Biggest Issues Modern Feminism is Working to Solve

How Modern Feminism Is Aiming to Fix the World

A feminist rally, featuring a large signs that reads "THE FUTURE IS FEMALE." Courtesy of Lindsey LaMont.

If you’re familiar with this blog, you’re probably also familiar with the modern feminist movement. After all, society has progressed past having feminism’s main goal be “let women vote” (mostly, anyway), and the movement has accordingly shifted focus to tackle other pervasive issues that face women everywhere. But what exactly are those modern issues? Today, we’ll be covering the five biggest issues that modern feminist is working to solve, which in no particular order include:

  1. The Division of Domestic Labor
  2. Media Presentation
  3. The Glass Ceiling
  4. Social Inequality
  5. Violence Against Women

The Division of Domestic Labor

Mental Load and Default Managers

A purple-gloved hand weilding a bright red and yellow spray bottle against a teal background
What does it say about society that women are expected to do certain tasks that men would be praised for doing? Image courtesy of JESHOOTS.

It’s no secret that for centuries women have been the ones expected to perform the majority of the domestic duties and the extreme amount of work that goes into that. Perhaps the most succinct proof is our vocabulary: “housewife” sounds normal, but when was the last time you heard “househusband” (which, for the record, is a word on which my computer cannot seem to decide whether to correct me) without thinking twice about it? In today’s modern day and age, many women work full time, and yet are still expected to also be in charge of all of their childrens’ needs, nearly all household tasks, and any number of other daily domestic matters that certainly need not always be their job. In fact, if a couple realize that the work required to take care of their children necessitates that one of them be a stay-at-home parent, the common assumption is that it will be the mother who drops her career.

A little while back, we examined some of the ways that you can get involved with modern feminism. In that article, we covered the fact that the division of labor doesn’t only apply to physical work, but to mental work as well. Cartoonist and blogger Emma captured the struggle best in her viral comic “You Should’ve Asked,” which covers how women are not only expected to do an inordinate amount of domestic work, but also to keep conscious track of all of the work that they have not done and that others need to do. Modern feminism is working to eliminate this expectation that women be the undervalued project managers AND primary workers of their households, and to encourage equal division of labor.

Media Presentation

Unrealistic and Unfulfilling Standards

A side-by-side comparison of a model before and after editing
Our ideas of beauty are becoming synonymous with computer-rendered images. Image courtesy of Bored Panda.

What we see in the media shapes our view of reality. As adults, we absorb insane amounts of news every day, and no matter how skeptical we consider ourselves, subtle propaganda takes a mental toll. As children, what we see portrayed in cartoons and movies affects how we expect to see things portrayed in the real world. And that’s not even considering the effect that the constant advertisements we see on a daily basis have on our perspective. This is all to say that, in a world where the media seems to be spewing sexism left, right, and center, it can seem nearly impossible to fight through and make way for feminism.

Let’s focus on advertising for a moment as an overarching example of this problem. For years, advertisements have used sex appeal to sell products. And while that alone isn’t really a problem, the fact of the matter is that “sex appeal” usually means something like inexplicably having a naked woman lying on a car and being used as an object to obtain more money for the company. As the modern feminist movement gains momentum, these sorts of ads have become less and less acceptable in they eyes of the public.

What’s potentially even worse is that it isn’t only that women are portrayed in the media so often as nothing more than sex objects: it’s that they’re portrayed as entirely unrealistic sex objects, which merely compounds the layers on which real live human beings are being devalued as a result of this trend. For example, the models you see on magazines are usually so airbrushed that you’re practically looking at an idealized illustration, not a photograph of a real person. The fact that people everywhere are being exposed to these depictions of women that are nothing more than unrealistic roads to unfulfilling lives is morally reprehensible.

The Glass Ceiling

Breaking Barriers, Repeatedly

A cartoon of a woman on a ladder underneath a glass ceiling floating in the sky, on which stand three men
The system is set up against women being in powerful positions. Image courtesy of Slate.

‘The Glass Ceiling’ is a phrase coined in the 1970s that describes the extreme difficulty that women and minorities face when it comes to promotion and positions of power. Women are an undeniable part of the modern workforce, but they are still fighting to earn the recognition that ought to come with that. In fact, many women still find that they are being hired merely as ‘eye candy for the office.’ With that in mind, it is not surprising - although it is certainly frustrating, to say the very least - that women often find it difficult or even impossible to gain access to powerful positions, whether that be CEOs in business settings or higher up positions in political fields.

This is by no means a small-time issue. Forbes Magazine, in a recent article, examined how outdated gender norms and stereotypes are affecting women to this day and working to keep them out of powerful positions. The Wall Street Journal conducted a study on the ways that the glass ceiling is still a relevant issue today, why that may be, and what some of the statistics look like. Furthermore, the entire system is set up in that a way that, even if the ‘glass ceiling’ were to magically become a non-issue overnight, many women would still find it impossible to gain access to the same opportunities as their male co-workers, thanks to an extension of the analogy knows as the ‘broken rung.’ Without question, this is an absolutely vital issue, and is a primary focus for much of the modern feminist movement.

Social Inequality

How Sexism Bleeds Into Everything

The words "fight sexism" in black spray paint on a tan-colored wall
It is not enough to just be against sexism; we have to actually fight it. Image courtesy of Markus Spiske.

It isn’t only business that offers a vastly uneven playing field for women. With an entire system of sexism set up against women - everything from excessive labor, unrealistic and harmful representation, and a society that seems intent on keeping them out of positions of power - it isn’t surprising to learn that that system of inequality carries over to effectively all aspects of life. For one thing, income, wage, and wealth gaps are rampant, and in a capitalistic society that likes to play with the divide between ‘valuing money’ and ‘valuing money more than people,’ an economic gap is a dangerous thing. We’ve likely all heard some variation on the statistic of ‘78 cents to every dollar.’ Unfortunately, that mentality translates to other aspects of life.

The fact of the matter is that it isn’t only that women are being mistreated: it’s that the ways that women as a whole are being mistreated only compounds the ways that are being mistreated due to other aspects of their life and identities. Sexism bleeds over into the unjust treatment of women of color: things like anti-hijabi rhetoric, fetishization of asian women, and unwillingness to take black women serious or see them represented in leading positions as opposed to, say, ‘the sassy best friend,’ or ‘the one who dies in the horror movie. Sex workers are habitually abused, and this treatment is all the worse for victims of rape and sex trafficing. Everywhere women turn, they are being made to feel less than for a laundry list of reasons that gets flimsier the longer you look at it, and modern feminism is fighting that mentality tooth and nail.

Violence Against Women

An Everyday Horror Movie

A black and white photo of a woman crying silently
Nearly every single woman in America has experienced gender-based violence in some way. Image courtesy of Kat J.

Here’s a scary truth: most people who are raised female spend their life looking at the world as though it is, on some level, always potentially going to turn into a horror movie. This is not even always a conscious thought, but merely a result of the way that we are raised. If you were not raised female, it is possible you never learned to walk home with your keys between your fingers so as to have a quick weapon should someone spring out of the shadows; or that if you’re ever in danger, it is better to shout “fire” than to shout “help,” because people react to the former, but don’t necessarily react to the latter; or that if you are alone at night and you see a man walking toward you, you need to be prepared to run, because it’s better to be rude than to be dead.

The world is a terrifyingly dangerous place for women in ways that, sadly, many women have simply been forced to get used to. But what’s worse is that, even if this violence happens to you, proving that it happened and getting justice is often a near-insurmountable ordeal. Rape statistics alone prove this point, as do the facts that in some states, marital rape is not considered to be a thing worth punishing, and all across America there is the ever-present idea of rape being merely ‘comedic material’ or ‘locker room talk.’ Women in entertainment are often the ones who shed light on these issues the best, providing us with everything from CollegeHumor’s “How Being In Public Feels: Men vs. Women” (as well as countless other hilarious and poignant feminist sketches) to Belissa Escobedo’s and Rhiannon McGavin’s slam poem “Rape Joke.”

The goal of modern feminism is to create a world that is safe and fair for everyone. And in order for that to be a reality, these are the issues that it must face.

Miriam Reid

Miriam Reid is a writer, musician, and history nerd based in Philadelphia, PA.
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