Feminism is a word that triggers a lot of scrunched up, confused faces. Although some people seem to think we no longer need feminism, there's a great deal of evidence showing that it's as necessary as it has ever been.
For example, women today earn 77 cents for every dollar made by a man. Even more interesting, a 2012 American Association of University Women study examined women and men who graduated college in the same year, with the same major, and with comparably impressive resumes. One year after graduation, the women were earning 82 cents for every dollar earned by men.
And feminism isn't just about the flattened concept of "women" — it also takes on the experiences of women and men of color. One study had fake candidates send in resumes for jobs. The resumes were weirdly similar — truly no differences in qualifications. When a white candidate showed up for a job at, say, a car dealership, the white person was told, "Great! We're glad you're here! Let's have an active and interesting professional conversation!" When the candidate who was a person of color showed up, that person was told, "We don't actually have any administrative positions available. But we do have an opening in the car cleaning department!"
I've got loads of other examples. One out of four women will experience a rape or attempted rape during her time in college. There is evidence that making abortion illegal doesn't make it stop, it only makes it more dangerous — and yet we have loads of folks nationwide — hello, Jim DeMint — trying to make it illegal.
Speaking of former U.S. Sen. DeMint, do you know how many women are in the U.S. Senate? And how about the House? In 2014, women hold 20 out of Senate's 100 seats. In the House of Representatives, they hold 79 of 435 seats. The U.S. has the lowest number of women in national political representation of every Western nation. Isn't this a bit troubling?
And now let's look at South Carolina. How many women are in our legislature? Twelve. That would be 10 percent. Our state is No. 49 in the nation in terms of women holding elected office. I suspect — and hope — that most of us would be appalled by all of this. If this evidence troubles you, you are probably a feminist.
Bri Sanders, a Women's and Gender Studies major at the College of Charleston, says that feminism is "walking the talk," recognizing injustices in the world and challenging them. My definition of feminism is similar: It's a movement to eradicate all forms of oppression that keep people from achieving their full humanity.
Margaret Pilarski, editor of skirt! magazine and director of the Women and Gender Studies Community Advisory Board, explains, "Feminism, to me, is a no-brainer. It's a feeling I had long before I had a term for it. I see feminism in the news and in conversations with friends constantly. Whether it's women ski jumpers being allowed to compete in the Olympics for the first time, or just encouraging a friend to be assertive in salary negotiations, feminism is happening all around us."
It's a no-brainer. All you have to do is recognize that the world is full of injustice and identify yourself as someone who's taking the injustice seriously.
Because of things like this, last year the Women's and Gender Studies Community Advisory Board put on one of the coolest parties in Charleston. Called Yes! I'm a Feminist, it was an event that celebrated the best of Charleston culture. It was meaningfully diverse, supportive of feminism, and fun.
You don't have to be a woman to attend the fest. Anybody who feels comfortable saying, "Yes! I'm a feminist" is welcome.
Around 200 people are hosting the event. These are people who donated money to support the Women's and Gender Studies Program, and they represent a variety of political and social beliefs, professions, and ideologies.
The event is diverse in terms of ideology, age, and race. This year CofC students will mingle with the chief of staff, the provost, the president, and even a member of the Board of Trustees. Democrats will mingle with Republicans. Several people who've run for office will be there. Committed religious people will mingle with those who aren't. The space is accessible, so nondisabled and disabled people can be there, too.
And please rest assured that unlike some of Charleston's big events, this is not a party where anyone will be wearing a Confederate uniform or where white people will be sipping wine while black employees carry away the trash. Women's and Gender Studies majors of all colors and all genders will be carrying away the trash, while guests of all colors and all genders will munch on food from places like O-Ku, eat tarts and cookies from Sugar, and listen to Leah Suarez.
The second annual Yes! I'm a Feminist event will be on Tues. Feb. 25 from 5:30-7:30 p.m. in the atrium and garden of the School of Sciences and Math Building (202 Calhoun St.). It's free and open to the public.
Alison Piepmeier is the director of the Women's and Gender Studies program at the College of Charleston and one of the individuals behind Yes! I'm a Feminist.