The idea of feminism has been rooted in American history since the 1840s, with the Seneca Falls Convention paving the way for the concept of gender equality. Beginning in 2012, fourth-wave feminism has evolved due to more liberal beliefs. In fact, modern feminism encompasses more than just gender. It now includes race in the conversation and is more commonly known as intersectional feminism, a term coined by scholar and civil rights advocate Kimberlé Crenshaw.
Being a feminist in the 21st century embodies the idea of oppression on every scale, whether it’s towards men, people of color and the LGBTQ+ movement as well. It’s about making sure that everyone — regardless of their race, sexual orientation or socioeconomic status — has equal opportunities in the workplace, at school and everywhere in between. Feminist clubs and education are especially important for college students because while a lot of progress has been made towards equality and the number of women attending college increasing, women still face challenges like discrimination. It is something to be talked about more seriously, not ignored.
Feminism is used as a form of empowerment, particularly for young women, to fight for issues they strongly believe in. In a poll conducted by the Washington Post, 63% of women ages 18 to 34 identify themselves as feminists. Affiliating with the movement is much more accepted today than it was a few decades ago; men support the feminist movement as well. Twenty-three percent of men in the same Washington Post survey identified themselves having feminist ideals. As gender norms are continuing to shift and women become more independent, the idea of feminism has spurred these changes.
For some women, the definition of feminism is open to interpretation. “Feminism to me means women empowerment, uplifting one another and feeling bold, brave and beautiful within your own self,” said Dominique Gayot, a sophomore with an undeclared major. She is part of the Feminist Majority Leadership Alliance (FMLA) on campus. When discussing black feminism, Gayot said that “[we] strive to do the same things, especially in African American communities. Feminism is very important to us because of what we are looked at — as a minority.” Although the FMLA is just one of the many activist clubs at Stony Brook, it is super easy to get involved; all you need to join the club is a positive attitude and a willingness to be open with others. Clubs like these not only celebrate feminism but also acknowledge how important diversity is to the conversation as well. Gayot and other students of color are paving the way for others and are all determined and dedicated to learning more about feminism and social justice. Feminism has become a movement that has sparked change nationwide. Supporting feminist organizations and the movement is extremely important because there is still work to be done in terms of gender equality. Also, supporting feminism is a good way to educate yourself on the values behind it. Going to events like the Women’s March in NYC raises awareness for these issues and are a great way to get involved with activism on a larger scale. These types of events not only empower people to make changes in their communities, but they also show the lawmakers and politicians that the fight for equality in schools across the country is not over.