It’s not uncommon these days to hear: “What is the point of feminism in 2023? Haven’t we already achieved gender inclusivity and equality?”
The answer is no. We haven’t.
Many organizations have worked toward achieving gender equality for decades, yet so much is yet to be done.
Today, girls and women continue to face barriers and challenges derived from structural discrimination based on sex and gender and discriminatory social norms. In this context, feminism can be seen as a movement to put an end to sexism, sexist exploitation, and oppression and to achieve full gender equality in both law and practice.
The 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence campaign is an opportunity to build on our progress and call for the prevention and elimination of violence against women and girls, specifically. The global movement, celebrated each year from Nov. 25 (the International Day For Elimination Of Violence Against Women) to Dec. 10, which is International Human Rights Day, began more than 30 years ago. It is still used as an organizing strategy by citizens and governments around the world to show how important it is for women to live free from violence.
It has been more than three decades since the first celebration of 16 Days of Activism — and yet one in three women today still experience physical or sexual violence, mostly by an intimate partner. Globally, that’s an estimated 736 million women who have been subjected to physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence, non-partner sexual violence, or both. This figure does not include sexual harassment. By overlooking the extent of sexual abuse and sexual harassment, we find ourselves in what I call the “illusion of gender equality.”
And yet, some people think feminism is no longer needed.
Why? For two primary reasons: First, some people think gender inequality is an “over there” problem - something that occurs in other places but not in their day-to-day lives or community. Second, some people think it’s a “back then” problem — something older generations grappled with, but isn’t an issue any longer.
Of course, that’s not true.
There’s a clear lack of understanding when it comes to needing feminism to achieve gender equity. In fact, last year a study found one in three men think feminism does more harm than good. It shocks me to hear some people say we don’t need feminism in our modern society — as nothing could be further from the truth.
The Uphill Battle
Feminism will be necessary until women are equal to men, but right now they aren’t. The grim reality is, it will take another 286 years for the world to achieve gender equality. This rate of “progress” is much too slow for something so long overdue.
It is discouraging statistics like these that should serve as a catalyst for change. By promoting social inclusion, feminist movements can enhance opportunities for women to participate meaningfully in the economy and advance both peace and prosperity.
Indeed, gender inequality is a pressing moral and social issue as well as a critical economic challenge. A 2015 report by the McKinsey Global Institute (MGI) titled, “The Power of Parity: How Advancing Women’s Equality Can Add $12 trillion to Global Growth”, explored the economic potential available if the global gender gap was narrowed. If women — who account for half the world’s population — do not achieve their full economic potential, the global economy will suffer.
Despite this, laws and policies continue to reinforce unequal gender roles and devalue caregiving. Feminism can highlight the burden of domestic duties and parental demands and try to prompt policy change, such as parental leave policies.
Feminism Needs Support More Than Ever
Whether it’s escalating conflict, food shortages, or the climate crisis, all of the world’s greatest challenges fall the hardest on women and girls. Women and girls are more likely to live in extreme poverty than men. In conflict, their bodies become battlefields –and when food is short, women often eat least and eat last. Of the 690 million people who are food insecure in the world right now, 60% are women and girls.
All of these issues are challenging to address. However they prove that there should be no doubt that the world still needs feminism in 2023. Feminism, along with women’s rights movements, is the closest we have to a silver bullet when it comes to ensuring women and girl’s equity and ending extreme poverty once and for all.
Here at Global Citizen, we aim to leverage our relationships, platforms and convening power to create a future where every woman and girl can thrive. What does this mean in practice? It means using our platform to undertake coordinated advocacy and campaigning, seeking to mobilize resources and policy commitments to secure transformative investments in women and girls’ health and rights.
We seek to influence and support decision-makers, institutions and civil society to demand, adopt, develop and implement gender-responsive normative frameworks, legislation and policies. This also means addressing the structural challenges of gender inequality including efforts to change unequal gender and power relationships and discriminatory attitudes, behaviors and practices.
So, during this year’s 16 Days of Activism — and every day for the next 300 years or however long it takes — let us dedicate energy, passion, and vision towards achieving the equality that has escaped us for generations. Because, as we say at Global Citizen, “investing in women and girls is not only the right thing to do — but the smart thing to do.”