Modern Academic Feminism Is Not Hurting Women

| by Mark Jones
A group of women gather at the TechEd Conference in 2014A group of women gather at the TechEd Conference in 2014

Despite accusations from some feminist scholars, modern academic feminism is not harming women in any way.

According to The Huffington Post, the “ultimate” goal of feminism is to ensure equality among all people, regardless of gender, history or sexual preference. Americans often misinterpret the term “feminism,” however, as the idea that women are superior to men.

This skewed definition leads to increased confusion when discussing the benefits and conceived drawbacks of feminism in the U.S.

Modern academic feminism, as defined by Psychology Today, is responsible for the increased opportunities for women in America. "Women can now freely choose whatever career path they want and are making their choices based on personal preferences and priorities,” writes Clay Routledge, Ph.D.

Routledge questions whether the increase in opportunity is actually beneficial for women in today’s society.

Although men and women share the same careers, a definite wage gap exists in many professional fields.

The wage gap is the difference in the median annual pay for women and men holding full-time jobs, according to the National Partnership for Women and Families. In a document released by NPWF, the wage gap in America currently rests at 79 percent, meaning that women earn 79 cents for every dollar that men make.  Data from the U.S. Census Bureau confirms this statistic.

Some feminist scholars argue that increased opportunities give women false hope because barriers, such as the wage gap, still exist, according to Routledge. They argue that the new wave of feminism, known as modern academic feminism is harmful, not beneficial, to women striving for equality among the sexes.

Their interpretation, however, is not a fair assessment of the times.

Modern academic feminism is a step in the fight toward gaining ultimate equality. Surely problems still exist, including problems that extend beyond the wage gap. 

Routledge cites, for example, both hostile and benevolent sexism as issues that plague American society. While hostile sexism is the blatant hatred of one sex, benevolent sexism is the overprotection of women. It stems from the portrayal as the weaker sex, needing constant care and protection.

By increasing professional and academic opportunities for women, however, Americans are combating both hostile and benevolent sexism.

In her speech at the 2016 Democratic National Convention, first lady Michelle Obama, a powerful female leader, spoke about the revolutionary impact that Hillary Clinton has had by earning the Democratic nomination and, possibly becoming the first female president of the United States.

“And because of Hillary Clinton, my daughters and all our sons and daughters now take for granted that a woman can be president of the United States,” said Obama.

Years ago, a woman never would have received the nomination from a major political party. Modern academic feminism has increased opportunities to normalize the idea that women can hold positions of power.

Normalization is the key to responding to critiques of modern academic feminism. 

While equality does not fully exist, the new wave of feminism is a step in the right direction. Modern academic feminism is not diminishing progress made in the past, and it certainly is not harming women.

Americans must remember that the women’s rights movement began with the first Women’s Convention in Seneca Falls, New York, in 1848, notes the Feminism and Women’s Studies website. More than a century and a half has passed since that day. 

History proves that the fight for equality takes time. Though the situation is not perfect at the moment, modern academic feminism is pushing citizens toward a more just and progressive mindset. 

Click here for the opposing view on this topic.

Sources: Psychology Today, The Huffington Post, NPWF, Feminism and Womens' Studies, The Washington Post / Photo credit: Ignite New Zealand/Flickr

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