Feminism is a recent phenomenon sweeping across both modern political and social debates.
According to Merriam-Webster, feminism is defined as “the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes,” or “organized activity on behalf of women’s rights and interests.” Feminism has had a positive influence throughout its time as a movement. However, with any controversial subject, opposing views, beliefs and opinions will present themselves, leaving a negative beam on the movement.
Feminism has impacted women world-wide, including Malarie Zaunbrecher, a student currently attending Louisiana State University. She has been an active feminist for the majority of her life. Attending LSU has strengthened her knowledge on the subject, and allowed her to expand her understanding of and position in the feminist movement.
As a student at LSU, Zaunbrecher has been able to take courses in areas such as Women’s & Gender Studies, which she says has allowed her to define feminism.
“To me, feminism is the promotion of the idea that men, women, and all those in between are equal and should be given the same opportunities and treatment in all situations. Feminism teaches that women can be the breadwinners, women aren’t helpless, and that the only thing standing in our way is a misconception of our ability. I identify as a feminist and I’m always willing to educate people when I’m questioned about it. We aren’t angry protesters, bra burners, or man haters. We’re just trying to change the dated lens through which society views women.”
Like many other feminists, she wants those who oppose the movement to understand that feminism can be a great advantage to society by making it more unified both socially and economically.
Zaunbrecher understands that some people may believe feminists are striving to achieve superiority over men. So with every opportunity that arises, she explains the true meaning of feminism and how it is simply a belief that women should have equal opportunity and status as that of a male.
“The first wave of feminism,” Zaunbrecher explains, “had its problems because it was not intersectional. However, the inherent idea of feminism is not a bad message. When the idea of intersectionality was introduced, the whole movement improved and was more inclusive. Of course, people who pervert the message and use the label of feminism to promote their ideas can cause confusion about the true message of the movement, but that will be true for all civil rights movements and social labels.”
However, she believes that feminism is evolving and changing for the better. In a statement, she explains that feminism has, for the most part, moved away from achieving goals involving governmental aspects. “Now feminism is less about tangible steps towards equality, such as suffrage, equal pay, etc. and more about changing the mindset of modern American society. Of course, feminists got women the vote and have made major ostensible steps towards equality (though excluding women of color for a majority of that movement). Now, the equality is coming through education and a change of perspective that was brought about by tradition and ignorance.”
She continues, “Feminism has just been a mass education led by people who realize that women and men are equal in all respects. It brought about women being educated, women in the work force, changing family dynamics, and women taking places of power.”
Zaunbrecher says that many women who may identify as feminists will not verbally express support out of fear of being called derogatory terms, which happens to many openly supportive women. This is saddening to her as she strongly supports feminism and what it stands for.
“I think that the fear of being labeled as a feminist comes from the gross misrepresentation of feminism in recent years. The label has been adopted by several different individuals and groups that may have differing agendas from one another and from feminism as a base concept. Because of this, the term feminism has become, for some, too vague and applicable to too many groups/ ideologies, and for others too specific in a negative context because of poor examples attached to it.” explains Zaunbrecher. She hopes that one day women and even men can openly identify as being a feminist or supportive of the phenomenon, without fear of rejection or question.
Another student at LSU, Magdalen Richard, says “I identify as a feminist to the true definition, but not to society’s misconception of what feminism is. I believe in a universal equality of gender. At no point have I set out to put men down or insinuate that women are superior to men; I have only been vocal on issues in which I find to be oppressive of women.”
There are many women who are matriarchs to the feminist cause that Richard looks up to. Alice Paul is on the top of her list.
In an article found on Autostraddle.com, a blog run by progressive feminists, Alice Paul was a suffragist who dedicated her life fighting to secure equal rights for females. She was very influential throughout the 20th century and fought to change both government and social systems treatment and positions regarding women.
Hillary Clinton has also been a very prominent figure in both Richard and Zaunbrecher’s lives as feminists. Clinton was the Democratic Nominee in the 2016 presidential election, running to claim the spot of the first United States female president. Clinton has long advocated for women’s rights, such as women’s health and social equality. Clinton lost the race to Republican Party candidate Donald J. Trump, who has openly said crude and offensive things regarding women.
For Zaunbrecher, Clinton, “who was the most qualified for the job,” in terms of her political resume, should be America’s next president. Her loss came as quite a shock and was utterly devastating for Zaunbrecher, who says “Hillary’s loss may be a setback for our cause, but we will overcome this and push forward in our fight to obtain complete gender equality like we always have.”
With so many young people who tend to be more progressive both Zaunbrecher and Richard agree that the future of feminism looks bright. Zaunbrecher exclaims, “since feminism is widely accepted by younger generations, the movement is gaining momentum, regardless of those fighting against it. As time passes women will gain more equality and continue to break down social walls and barriers.”