I don’t know about you, but I sometimes have a hard time articulating my arguments about feminism in the heat of the moment. If someone says something like “women are already equal to men” or “we don’t need feminism anymore,” I want to come back at them fully armed with facts and statistics to prove that they’ve got it all wrong. I want to prove to them that people still experience discrimination, in tons of ways, based on their gender. I want them to understand that men have privilege, and white people have privilege, and wealthy people have privilege, (and straight people, and cis people) and that it’s not always about us. And I don’t know about you, but often times I don’t say any of these things because I’m afraid I won’t say them well enough. I don’t say these things because I don’t have any handy-dandy statistics that I can whip out of my back pocket to support my case. Instead, I imagine myself messing up or not being able to think of a response, and my anti-feminist acquaintance leaving the conversation and feeling reaffirmed in his own beliefs because I didn’t present mine well enough.
Girl, that stops today.
Below I have compiled a feminist cheat sheet of sorts, with lots of facts and links and statistics centered around proving why we still need feminism. I’d encourage you to record the facts you want to remember, add some of your own, and stick ‘em in that back pocket (or, you know, the notes app on your phone). Next time, at least we’ll feel fully armed.
WHY DO WE STILL NEED FEMINISM?
Women are catcalled and harassed on the street
A disturbing reality of being a woman is that you’re gonna get cat called at least several times in your life (if not, as many women experience it, daily). This is a disgusting result of the way in which women’s bodies are talked about (“grab ‘em by the pussy”), leered at, and used for the viewing pleasure of men. Anyway, here are the stats: A 2014 survey of women in the US found that 65% had experienced some kind of street harassment, 23% had been sexually touched, and 20% had been followed. According to a 2016 ActionAid survey, 79% of women living in cities in India, 86% in Thailand, and 89% in Brazil have been subjected to harassment or violence in public, as had two-thirds of women in London, UK.
Sexual harassment is also common in the workplace and at school
According to a 2011 study by the United Nations, between 40 and 50 percent of women in European Union countries experience sexual harassment and unwanted physical contact in the workplace. The same study states that 83 percent of girls in the US ages 12 to 16 experience some form of sexual harassment in public schools.
Societal expectations have raised women to believe that a large percentage of their worth is determined by their appearance
Heck no! But it’s hard not to believe this when it’s reinforced everyday through the media we consume, and results in women, from a young age, disliking their bodies: 81% of ten year old girls are afraid of getting fat, and 46% of 9-11 year olds say that they are “sometimes” or “often” on diets.
Male privilege is alive and well
If that statement makes the men in your life mad, try to remind them that having privilege (any kind of identity privilege) doesn’t mean they don’t work hard or experience unfairness, and doesn’t mean they have to live in a state of constant guilt. And then kindly direct them to these 3 helpful resources: 1.) 160+ examples of male privilege in everyday life 2.) Explaining privilege to someone who doesn’t know what that is 3.) Trans men explain male privilege
Rape and sexual assault cases aren’t taken seriously
1 out of every 6 American women has been a victim of an attempted or completed rape within her lifetime (that’s horrifying). You’d think there’d be a whole lot of rapists going to jail because of this, right? Well, it turns out that out of every 1000 rapes, 994 perpetrators will walk free. That’s more than for any other crime. And even if assailants do serve jail time, it’s often very brief (just look at Brock Turner). Yes, some of the lack of arrests is due to the fact that a large number of sexual assaults and rapes go unreported. But why don’t people report? Because when victims do report, they are often automatically victim blamed by the public or thought to be lying (when in reality, sexual assault cases have the same exact rate of false reports as any other crime). And even among reported cases, only 37% of reported rapes are prosecuted and only 18% of prosecuted rape cases end in a conviction.
There is a lack of women in leadership roles and in certain fields
Women are 50% of the American population. We know that. So it makes sense that women account for almost 60 percent of undergraduate degrees, 60 percent of all master’s degrees, 47 percent of law degrees, and 48 percent of medical degrees. But do you know what doesn’t match up with those numbers? The amount of women in leadership positions. Excuse me while I throw a few more statistics at you: according to a 2017 PEW research study, 21% of the US Senate are women, 19.1% of the US House are women, 8 % of governors are women, 5.4% of Fortune 500 CEOs are women, and 20.2% of Fortune 500 board members are women. Let’s not forget that representation of women of color in leadership positions is considerably lower still, with 3.9% of senior-level officials being women of color, and only 0.4% of CEOs being women of color. It’s true that all of these numbers are (slowly) on the rise, but don’t let anyone tell you that ‘we don’t need feminism because women are already equal to men.’ The facts prove otherwise.
The government makes decisions about women’s bodies
So what happens when women aren’t fairly represented in government positions? Men end up making (stupid) decisions about women’s bodies that often don’t represent the views of most women. Allow me to provide you with a few examples: In 2015, 17 states passed 57 anti-abortion laws. There were also 396 anti-abortion laws considered that didn’t pass. The Hyde Amendment is another example; it denies low-income women who receive health coverage through Medicaid the ability to have an abortion. When it comes to maternity and paternity leave, the US was the only country in a study of 41 countries that did not mandate paid leave for new parents. There have also been recent efforts by the Trump administration and Congress to stop Planned Parenthood from receiving funding through programs like Medicaid and the Title X family planning program, and possibly to eliminate Title X all together. These funding cuts for PP could have a huge affect on the 1 in 5 women who have visited a Planned Parenthood within their lifetime, because Planned Parenthood provides contraceptives to 2 million women who use “safety-net“ family planning centers, provides 4.2 million tests and treatments for STIs per year, and 320,000 breast exams per year.
The wage gap
So, the wage gap exists. Let’s just get that out of the way. In 2015, full time, year round women workers made 80 cents to every dollar that men made. And if the decrease in the wage gap continues at the same rate that it is now, women won’t have average equal pay to men until 2059. For hispanic women it won’t be until 2248, and for Black women 2124.
Many argue that the wage gap exists because women work less hours and choose careers that don’t pay as much. This is somewhat true. In 2016, a Cornell University study found that 50% of the wage gap can be explained by factors women themselves control, 14% is due to experience level, and 38% is unexplained, meaning that it is likely the result of discrimination and internalized sexism. But even if women do occupy more low paying jobs than men, the ones who are in higher paying, male dominated careers still face a definite wage gap, as stated by the Washington Post: “Female financial specialists make 66 percent of what their male counterparts make, female doctors earn 71 percent, and female lawyers and judges make 82 percent. That’s all controlling for age, race, hours and education.”
Additionally, it’s important to point out that the choices of some women to work in less profitable careers, negotiate less, and work fewer hours are choices that are highly influenced by societal expectations about womanhood, and that’s definitely not the woman’s fault. For example, the wage gap increases as women get older and have children. This is partially because many women still do a disproportionate amount of the housework and childcare compared to their husbands, and end up quitting or decreasing their hours in order to balance it all. Men are perfectly capable of doing even amounts of housework as women, but often times, because of ‘the way things are’, they just don’t.
Not all women around the world have the same rights and opportunities
A common anti-feminist argument I see from women is, “feminists are always acting like victims and I’m not a victim.” Well girl, it’s great that you’ve been so lucky not to knowingly experience discrimination. Because the truth is, the majority of the world’s women don’t live the same lives as upper middle class, straight, cisgendered, white women living in the West. There are many women who do experience discrimination and abuse because of their gender as well as other parts of their identity. And this isn’t to say that women in other cultures are automatically oppressed, helpless, or in need of saving. No way. It just means that you can’t generalize about the experiences of different women. Just because you feel that sexism and discrimination haven’t had much affect on your life (even though they surely have in some ways) doesn’t mean they aren’t very real and scary and detrimental in the lives of other women.
There you go – a very (very) long feminist cheat sheet to help you articulate some of the many reasons why we still, and just as much as ever, need feminism.
Image via Anna Thetard