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Thousands of women in flowery tank tops and sun glasses too large for their face surrounded and marched on the narrow streets in big cities. Black women and white women alike linked arms to show that the diverse group stood together as one. Men even joined in, all chanting for equality. Street by street was filled, homemade posters demanding abortion rights and birth control waved in the wind and the sound of change was in the air. The 1970’s was an impacting era for women’s rights to be promoted and implemented across the United States. From Gloria Steinem, to Audre Lorde, to Betty Friedan, women lead effective demonstrations throughout the country to show their opposition to patriarchy and their support for women making their own choices about marriage, their body, to have a job, etc. Today’s feminists have a different look, though. Feminists take to social media sites, such as Twitter and Facebook, to take a stand on issues, such as slut shaming, equality in the workforce, sexual violence and promoting inspiring models for young women. One can look at a feminist leader, like Gloria Steinem and see how much she impacted the feminist movement. She lead large rallies, contributed to a magazine and wrote her own books. Women in the 1960’s, 1970’s, before and beyond that era, showed young women that society didn’t have to hold them back from all of the opportunities in life. In today’s society, there is no clear leader for the feminist movement. Feminists are scattered online, on the streets protesting and in the workforce, and all share different ideas on what feminism really is. As there are many inspiring role models for young women, they aren’t embraced as women who maybe aren’t as inspiring are. There no need to worry about the movement dying down, because history goes to show that the movement dying down has happened in previous years. In the late 1800’s, women fought for the right to vote for nearly 40 years. After women got the right to vote, feminists weren’t heard from for another 40 years, up until the 1960’s. Many movements occurred in the 1960’s, including anti-war protests, demonstrations for women’s rights and rallies for racial equality. History tends to repeat itself, so if the feminist movement died down in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, to follow previous historical patterns, then the feminist movement wouldn’t start up again until the mid-2030’s. As one knows the 2030’s are far away, we have to recognize the flaws in today’s society and how they need to be changed. TODAY is the perfect time to start re-evaluating and re-assessing the feminist movement and where we’re going with our causes. Let’s start considering the options.
Leadership within the Movement
To start with, we have to start looking at leaders for the movement. The movement has so many issues to be focusing on. The original 1960’s and 1970’s leaders have either passed away or are aging and as we appreciate older feminist leaders and what they did for us, they have lead the movement and the issues were different back then from today’s issues. We have to shift our focus as a movement with a brand new voice. As there are women like Sheryl Sandberg and Kirsten Gillibrand willing to lead us, there is one problem: Not all feminists may be wanting to rally around one leader, which can, and has before in the past, cause split ups in the movement. But, if women like Sandberg and Gillibrand aren’t up to fulfilling the arduous task, who will lead us? Will it be someone from possibly Sandberg or Gillibrand’s generation or someone from another generation, such as my own? Do we want a young person leading the movement? At a young age, seeing the flaws in society is important, but can a young person lead such a diverse and large movement? A recent article written by Sally Quinn on the Washington Post’s website proposed the idea of just “moving on with our lives” and not having a movement or a leader. Is the movement ready for a different path, like the one Sally Quinn proposed? Will history later on determine who the leader was or do we continue on and look for leaders, but need multiple to lead on different causes? All of these points should be taken into consideration while revamping a movement just like the feminist movement.
Issues to Focus On
From voting rights, to the right to an abortion and birth control methods, the feminist movement has dealt with many issues over the years. As a young woman, I see all the issues that society currently deals with, including education, fair pay, violence against women, sexual violence, rape culture, electing more women to office, slut shaming, body shaming, accepting the LGBTQUIA community in the movement, sexual education, promoting inspiring role models for young women, assisting women internationally, etc. Even abortion and birth control are on the forefront, because many politicians in various states feel the need to bring us all back to the olden days. But, I only mentioned a few issues being discussed in today’s world. There’s a variety of issues that feminists believe in and take a stand on. For example, some feminists believe prostitution and revealing one’s body should be accepted and should be legal, as it is a part of a “sexual revolution”. Others find it demeaning, unsafe and is a part of sexualizing women. Just by this example alone, one can realize that the movement can be torn on a few issues and can separate us all on what really matters: equality.
How We Conduct Demonstrations
Demonstrations have been popular for taking a stand for many movements. From racial acceptance, to LGBTQUIA issues, to economic equality, to feminism, protests are effective if used correctly. For decades, feminists have used their freedom of speech by protesting serious flaws in society. Homemade signs are made, loud voices are prepared and appropriate walking shoes are in handy for those who have protested for years within the feminist movement. From what history has to show, the majority of the feminist demonstrations have been successful and effective. But, are protests still needed in today’s society and can they be considered effective? In a recent online article written by Judy Rebick on Rabble, she mentions when she partook in demonstrations, that she “took on qualities of patriarchy” and “learned to be assertive, sure of herself, never doubting”. Judy also mentioned how she also participated in a round dance and felt that round dancing was more inclusive and it was less confrontational. Do feminists need to show their opposition to society’s flaws indifferent ways, such as round dancing? Or do we keep participating in the traditional way of protesting and demonstrating? Do we need demonstrations and are they still necessary in today’s society when we have online social media, such as Twitter and Facebook? Protesting is an important part of taking a stand, but how feminists demonstrate is a factor to put into consideration for the future.
Getting the Youth Involved
Being a young teenager myself, I know for a fact that the majority of teenagers in this country don’t know what a feminist is and don’t identify as one. Not only do many teenagers in this country not care about feminism, but my generation is more in tune to their favorite television show rather than what is happening in the world. For years, I’ve noticed the lack of youth involved in politics, so I decided to take to Facebook, as I often do, for opinions of others that I value. I asked my fellow peers to “like” my status if they ever heard of the people or terms I mentioned in one of my statuses. The status included some names of well-known feminists, such as Gloria Steinem and Betty Friedan, and terms like, rape culture, victim blaming and patriarchy. Of the current 58 “likes”, 51 of them are teenagers. While the status wasn’t the most accurate “poll”, one can see how many teenagers know who these women are and what these terms mean, as the majority of my Facebook friends are teenagers. I wasn’t expecting a huge number of people to “like” my status, only because politics, policy and the news are deemed “boring” among my peers. Although one can’t simple make politics “fun” or even entertaining, what the world’s youth really needs are voices within the movement. To make more diverse groups, especially the youth, involved in the movement is for adults value our opinion and ideas. After all, we are the future, and possibly even current, leaders of this country.
As one can see, the feminist movement needs a shake-up. We need to re-evaluate and re-assess what we stand for, how we will take a stand, how to include the youth, and most importantly, who is going to take the next step up and lead us, if someone will at all. Nobody said changing the world was easy or fun, but it certainly HAS to be done. Today’s society has a lot of room to improve and many people need to get their hands dirty and get the job done.