex positivity is. We need feminism because there’s no way in hell my mother knows what that term means. We need feminism because we need to educate.
We need feminism because we need to hold ourselves accountable for creating a world that’s inclusive through a movement that stands for the rights of women of color, sex workers, queer people and trans women; that builds bridges with the marginalized; that understands social justice without intersectionality is bullshit; that knows we have to bring more voices and perspectives to the table. We need feminism because egalitarianism doesn’t mean the end of men or taking away men’s power, because feminism benefits men, too. We need feminism because when some are oppressed, we are all oppressed. We need feminism because at some point “never again” needs to mean today.
We need feminism because we must work to create a better world to raise our children in — no matter what gender they are assigned at birth. We need feminism because women cannot do that alone, and we must stand alongside the women we love to ask how we can be allies for justice, to show equality means all of us. We need feminism because this change isn’t just a slogan; change is hard-wired into our evolution; change gives us a reason to live.