On March 7, Globe and Mail columnist Margaret Wente wrote, “The war for women’s rights is over,” and that, “People who persist in looking for systemic discrimination against women…seem more and more desperate.”
On March 8, jezebel.com leaked an email (later confirmed to be authentic) sent to members of the University of Southern California’s (USC) Kappa Sigma chapter detailing strategies and rules for sleeping with female students, specifically women in campus sororities. The author writes, “I will refer to females as ‘targets.’ They aren’t actual people like us men.”
On March 9, the internet exploded when the New York Times published an article describing the gang rape of an 11 year-old girl in Texas. This incident alone is proof that sexism and violence against women are still issues of great relevance, and the Times’ treatment of the topic only further illustrates this point. The article, which the newspaper’s Public Editor has since stated “lacked balance,” focused on those accused of participating in the rape, and the extent to which their lives would be affected by the incident – failing to even consider the girl and her unimaginably traumatic experience.
Post-feminism is the belief that feminism has accomplished its goals, that sexism is no longer an issue, and that the discourse of “third wave” feminism is irrelevant. The events that took place over the the week of March 7 – which also included the 100-year anniversary of International Women’s Day – are more than ample proof that this is not the case. I am a self-identifying, proud feminist. I am a Women’s Studies minor. I do not approach this issue without significant bias. However, I find it utterly incomprehensible that someone can truly believe the fight against gender inequality is over – for every incident like those at USC or in Texas, there are countless more that don’t make the headlines.
As an example that might hit closer to home, I would ask you to think of how many times you have heard or made a kitchen ‘joke’ – something along the lines of, “Get back in the kitchen” or, “Make me a sandwich.” I’m fully aware that the more I vocalize my frustration over these comments, the more I encourage them from those who are insensitive or unaware. However, I firmly believe that these jokes aren’t funny. They are overused, uncreative, entirely unproductive, and contribute to the subtle, everyday misogyny that permeates our lives. Wente writes that young women today “can scarcely believe the kind of sexism depicted on Mad Men existed only fifty years ago.” I can. It’s everywhere; we just don’t want to acknowledge that in many respects our society’s attitude toward women remains incredibly regressive.
Sexism continues to punctuate our conversations, affect women’s reproductive rights, employment opportunities, and, quite frequently, ability to be taken seriously. Kitchen ‘jokes’ might be a more subtle example of this, but events such as the rape of an 11 year-old girl and an email stating that “non-consent and rape are two different things” are concrete cases that permit me to feel comfortable saying that feminism is still relevant, and that the war for women’s rights is most definitely not over. Non-consent and rape are exactly the same thing, and the fact that someone might think otherwise is truly frightening. Feminism isn’t a bad thing, and isn’t exclusively reserved for women to identify with. If we want our communities to be happier, safer, and more inclusive, we need to support feminism as a whole, and acknowledge that we’re still a long way from reaching total equality.
Flora Dunster is a U2 Art History major (Honours) and Women’s Studies minor, and The Daily’s Copy editor. The views expressed here are her own. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.