Last Updated 1 month by Emily Standley-Allard

Happy International Women’s Month! This is a shoutout to all the women of the world. Women’s rights are essential for thriving societies because when women are empowered, everyone benefits. Granting women equal access to education leads to healthier, more educated children and subsequent generations.

Originally published on MSN.

The cure for poverty has a name, in fact: it’s called the empowerment of women. ” – Christopher Hitchens

multi-ethnic women

When women have economic opportunity, they invest in their families and communities, driving economic growth.

Societies with strong protections for women’s rights tend to be more peaceful, with lower levels of violence and greater political stability.

Ultimately, recognizing women’s inherent rights and ensuring they have the tools to live full and self-directed lives creates a foundation for a more just and prosperous world for all.

Women have two choices: Either she’s a feminist or a masochist.” – Gloria Steinem

The Passage of the Equal Credit Opportunity Act (ECOA)

The ECOA made it illegal to discriminate against someone seeking credit based on factors like sex, marital status, race, religion, and national origin. This was a watershed moment for women’s financial independence.

Before this legislation, it was common for:

  • Married Women: Credit cards were typically issued in the husband’s name, with the wife only having access as an authorized user.
  • Single Women: Single women faced difficulty getting credit cards. They often needed a male co-signer (usually a father or brother) and could be denied based on marital status.

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Why Feminism is Now a ‘Dirty’ Word

One of the biggest misconceptions about feminism is that it’s a movement for women, by women, and made up of women in opposition of men.

In truth, not only should feminism benefit everyone, as it works to dismantle all systems of oppression, but it shouldn’t be based on this binary gender thinking in the first place.

And while women have made tremendous progress over the years, there’s still much improvement to be made.

When people talk about feminism, shouldn’t that be the focus? Here are some myths about feminism beliefs.

Misconceptions & Stereotypes:

  • Man-hating: One of the biggest misconceptions is that feminists hate men. This stems from a misinterpretation of feminism’s goal of dismantling the patriarchy. Patriarchy is a system that benefits men, not an indictment of individual men.
  • Angry or Aggressive: The stereotype of the “angry feminist” is used to undermine the validity of concerns about equality. Passion about injustice is often misconstrued as unjustified anger.
  • Anti-Femininity: Some mistakenly associate feminism with rejecting traditional femininity. Feminism is simply about having the choice to embrace or reject societal norms.

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Purposeful Misrepresentation:

  • Antifeminist Movements: There are active movements dedicated to discrediting feminism and promoting fearmongering. These groups often spread misinformation that portrays feminists as a threat to traditional values or family structures.
  • Political Framing: The word “feminism” is sometimes manipulated in political discourse to stir up division and polarize viewpoints, leading to negative perceptions.
  • Lack of Understanding: Many people are simply unfamiliar with the true definition of feminism: the belief in social, political, and economic equality of the sexes. Preconceived notions override objective understanding.
  • Internalization of Societal Norms: Systemic sexism and misogyny permeate society. This can cause both women and men to subconsciously internalize negative associations, even if they intellectually support equality.

Addressing the Negativity

To change the perception around feminism, how about people focus on:

  • Education: Promoting accurate information about what feminism means and its various manifestations can help dispel myths.
  • Open Dialogue: Engaging in respectful conversations to explore people’s reservations about feminism can address misunderstandings.
  • Visibility of Diverse Feminists: Showcasing the diverse faces and experiences of feminism can counteract narrow, stereotypical portrayals.

Waves of Feminism

The women’s rights movement in the United States is often discussed in terms of “waves” of feminism, each with specific goals and approaches.

  • First-Wave Feminism (19th-Early 20th Century): The first wave focused heavily on women’s suffrage, seeking the right to vote as a fundamental avenue to political influence and change. Leading figures like Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton were instrumental in this movement. The 19th Amendment in 1920, granting women the right to vote, represents a landmark achievement of this wave.
  • Second-Wave Feminism (1960s-1980s): This wave focused on broader issues of equality, including reproductive rights, workplace discrimination, sexuality, and domestic violence. It questioned traditional gender roles and societal constructs that confined women to the domestic sphere. Iconic figures like Betty Friedan, Gloria Steinem, and Shirley Chisholm brought national attention to a wider range of feminist concerns.
  • Third-Wave Feminism (1990s-2000s): Building on the second wave, this phase emphasized intersectionality, recognizing the complexities of how issues of gender, race, class, sexuality, and identity can overlap. It championed a more inclusive and diverse understanding of feminism.
  • Fourth-Wave Feminism (2010s-Present): This current wave utilizes technology and social media significantly to raise awareness, combat online harassment, and address issues of sexual assault, consent, reproductive rights and body image representation. Movements like #MeToo have been instrumental in fourth-wave feminism and have brought about significant shifts in holding those in power accountable.

Notable Women’s Movements and Organizations

Throughout history, specific organizations and movements have driven critical conversations and changes:

  • The National Organization for Women (NOW): Founded in 1966, NOW advocates for legal equality, reproductive rights, and combating violence against women.
  • Planned Parenthood: A critical resource for women’s health, Planned Parenthood provides access to contraceptives, abortion healthcare, and vital reproductive and sexual health information.
  • The #MeToo Movement: This decentralized yet powerful movement ignited global conversations about sexual assault and harassment, exposing abuses of power, particularly in the workplace.
  • The Women’s March: Beginning in 2017, this annual event brings together millions of people across the world to protest for women’s rights, equality, and social justice issues.

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Impact and Empowerment of Women’s Rights

Women’s movements have irrevocably altered the fabric of American society. Their continued work brings about meaningful and positive change:

  • Legal Equality: Legislation like the Equal Pay Act and Title IX have brought about greater equality in the workplace and education, even though disparities persist.
  • Reproductive Rights: While overturned by the Supreme Court in the USA June 2022, it’s continuously under debate, the landmark decision in Roe v. Wade (1973) formerly granted women greater control over their bodies and reproductive choices.
  • Shifting Workplace Dynamics: Movements like #MeToo have pressured workplaces to take sexual harassment more seriously, resulting in policy changes and greater accountability.
  • Women’s Representation in Politics and Business: Historically underrepresented, there has been notable progress in women’s representation in government and corporate leadership.

The Path Ahead

The struggle for women’s equality is ongoing.

Women’s movements continue to tackle the fight against workplace discrimination, the gender pay gap, violence against women, and the erosion of reproductive rights.

The future of women’s rights depends on continued activism, awareness, and a commitment to intersectional and inclusive representation for all women.

Conclusion

Women’s rights and empowerment is not a zero-sum game; it’s a rising tide that lifts all boats. When women have the resources, opportunities, and agency to shape their own lives, we as people unlock a wellspring of human potential.

It’s a fact that educated women lead healthier families, economically empowered women boost entire economies, and when women hold decision-making power, societies become more just and equitable.

Empowering women is not merely the right thing to do, it’s the smart thing to do for the betterment of our families, communities, and the world at large.

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