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Three Ways College Changes Your Views of Feminism

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.

As most of the readers who have deliberately clicked on this article would agree, I’ve been a self-proclaimed feminist for years now, first identifying with that title during the 2017 Women’s Rights marches around the country as a protest to Donald Trump’s elected presidency. It was that time in my life when I realized, unfortunately, the United States was disappointingly divided on women’s rights issues—it blew my mind that there existed a majority, including politicians, employers, and general people, that didn’t believe in making the two genders equal, while further refusing to believe the stacking evidence of the apparent inequalities between men and women in society today. Even since then, however, as those national marches reached their fifth anniversary in January, and millions of young feminists like me have furthered their former education since then, I’m able to reflect on the differences of what I thought feminism was then, versus what I understand it to be now. Here are three key components of feminism I’ve evolved to understand since high school, with some college on my back, as essential to the movement. 

1. There’s too much of an emphasis on white feminism. 

Activists have been shouting this statement from American rooftops for the past five years, so why hasn’t the country listened yet? Unfortunately, we often find that white women with prestige and wealth combine to enforce a privileged view of what feminism should mean for all women, as an elite few continue to control the narrative for what actions are needed next. The problem here isn’t that white feminism is making innately invalid arguments—we all want and deserve equal pay, guaranteed maternity leave, and access to crucial reproductive health resources, just to a name a few—but these arguments don’t go far enough in understanding what extra steps are needed to achieve these goals for non-white women. This one-sided narrative promotes the unrealistic aspiration that all women face the same number and height of hurdles in achieving a common goal, which couldn’t be further from the truth—we need justice, not just equality, to ensure that every woman has access to the same freedoms across the board, city by city, state by state. I ask the rhetorical question, “Can we really call it ‘feminism’ if we pick and choose who benefits from our ‘women supporting women’ advocacy?”

2. The social and political reform we want won’t happen overnight. 

You might be especially passionate about ensuring public safety for women, while your best friend may find her calling in the body positivity movement, while your sister might have made her life fighting to diversify male-dominated career paths. As the societal obstacles that women face outnumber what you can count on your fingers and toes, it’s become apparent that true justice for American women is bound to be a lengthy novel. In other words, the work that truly needs to be done can’t be fully explained in the brief text of your favorite feminist Instagram account—the unfortunate truth is, there are just simply too many issues, all that need long-term planning and implementation, to tackle all at once, in the absence of a gradual plan. History and tradition have created a basic human rights roadblock that can’t be obliterated with a fuse, but instead, slowly but surely chipped away at with an axe that needs consistent sharpening from all of us, as we accomplish one victory after another. Don’t let this discourage you, though; while celebrating your own personal and institutional victories is important, there’s always more work to be done—and you can make that happen. 

3. Education is the best action to make change.  

It all starts in the education—since there are many issues facing American women today, all that interconnect with each other to form continued webs of misogyny, women of all ages, races, abilities, occupations, and other background factors have the ultimate defense in informing themselves on what rights they do and don’t have in 2022. Not all of us have access to higher education (yet another issue to tackle in this battle), but the good thing is, that isn’t needed to be a true feminist in this country—staying up to date with headlines on political notions and human rights deprivations, preferably from trusted female sources, is all women need to stand up for themselves and decide that they want to fight back. Although Instagram carousels and TikTok snip-its on these issues are a great start, there’s even more power in taking it upon yourself to thoroughly educate yourself a specific field of women’s liberation issues you’re truly passionate about through both a historical and sensitively modern lens, including documentaries, memoirs and essays, art exhibits, and other creative forms. Really, it’s time to break the patriarchal glass ceiling. 

Hailey Hummel

Washington '23

Hailey is a current junior at the University of Washington, majoring in Public Health—Global Health (with departmental honors), and minoring in Law, Societies, and Justice. She loves hiking, traveling around the state of Washington and the world, making art, playing piano, taking pictures, and spending time with her friends.
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