Recently, the word “feminism” has become an umbrella term for all things dealing with women’s rights. In today’s politically correct societies, everyone is supposed to identify as a feminist—a person who simply believes that men and women should be equal—no matter their backgrounds, political beliefs or even their genders. One might think that such a cause would be teeming with support from people of all different races and socioeconomic backgrounds. Ever since the first wave of feminism, however, feminists have targeted the same group of educated upper-middle-class women. Feminism needs to be about more than just the expectations and injustices to the women with bank accounts and college educations in America. It needs to be about raising the playing field for all women—particularly those without a voice, instead of excluding women from a cause that should encompass all women.
Today’s feminists focus on facets of modern America: how the media portrays women and the fact that women “can’t have it all.” These women who consider themselves crusaders are upper-middle-class women focusing on problems that only the privileged face. They make up a small percentage of the female population, yet it often seems as if their problems are the only ones being given any attention. At the same time, many women of color and working-class women lack access to the necessary resources for self-advocacy. The problems of educated upper-middle-class women pale in comparison to those who live below the poverty line, make minimum wage or are without education and clean water. Problems are problems, and while it may seem unfair to marginalize one group’s struggles, certain issues are simply insignificant in the big picture.
The people who rally that trickle-down economics doesn’t work argue the same notion when it comes to social and political reform. Feminists shouldn’t be focusing on the women who in many respects have it all while foolishly expecting other women to somehow gain the tools they need for success somewhere down along the line. Arguing over whether Lena Dunham should have been photoshopped on the latest issue of “Vogue” will not change the fact that over 36 million girls across the globe are deprived access to basic education. Worrying over the hem length of a girl’s dress is not going to make a difference in the lives of women who barely make enough money to put food on the table.
Despite today’s feminists’ good intentions, these issues simply aren’t relevant to the daily struggles of most women. Feminism has become more of a conversation of ideals instead of a movement that pushes to educate women, lift them out of poverty and teach them how to defend themselves against domestic violence. Women (and men) identifying with mainstream feminism need to take a step back and realize that what they are fighting for are small problems few identify with. Those living lives of privilege should be aware that there are people who are far less fortunate. #firstworldproblems, anyone? However, most feminists still seem blissfully unaware of their own privilege.
Women from all demographics can benefit from empowerment, so a cause that prides itself on gender equality needs to include a range of different voices. In this day and age, feminism should no longer be seen as a movement for and by educated upper-middle-class women. Instead, feminism is a cause that should unite men and women of all races, sexualities and backgrounds.
—Alger, a senior, is a Features Editor.