Woodland: Is Modern American Feminism Necessary?

Reproductive rights and income inequality are obvious injustices.

by Ophelia Woodland | 9/27/19 2:05am

Is modern American feminism necessary? In a word, absolutely. Feminism is a necessary force in the United States as long as men and women are on unequal footing. As our country stands now, they certainly are. Men enjoy a soft, plush carpet — with a color that lies somewhere between cream and beige — while women are plopped squarely in the middle of an ice rink (if we are to continue with the footing metaphor).

Let’s start with economic inequality. Fact: women make 80 cents for every dollar a man earns (and that’s women in general; women of color face an even greater disparity). Conservatives are often quick to point out that women choose lower-paying jobs, and that it is actually illegal to pay men and women less, so we really shouldn’t worry about that 20-cent difference too much. What if I told you that the former isn’t true, and that the latter, while true, is rarely adhered to?

This year, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that for the first quarter of 2019, the median usual weekly earnings for women were 80.4 percent of the median usual weekly earnings for men. That doesn’t sound like equality to me.

A large part of the wage gap is often attributed to women picking different work than men. Anti-feminists (or as I prefer to call them, sexists) will proudly tout the fact that women choose “softer,” easier, lower-paying jobs. According to the New York Times, when women enter a field, the median pay for these jobs is lower. Recreation workers, ticketing agents, and biologists are all male-dominated professions, but as more women entered them, their wages went down by 57 percent, 43 percent and 18 percent, respectively. The responsibilities of these jobs didn’t change. The only thing that changed was the gender of the person performing them — and when that person was female, they got paid less. 

The converse is similarly true. Computer programming used to be a female-dominated field, but once men entered the industry, those jobs increased in salary and reputation. Clearly, our country devalues the work of women, no matter what field they’re in.

It’s not just their work, but also their bodies, that our society doesn’t value. Earlier this summer, Georgia passed a fairly egregious abortion bill, not only disallowing abortions past the six week mark (nevermind the assertion by Scientific American that consciousness doesn’t even begin until at least the 24th week of pregnancy), but it genuinely allows prosecutors to question women who miscarry and to put them on trial. For second degree murder. Welcome to Georgia! 

In the discussion of abortion, I think it’s important to mention that vasectomies are pretty much 100 percent effective at preventing pregnancy, and are completely reversible — and yet, nobody ever suggests that we should mandate men to seal their testicles shut. Why? Because seizing control over someone else’s body is only tolerated in America if that person is a woman. 

Of course, the “it could be worse” argument that conservatives are so fond must be addressed in any conversation regarding modern feminism, so I implore you to look out at any parking lot. You’ll see hundreds of different kinds of wonderful, glorious cars. Feats of human innovation! Cars that can accelerate from zero to 60 in under three seconds, cars that can run entirely on electricity. No one complains that American car companies should be happy with what they’ve got. We didn’t build the Model T, slap it on the hood and say, “Well there you go, we’ve made the automobile. We can all go home, let’s stop progressing forever now,” because that kind of rhetoric is only applied to oppressed groups by those who wish to silence them. Although women have made many advances over the last few decades, that doesn’t mean we should stop.