Written By Contributor Writer Layla McKinley 

Lately there has been an increase in feminist or women’s rights awareness. But with that, trends have shown an ever growing fear of the words feminism and therefore feminist. What do these words actually mean and why are they invoking such fear? Feminism is defined as:

“the advocacy of women’s rights on the grounds of political, social and economic equality to men.”

Why would anyone condemn or be afraid of the idea that women should be equal to men? Maybe people are afraid they will lose power. Maybe they are afraid that women will be reign supreme over them. But that is not the idea behind feminism. The idea is that men and women are equal.

Per Sarah Jane Glynn and Audrey Power’s article, in 2010, women were still only earning 77% of what men were earning in comparable career positions. If the gender gap in pay continues at its current rate, it will take 45 years to close!

According to the Center for American Women and Politics, despite making up about half of this country’s population, only 19% of Congress is comprised of women. How can women’s issues be appropriately addressed when women don’t have equal authority to make political decisions on them?

Think about the way we speak and try to ignore how blatantly obvious it is that women are continued to be thought of as lesser. Women are infantilized by being called “girls.” As a result, their intelligence is discredited and they are demeaned not only at home but in the workforce as well. “He” remains the “norm” in speech. Think of every derogatory word aimed at women. Can you think of even half of the amount you came up with that are aimed at men? The number of derogatory words for women continues to grow all the time. Very recently there has been a new spew, utilizing the word THOT (thirsty ho over there). Like there weren’t already enough derogatory words for women, apparently they needed another one.

For all of these reasons… we need feminism. We need people to stop being afraid of the word feminist. If you support the equality of men and women then you are a feminist. Feel free to join in the recent movements below in order to show your support.

#hefoemrshe – He for She is a United Nations project calling for gender equality. This movement was made very famous by Emma Watson when she made a powerful speech to the government regarding gender equality issues. The likes of Benedict Cumberbatch and Tom Hiddleston have joined the movement by wearing shirts that say “This is what a feminist looks like” and hashtagging photos with the #heforshe. Matt Damon is quoted on the He for She website as saying, “It’s an objective fact, that if you want to solve some of these huge, kind of bigger problems of extreme poverty, you have to include the women. They’re the ones who will get it done.” More information about He for She can be found here. http://www.heforshe.org/

#likeagirl – During the Superbowl this year (2015), Always, the feminine care company launched a campaign to put an end to stigma that being or doing anything “like a girl” was a negative thing. Since then, thousands of people have used the #likeagirl in order to tell their stories of strength and what they did “like a girl,” that makes them beautiful, smart, brave and successful. You can find more information about the #likeagirl campaign here.

#speakbeautiful – This campaign was created by Dove in conjunction with Twitter in an attempt to decrease negative ways women discuss their bodies on social media. They are hoping to reduce the over 5 million negative body image tweets that were sent into the social media atmosphere in 2014. Twitter has long since had a no tolerance stance on bullies and social media trolls but it continues to be an issue as evidence even by Iggy Azalea taking down her social media accounts after a round of battering due to pictures of her in a bathing suit showed her very normal cellulite. Dove’s #speakbeautiful campaign kicked off recently by airing their first commercial in late February during the Oscars.

#equalpay – has highlighted the importance of equal pay for men and women. Not only does it try to bring awareness to the gender gap between men and women but delves deeper by pointing out that women of color make even less than white women. The hashtag calls for equal pay across all races and all genders.

#equalrights – The hashtag has fired up in order to bring awareness to the vast inequalities that the United States continues to face. Although those that are privileged may not be aware of the inequalities, the reality is that they are still very real. This hashtag is being utilized in an attempt to bring equality to all people in the nation regardless of age, race, gender, religion or sexual orientation.

#askhermore – started at the 2015 Oscars by Reese Witherspoon in an attempt to get interviewers on the red carpet to ask women about more than “who” they are wearing. Her point in starting the trending Twitter hashtag was to point out that women on the red carpet are always asked who they are wearing and their professional pursuits are not explored like the male celebrities who join them. It is an extremely powerful way to highlight the differences in how men and women are viewed. Hopefully it will bring awareness that women are professionals as well and should be recognized for their achievements in that arena.

Speaking of the Oscars (which clearly was a positive platform for gender equality this year) Patricia Arquette summed it up perfectly,

“It’s time for women. Equal means equal. The truth is the older women get, the less money they make. The rs_634x1024-150222210103-634-patricia-arquette-oscar-winnerhighest percentage of children living in poverty are in female-headed households. It’s inexcusable that we go around the world and we talk about equal rights for women in other countries and we don’t.One of those superior court justices said two years ago in a law speech at a university that we don’t have equal rights for women in America and we don’t because when they wrote Constitution, they didn’t intend it for women. So the truth is even though we sort of feel like we have equal rights in America right under the surface there are huge issues at play that really do affect women. It’s time for all the women in America, and all the men that love women and all the gay people and all the people of color that we’ve all fought for to fight for us now.”