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What It Means to Be a Feminist in the Modern World

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Feminism has gotten a bit of a bad rap as of late. To even mention it around most men creates a response very close to anger. Feminists are often seen as man-haters, bra-burners and New Age hippies. An even more dangerous trend recently is the "modern" woman who insists she is beyond feminism and declares through various platforms (mostly social media) that she doesn't need feminism in a world that claims to have conquered sexism. I can't speak for every woman, but in my case, feminism has provided an outlet to elicit real social change.

The most important thing to emphasize about feminism is that it is not extreme or radical in any way. As Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie immortalized in Beyonce's hit song "Flawless,"A "feminist [is] a person who believes in the social, political, and economic equality of the sexes." The notion that people should be treated fairly no matter their race, gender, socioeconomic status or sexual identity is not a new idea; in fact, it is a loud echo of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech. While King emphasized the equality of the races, feminism instead focuses on gender as a new arena in society in need of change. Gender equality is something that must be confronted on a daily basis, especially as women and trans people face continued harassment in their daily lives.

Feminism was an important aspect of my teen years, but my ability to truly understand the implications of a sexist society has only developed since moving to New York for college. In my first two months at school, I experienced catcalling, harassment and two men attempting to follow me home during a late-night subway ride. I noticed two important ideas throughout my harrowing experiences: One, that oppressors are those in society who feel as though they have the right to take away another person's safety and two, that even though I was so scared (especially when those men tried to follow me), I have had it much easier than many women in the world, particularly trans women and women of color. Women are still by and large the primary victims of domestic violence and sexual assault, and to ignore this and call for so-called "egalitarianism" is misguided. Egalitarianism is important, but to deny feminism purely because it focuses on the empowerment of women is not a worthy argument.

Is feminism still needed in today's society? Is there a place for improving the status of women when so much progress has been made already? Absolutely. When 1 in 5 women on college campuses will be victims of sexual assault, when women continue to be victims of crimes purely because of their gender and when white, black and hispanic women continue to earn .78, .64 and .56 cents respectively on the dollar to men at the same job, there is a problem that needs to be addressed. A society cannot claim to be "beyond feminism" when such injustices continue to take place. In a world where women are victimized, assaulted and objectified on a daily basis, I will never be ashamed to be called a feminist.

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