By Audrey La | Photographer
My name is Audrey La, and I am a feminist. I also have many other identities, including daughter, sister, friend, girlfriend, artist, club president and the list goes on. As a human being, I am defined by my relationship to others and to myself.
My ideal life is one where I am able to live life free to make my own choices and to not have to take intrinsic things like race, gender, etc. into account first. And yet, as a woman, I am intensely aware of my gender. As I drive my car, I think of how female drivers are more likely to be injured in a crash than male drivers because of how car safety systems are designed. As I prepare for law school applications and think about what my professional life will look like, I remember that only 10 countries have equal legal work rights for women and men and that the U.S. is not on that list. As I shop at H-E-B, I remember that, in addition to products for women costing more, we have less money than men to pay for these things.
These aren’t new issues, but the solution is feminism. According to Merriam-Webster, feminism is essentially “the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities.” But that’s pretty vague. What does that look like in real life? Instead of unequal enforcement of dress codes leading to the detriment of female students’ academic performance, there could be equal, light and reasonable enforcements resulting in a positive learning environment for both female and male students.
Instead of girls being pushed to play with dolls and boys being pushed to play with action figures, children can play with whatever they want without being shamed. Instead of women and men being pushed to pursue certain careers solely because of their gender, anyone can pursue whatever they want. Instead of women being expected to sacrifice their careers for their family, both men and women can work together to parent their children equally. Instead of women being refused hysterectomies because a doctor thinks they know you better than you, women can make their own health care decisions with full support. All of these current facts are obstacles to women being able to live worry-free in the workplace, at school and within their own bodies. They result in women as a whole being pressured to fit into a certain mold instead of choosing what they want for their life freely.
It’s important to acknowledge that the patriarchy doesn’t only harm women. Men are expected to be the quintessential strong and dominant breadwinners. Because of this, they are supposed to never express any emotions or mental health issues, resulting in higher rates of suicide, lower levels of life satisfaction and higher rates of using harmful coping methods like drugs or alcohol. Additionally, men have less resources for sexual assault victims due to the idea that sexual assault is only something that happens to women, despite 24.8% of men in 2015 experiencing some kind of sexual violence. Similarly, male victims of domestic abuse are not taken as seriously as female victims even though one in seven men has been a victim of domestic violence.
To create a world where everyone can feel free to pursue their ideal life — supported and free of fear — everyone must embrace feminism. Only freedom from the current, restrictive expectation for men and women can result in a society free from judgment and fear. In addition to an attitude change, there must also be legislative change so that laws are enacted to help people in ways such as improved parental leave policies, equal pay, resources for victims of sexual and domestic violence, etc. What you can do, dear reader, is proudly announce your feminist identity because you support happiness for everyone. Support legislation, politicians and organizations that promote equality. Call out people who make negative jokes or statements that promote inequality. Your voice matters, and we can only achieve equality together.