What Feminism Really Means

Adapted from a previous Odyssey article. 

The United States of America just experienced a political season with a female presidential candidate. Many men and women alike took to standing "with her," recognizing the significance that this season played in gender equality. No matter your political viewpoint, seeing a woman run with the boys is pretty cool. Sure, we could've done better (understatement of the year?) but nonetheless, it was huge. 

So you stood with her. You claimed the hashtag and you used the Election Day Snapchat filter. I'm as much a fan of gender equality as the next gal, but you won't be receiving a gold star from me. I challenge you — I implore you, really — to truly stand with her. Shift the focus off a woman in the spotlight and onto those who are experiencing extreme oppression elsewhere. Let's look to the women who are shackled and beat, who are not able to receive an education, who are years behind the United States. 

There are women that are literally owned by men in the nations they reside. Sold into the sex trade, chained to a wall, and forced to obey, these women are not given another choice. The path for their life is already laid out for them based on the culture, and the location, that they are born into. Many nations do not recognize women as legitimate contributors to society, only seeing how they can be used instead of respected. A quarter of girls (aged 15-24) do not complete primary school. They are automatically set back -- no one is there to encourage them or help them towards a successful, much less independent, future. 80% of refugees and displaced people are women. Again, looked upon as a hassle instead of a human being, these women are struggling to survive -- they're worried about what tomorrow will hold in regards to meals and safety. 35% of women across the globe experience physical abuse and sexual violence, whether from spouses or elsewhere — they are treated as things. The statistics go on, as the oppression of women is more and more obvious the further you dig. 

Yes, the U.S. of A. is far from perfect, and as a college student I understand that my entry level job may pay me less than my male counterparts...and that really, really, REALLY sucks. Yet I wish for women in the United States to fight for the rights of women everywhere. To take the victories we've experienced and use them to better other parts of the world. No one's asking you to stop breaking the Glass Ceiling. Look to your left and you'll see me fighting alongside you. But instead of entirely thinking of yourself, look to others. Won't it be that much more powerful if women across nations fought together to halt inequality, instead of half the world in chains while American women don't turn and look around? There's power in numbers, and there is power in using the freedom you've gained to support your sisters who desperately need you. 

Offer a hand to the woman on your left, on your right — across the pond and in the jungles. Search the desert and cross borders. Open your eyes, and understand that the women who need you most are the ones who are unable to fight for themselves. Look at the undercover trafficking that is a normal part of life in many areas of the world. Look to the women who are never able to choose, married off at a young age — their worth decided for them, receiving no education. But don't just acknowledge this truth — act on it. See what you can personally do to aid these victims, stopping gender inequality on a global scale. Stand with her no matter where she's from, what race or religion she is, and help her gain the freedoms that women in the U.S.A. are so blessed to have. Get on your feet and find the organizations that need volunteers — find ways to make things happen. When we start doing that — when we start acting upon our hashtags — then the people of the United States will truly have stood "with her," propelling a trend that is sure to change the course of time.