Feminism continues to be misunderstood

Workplace sexism remains an issue in the business world. (Laurie Harker / Tribune News Service)
Workplace sexism remains an issue in the business world. (Laurie Harker / Tribune News Service)

Feminism is dying, and it’s our job — the job of men and women — to revive it.

Popular media often gives feminism a bad rap, especially when powerful women state that they are not, in fact, feminists. In 2014, Shailene Woodley, heroine of the “Divergent” action films, told Time Magazine she is not a feminist because, “I love men, and I think the idea of ‘raise women to power, take the men away from power’ is never going to work because you need balance.”

When a woman like Woodley, who in “Divergent” embodies a powerful female lead, states that she is not a feminist, you know that we have a problem. 

Feminism is not about ending the tyranny of men, destroying masculinity or killing all men so women can rise to power. Rather, according to contemporary feminist bell hooks’ essay “Feminism Is For Everybody,” feminism “is a movement to end sexism, sexist exploitation and oppression.”

According to Dictionary.com, feminism is the “doctrine advocating social, political and all other rights of women equal to those of men.” So feminism is not about usurping men; rather, it is all about gender equality.

Today, much still needs to be done. Some would like to think that equality has been met. However, women in the workplace still face obstacles.

In 2013, women made 78 cents for every dollar a man earned — a gender wage gap of 22 percent according to the Institute For Women’s Policy Research.

Sexism is also rampant in the business world of Silicon Valley where it’s largely a boys-only club. Bringing sexism back into the realm of the public, Ellen Pao, now interim CEO of Reddit, recently lost her gender discrimination case against the venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers.

Although Pao lost her case, she is still a success for many. Daring to challenge a large firm like Kleiner takes some real grit, and many in the tech industry and public are praising Pao for her willingness to fight. According to the Wall Street Journal, the issue of gender discrimination has long been an issue in Silicon Valley, and Pao illuminated the hidden and secretive sexist world of Kleiner Perkins.

Pao warned in an interview with the Wall Street Journal that “you can’t just hide” from the issue of workplace sexism. “You need to work through these issues because they are here and they’re not going to go away.”

Pao’s personality was the main object on trial in the three-year case, with the opposing argument being that she was fired because she was ineffective, passive-aggressive and disloyal. The attorney for Kleiner cross-examined Pao and brought to light her affair with a partner at the firm and emails in which she criticized co-workers.

Whether or not Pao was actually fired for being a woman remains up in the air. However, what is important is this: Pao has brought the issue of workplace sexism back into the public media sphere, and that will have a lasting impact on the future of women in the workplace in Silicon Valley.

We need to bring back feminism; we need to bring back the fight for gender equality. Sexism still persists in business, politics and everyday life, and the only way to fix it is if we all work together.

So, be a feminist. Tell your family and friends that anyone can be a feminist. As Gloria Steinem said, “a feminist is anyone who recognizes the equality and full humanity of women and men.”

Be like Pao and stand up for yourself; stand up for gender equality, for feminism and for your fellow human being.