What The Feminist Movement Means To Me As An 8th Grader

I am young, but I have my own opinions and I am eager to voice them, no matter what anyone else says.

This article was written by Gracie U., an Essex County, NJ Middle School Student.

The following article is a part of a new series, “Listening to Youth Voices in the New Year.” Each Sunday, articles written by Essex County Middle School students will be published, each week relating to a new topic. You can learn more about this series here.

I have always been a feminist. As Melinda Gates said, “A woman with a voice is, by definition, a strong woman.” That quote has inspired me throughout my life and has given me the courage and power to stand up for what I believe in, and use my voice. I am young, but I have my own opinions and I am eager to voice them, no matter what anyone else says. I strongly believe that we are all equal, and I strive to find true equality. It has not always been easy, but I know that hard work pays off. I recently attended the Women’s March, and it was the most inspiring and empowering day of my life. It was amazing to be surrounded by thousands of people ― men and women ― that accept equality with open arms and are willing to march for hours to let people know. I am a fierce female, and I know that I will live to see the day that we can wear whatever we want to school, will not be expected to settle down and have five kids, and get paid and treated as equals in the workplace.

The issue of gender equality is becoming more and more present in today’s society. According to the “Washington Post-Kaiser Family Foundation Poll,” 60% of women consider themselves to be feminists. Millions of women around our country believe that we are being mistreated and underestimated. Feminism is a constant battle in the United States today as women fight for equal career opportunities, fair treatment in school, and non stereotypical roles in the household.

First of all, fair treatment in a workplace is a daily struggle for women all over the country. According to a study by Women in the Workplace women only make up 19% of the top leadership positions as opposed to the fact that 81% are men. This is only the tip of the iceberg on the sexist hierarchy in the workplace. Another issue is the wage gap. Women get paid 78% of men’s 100% according to one source. That means if a man is making $100,000 a year, a woman will get paid $78,000 in the same job. Some will say that women do not work as many hours as men, but there is no non-sexist reason why they would. The amount of unequal treatment in the workplace is astonishing, but the amount of denial to the facts is even worse. This is just one reason why misogyny is still present in our country.

Additionally, there are plenty of unequal opportunities for young girls in schools. The biggest mistreatment in school is the infamous dress code. Young girls all over the country are taught a confusing and hurtful message every time they were a spaghetti strap top or short shorts. As shared in an article in The Atlantic, the dress code is possibly one of the biggest double standards in our society today. Maggie Sunseri, a middle schooler in Kentucky agrees with this fact. She noticed that boys were not dress-coded and girls were dress-coded as certain clothing items would “distract” the boys. It is imperative we change this poisonous message we are sending to young girls all over the country. It is nearly impossible for a boy to get dress-coded, but some would consider a muscle tank just as “distracting” as a spaghetti strap tank top. Dress codes have girls all over the country wondering what is wrong with their body and why shoulders are so bad. Dress codes also reinforce rape culture. When we tell young girls that boys will be distracted by their shoulders, that is the same thing as saying that the rapist just couldn’t resist your tight dress. We give rapists and rape culture power when we give into the dressing double standard. It also oppresses your self-expression and teaches you that your opinion doesn’t matter. Finally, when a girl gets sent home from school because of what she’s wearing to express herself, she will be missing hours of school that she will then have to make up, or be behind in school. Dress codes are the epitome of double standards and oppression of young girls, and we must use our collective power to liberate young girls from this oppression.

Finally, gender bias comes in the form of roles in the household. 100 years ago, women couldn’t even vote, and it was assumed that they would stay home and cook and clean and sew. Men made the money, and women took care of the household. Now, 100 years later, women still face a strong bias about their decisions. If you work full time, you aren’t spending enough time with your kids, if you stay at home, you are “old-fashioned” and should be working. Women in society today face a constant battle, because 58.6% of women work, according the Women’s Bureau. Even though more than half of all women work, we are still the ones who are expected to keep up the household and take care of the children. Women these days are forced to be superheroes that never have a break, or hire a nanny or other child help. We have to ask ourselves, why do women have to do everything? What is wrong with dad’s staying home after a child is born and the women goes back to work? Why is there the constant assumption that men are the moneymakers? We have made a lot of progress in this issue, and I won’t deny it. In 1968 only 37% of married women with children work. Now, it is more than 65%. Women are fighting hard to demolish the stereotypical image of a woman baking cookies and a 3 course meal for her husband, and are striving to be seen how they feel, more like Rosie the Riveter and her “We Can Do It” poster. Women all over the country are fighting hard to be seen as they are, and not treated like a stereotype. So much progress has been made, it was less than 100 years ago that women were finally allowed to vote! Women all over the US need to band together and use our collective power to break the stereotype and take one more step toward equality.

All in all, women are still fighting to be treated equally in school, work, and the household. There is sexism in our country, no matter what anybody says. We need to band together as women to destroy this oppression and show everybody that we are all equal, once and for all.