How Should We Approach Feminism: The Undiscussed Misogyny of the East
By HANNAH KOTLER ‘21
Many people believe that the gender gap barely exists and that we don’t need feminism anymore. Nonetheless, the American scramble for equality pushes forward, with feminists eager to fill the gender gap. However, it is only when we turn our focus to the world outside that we are able to reflect on how much feminism is needed. Husbands can rape their wives without consequence in India, and women can be killed in the name of honor in Jordan. Societies suffer from misogyny now as much as ever.
While the West has made considerable progress towards gender equality, much of the East lies far behind. Though each country differs, the extent of sexism in Eastern Countries is atrocious. According to the Atlantic, in America, the gender pay gap is around 22%, in Jordan, it is 40%. Child marriage is a huge problem in the US, having 15,000 cases per year, but we've never cared that child marriage in India is, in some states, 69% of all marriages. We often complain that some of our classes have an imbalanced gender ratio, but there are girls in Afghanistan whose faces were destroyed by burning acid for going to school. Remember the 8 year old girl in Yemen, forced to wed a 40 year old man, who died on her wedding night?
To make it clear, I am not at all saying we should cease the fight for equality in the States. The truth is "even if you are a rich, white, educated woman in the United States, you can still be walking down the street and men will talk about you in ways that make you ashamed, afraid, and vulnerable" (Nara Mohyeddin '21). However, we need to raise awareness for women around the globe who are often ignored and excluded, with or without intention, from the conversation.
People also don’t recognize the hardships overcome to earn us our privileges today. This lack of gratefulness causes feminism to sound like just another first world problem, and means many people remain unconvinced by the movement.
If they were more exposed to the unbelievable misogyny around the globe, I do not believe anyone would say we don’t need feminism. Yet sadly, many that are aware of it search for scapegoats instead of acting to ameliorate the situation. This mindset feeds into beliefs like “Islam is an immoral religion” or “Arab men are all violent,” and people stop bothering to care because they believe it's never going to change.
This is the complete opposite of the attitude we should carry. The West and East progressing at different paces isn't a reflection of Western superiority. We cannot expect equality to spread throughout the world overnight, but instead of believing that nothing will ever change and consequently stereotyping, we should educate the people around us. 100 years ago, women in the US did not have the right to vote, 120 years ago most women in China still had to bind their feet, and just over 2 years ago, women in Saudi Arabia were not allowed to drive. There is so much hope and potential in our world; there is so much to be grateful for. Rather than avoiding feminism or view it as an empty and idealistic concept, we should incorporate feminism in our lives on a day-to-day basis and attempt change.
The next time someone says “feminism is fake” to your face, catcalls you from across the street, or criticizes your tube top, don't stay silent. Scream back, make them apologize, tell them how wrong they are, show them, for all the women who suffer, in various ways and extents, how much respect and empowerment you deserve.