When people think about a feminist, many hanker back to the days of bra-burning, long hair, and protests. However, those times called for a more aggressive stance on what it meant to be a feminist. In the past, the woman’s role was considered to be in the home taking care of the children, and for that reason the only images which were understood by the outside looking in were those that were completely parallel to everything that was known and understood at the time about women. So, what does it mean to be a feminist today?
Women were the teachers, the nurses and the secretaries in the 1950’s, and the arm candy of every man when they went out to dinner. Women were taught to be slender and perfect and always made up to keep the men in their lives happy. While many of these ideas seem backward to us at this time, in the past this was the norm and was taught to girls from the time that they were small until the time that they were older.
Going back all the way to Rome, women were not allowed to own property and it was ceded to the father or husband even if it was left from a male relative to a female relative. Women were not permitted to have body hair as it was displeasing to men. It was burned off and women were burned in the follicles to keep hair from growing back in the place from whence it had been removed.
In ancient Greece, women were not allowed to be educated, the only women who knew how to read were prostitutes or the Hytaira who were taught to be the equals of men. These women lived and associated with men on an equal level, although they had the seal of the prostitute on their backs. Pericles, the King of Athens during the Golden Age took one of these women as his wife because she was able to advise him and help him in matters of state.
Women were not given the right to vote until 1929, and when that happened it was done begrudgingly in the United States, European counterparts had the right to vote in the Victorian Age. Even today women are paid 80 cents for every dollar that a man is paid in the United States. When a talk show starts a hashtag like #Howtospotafeminist, it paints women who know how to stand up for their rights and who seek to be educated as ugly and fat. Is that what it means to be a feminist today?
While feminists are doing their best to fire back at these ridiculous statements that have gone viral about women, should the question not be asked why it is that almost 100 years after the passage of the right for women to vote that there is still a huge wage inequality for women when they are doing the same job as their male counterparts?
Why is it that feminists are criticized for being educated, well put together, and capable of handling their own affairs and are called ugly for not wanting to be the pinup models that all men dream of? #Howtospotafeminist should be trending referencing women who are well educated, ambitious, and describing the passion and power of equality. The term Feminist does not mean that a woman would not gladly accept assistance with a flat tire, however maybe this is something that should be offered to a woman not because she is female but because she is another human being. What it means today to be a feminist is that there is still a long way to go in terms of equality of respect for women and also in wage equality. Those who are not assisting a woman because she is a feminist should be thinking about how they are not assisting their fellow human being.
By Melissa English