August 28, 2014

REMEMBER THE LADIES | Feminism Is Not a Dirty Word

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BY JENNIFER MANDELBLATT

“I desire you would remember the ladies,” wrote Abigail Adams to her husband. Unfortunately, this simple call for women’s rights had little effect on the second President of the United States and the work of the Continental Congress. When the nation’s founders gathered to write a document of supreme law, a document that defied all precedents, the “ladies” and their rights were negated. While this country has made great strides in elevating the status of women, society still appears to be forgetting the ladies.

August 26 was Women’s Equality Day, marking the 94th anniversary of women earning the right to vote. On this historic day, a day to commemorate the infallible strength of suffragettes including Susan B. Anthony, Ida B. Wells and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, the nation also celebrated National Dog Day. As I scrolled through my Facebook and Instagram feeds, I came across numerous pictures of adorable dogs, but very few posts about the women who came before us and gender equality. While not surprising, such content was troubling. Trust me, I love Instagramming pictures of my dog — and sometimes pictures of dogs that are not mine — but in an era in which movements and conversations take place on social media, we need to be more comfortable associating with feminism in public spheres.

Too often pop culture and the media are filled with misguided accusations directed at the feminist movement, which in turn convinces men and women of all ages that feminism is something shameful. And according to a HuffPost/ YouGov poll, only “20 percent of Americans consider themselves feminists.”

But here’s the truth: Feminism is not a dirty word; it is not synonymous with misandry and it is not one-size fits all. Across races, socioeconomic classes, cultures and borders, the feminist movement has different goals, but feminism at its core is the belief that men and women ought to be socially, politically and economically equal. In the aforementioned poll, when respondents were asked if men and women should be equal in these three areas, 82 percent said, “yes.”

These numbers show that 60 percent of the population believes in feminism, but will not call themselves feminists. If we work to remove this disconnect by bringing our conversations about feminism to a more public sphere, our possibilities for progress will be limitless. If we take the time to “remember the ladies” of our past and continue their work into the future, we will achieve what is fair and what is just, and women will find their rightful place alongside men.

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