Understanding Feminism

In college, I was able to learn more about feminism and I discovered that it is much more than a word.

For most of my life, I had not been exposed to feminism with a concrete definition. When I was younger, I did not have an opinion about it because the idea seemed irrelevant to me: a young male who had not experienced gender-based inequality. At present, I think about how foolish I was.

Feminism is not primarily about advancing women’s rights; the movement is about equality. It is a very complex and contextualized concept, so defining it for the masses is difficult. Regardless, I have learned that men are not as involved in feminism as they should be. There must be a high level of men who believe in gender equality, but there may only be a handful who publicly act on these beliefs. If there is a continual disregard for the rights of women and minorities, then our posterity will not adopt a more accepting attitude towards others. As generations sprout and wither, positive ideologies need to be perpetuated through conversation.

In my family, my mother was the only prolonged influence of feminism. Feminism was not explained; respect was implied. My brother and I acknowledged that women were regarded with traditional respect through my grandmother’s influence, and my mother provided a short retort anytime we breached any form of respect. I only understood the true word of feminism when I went to college.

College opened my perspective towards many different viewpoints. When I started to meet people, both men and women, majoring in women’s studies, championing their passions in feminism, and discussing gender inequality, I learned that feminism was a global initiative. In a conversation with a mentor, I was told that considering gender equality is a characteristic that can define masculinity. One cannot show true signs of perspective and wisdom without considering feminism. The intrinsic understanding of equality does not suffice because the world needs to see empathy in action.

Family roles and power have shifted greatly since ancient times. In the medieval era, it was acceptable and admirable if a women were a housewife. Even at present in traditional areas, the father is the sole breadwinner who gains the income for the mother to cook and provide for the family. However, this is not acceptable in every context. In the past, life was simpler, so relationships were simpler. After technological booms and human rights movements, relationships have become more complex.

One of the biggest issues with gender inequality is intersectionality, which describes the how discrimination overlaps different categories of people. This can be explained by the income gap. In 1973, women made 57% of the money that White men made in the same job. In 2013, this statistic increased to 78%. Gender inequality is even more unacceptable when women of minority races are considered. Based on studies taken in 2014 out of all races, Asian-American women earned 90% of the income that a White male would have, but African American women only earned 64%. This even varies by state and gets worse by age. I have always been hearing the notion that women make 78 cents for every dollar that they should be able to earn, but I always wondered why. According to the American Association of University Women, even after considering factors like family responsibilities and education, there is a seven percent gap that defies logic. To any human being, this should be concerning.

Despite how seemingly difficult it is for women to earn the same as men, what will I do if my future wife will make more money than me? In a society where masculinity can be stereotypically categorized by a man’s income, I would still not be concerned. After all, a difference in income does not equate to a power differential. In such a case, I would be thinking of ways to remove any preconceived notions or disconnects that occur between a husband and wife. Both of us would need to anticipate personal or emotional conflicts that may arise from our relationship.

For instance, male ego, insecurity, and family obligations are significant factors that can harm relationships. Cooking meals, taking care of children, and working a job are responsibilities that should be shared, regardless of a difference in salary. Even as a student, I know this as a fundamental concept that marriage should be founded upon.

Feminism is more than just a stand for social justice; I consider it a mission to stand for minorities. Just as much as other civil rights movements like Black Lives Matter are in the limelight, feminism should have its place. Of course, I cannot speak for every man of today; that would be generalizing, which is culturally insensitive. However, I do know that feminism in my life has a sense of progressiveness that is becoming more understood for youth of the 21st century.

About Sumit Pareek (2 Articles)
Sumit is a junior majoring in chemical engineering at Penn State! He is passionate about exploring different cultures through diversity initiatives on campus, which is what led him to join Team Underground. You can find him watching Saturday Night Live, eating different types of food, and traveling to new places.

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