Modern Day Feminism:
How it affects the House of Representatives
November 30, 2018
On the morning of November 7th, actress and activist Reese Witherspoon made a timely political Instagram post. It was a photo with the words, “For the first time in history, there will be at least 100 women in the House of Representatives.” She then followed it up with the caption, “This is great news. This is progress!”
For those who closely watch the midterm elections, study government candidates or plan to/study political science, the sense of victory that Witherspoon felt may not be a shared one. This is not because many elected candidates were women, but because many modern day feminists like Witherspoon prioritize gender over policies, which is sadly a frequent trend among the modern feminist movement in the United States.
Although the standard definition of feminism is to have equality between the sexes, we have to acknowledge that feminism as a whole has progressed towards a different path. We are no longer fighting the same battle Susan B. Anthony did when there were actual constitutional laws preventing women from voting, this is no longer the case in the U.S.
Instead, the newer version of the feminist movement is now fighting a new battle, one that seeks to try to “even out” gender participation in every field. Examples of this are seen in the technology and science fields, businesses and most notably in our government.
The goal for modern day feminism is to reach a level of representation in every way. However, the point they’re missing is that many institutions that are male-dominated are not inherently sexist. One has to understand that several factors go into each statistic, and not every time is one of those factors misogyny.
Take the prison incarceration rates for example. PrisonPolicy.org published a graph showing that out of every 10,000 people, 126 women are incarcerated versus the 1,352 males that are. However, this does not mean that males are being oppressed in our justice system. It means that males have a statistically higher tendency to commit a crime than a woman does. To try to justify why that tendency exists, would have to be based on stereotypical male behavior which would not make for a productive conversation, just as female stereotypes wouldn’t either.
Another example could be found when analyzing the suicide rates in the U.S. According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, males die by suicide 3.53 times more often than women. However, it wouldn’t be fair to say that males are being significantly deprived of mental illness security and suicide prevention in comparison to females. Again, the correlation between two subjects does not necessarily mean causation.
A third example would be the homelessness rate. According to The Guardian, “the housing charity Crisis found that 84% of the hidden homeless were male.” If we were to apply modern-day feminist logic to this, it would seem as though men in the U.S. are being discriminated against to the point of homelessness and that it’s all based on this one disproportionality.
The fundamental flaw in most gender inequality arguments is the argument that there is a bias that goes against women the second one of us steps into a room. I find this demeaning. Imagine telling a five-year-old girl about to start kindergarten that outside her bedroom and out into the world something is keeping her from progressing, that she can’t see it with her eyes or feel it with her own hands but it is inevitable that she will face it. Try telling her that the reason why a woman figure in her life didn’t get a job was not that of her lack of experience, competitiveness against other applicants or any other qualifying factor, but that it was a monster named inequality, or worse, sexism. This is beyond horrifying.
If we continue to mainstream the idea that women are underrepresented and have a low chance of getting the job they want, we aren’t making progress, we are taking a U-turn. If we make posters, spend hours marching and shouting “I believe women,” we are closing the doors of opportunity to coexist, and are opening the doors of bipartisanship.
The people of today who actively stand behind modern-day feminism are more concerned with a balance of gender representation than the policies behind the candidates they are voting for. To make progress, it must start by neglecting our predominate biases and looking at how each is trying to shape the political structure of the U.S. If people want to discuss the policies that these new members of our government are going to advocate for, that would be a different kind of conversation and a much more important one at that.
One has to acknowledge that their views on specific topics will not always directly adhere to a movement. A person naming themselves a ‘modern-day feminist’ will not always mean that they are both ‘pro-choice’ on the topic of abortion while believing that a ‘wage-gap’ exists. However, with that knowledge, one should not identify themselves with a group without a clear understanding of what its movement portrays.
Until then, it should be encouraged that everyone dissects the meaning behind the groups they stand for. Whether that be in selecting a political party, choosing what clique to hang out with or what kinds of courses they want to take. One has to analyze what they stand for as an individual, even if that means sitting out on particular trends.
Yes, we are all aware that “the future is female” crop tops are much more trendy than “Susan B. Anthony had it worse” turtlenecks, but it demonstrates an understanding of political awareness and sense of gratitude for activists who had fought for much more tangible issues in their everyday lives than Reese Witherspoon ever will.