I (like many of you reading this) was born into an age where I wasn’t necessarily aware of feminism. I grew up in an era where I felt as much ‘one of the boys’ at recess as I did one of the girls after school. I never questioned playing sports and taking ballet at the same time, and I never questioned being the only girl to go snowboarding with the boys everyday. This seemed to be a normal progression for me, and as a child who was very interested in social movements and civil rights, learning about feminism at a later date was somewhat awkward and fairly removed from my personal experience growing up in Edmonton. At some point I realized that mine was likely the first generation to have this gender equality experience at such a young age.
This is an honour, is it not? To be the first generation that did not experience war first-hand, that legally adopts gay marriage and is raised in a relatively accepting multicultural society? I have always felt this to be not only an honour of our generation and country, but also a burden. With these progressive social developments, we hold the responsibility of understanding the past, which we did not experience, while continuing to pursue the ideals that many social movements before us upheld. It is not an easy task to understand that which we did not experience ourselves, but this year for the first time in my life, I have begun to understand its importance.
For many years I honestly thought feminism was somewhat outdated and unnecessary, and I took for granted the rights that women have within the education system, workforce, and household roles. But this year, after studying abroad in the United States for ten months, I’ve begun to see that the normalcies that I experienced during my entire life at home in Edmonton are not necessarily the same circumstances elsewhere in the world. I have begun to defend my educational prowess as a Killam Fulbright Fellow at a forthright institution. I have begun to speak louder in scholarly discussions when I’ve realized that I’m the only female in the room.
Most recently I was participating in an educational discussion with faculty members and students debating whether the rise of feminism has reduced the traditional social roles of the male in society. This particular idea that the loss of a definitive male identity in the wake of feminism is provoking in its modern developments; however, it is entirely irrelevant. Gender roles still exist strongly throughout Canada and the United States. It is still entirely prevalent in salary disparity, social norms and niceties, and most notably the media.
The war against women right now in the media is appalling. The slutshaming of industry stars like Kristen Stewart is not only setting an awful precedent of blame against the female and only the female, but it is setting a terrible example for the next generation of young girls that this is acceptable. So yes our generation may be somewhat disconnected from the feminist movements of the past, but it is extremely important that we begin to understand and promote a modern understanding of what feminism means to our generation.
I need feminism because I’m sick of double standards. You need feminism because you owe it to the women who fought for your rights. And we need feminism for the future generation to understand their history and their self value.