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The Focus of Feminism Today and Current Problems

Introduction

Feminism is a movement that advocates for the equality of the sexes in all spheres of public life and generally promotes personal, social, political, and economic parity. Currently, it supports a vast number of issues, including gender fluidity, sexual orientation, motherhood, body shaming, masculinity, and toxic masculinity, and the concepts of globalization and intersectionality. Considering the number of concerns the movement addresses, it can be argued that it is becoming vaguer and unfocused. This essay will examine modern feminism and maintain that it should select one issue to be its primary focus. Specifically, the topics of participation and underrepresentation of women in the public sphere and street harassment will be analyzed with arguments for the latter to become the main focus of feminism.

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Street and Sexual Harassment

Harassment remains a widespread problem in society, with many women being affected by inappropriate conduct. Before discussing the topic, it should be explicitly stated that although women are disproportionately affected, men also can be subjected to it. Kearl (8) defines street harassment as “unwanted interactions in public spaces between strangers that are motivated by a person’s actual or perceived gender, sexual orientation, or gender expression.” This type of interaction can occur in any public space and lead to the harassed person feeling scared, humiliated, annoyed, and angry (Kearl 8). The harassment of women in the street is often sexually motivated, with undesirable comments about their bodies and general appearance. In addition, it includes persistent demands for a telephone number, name or a date, flashing, groping, and other forms of inappropriate physical contact (Kearl 8-9). Thus, street harassment is characterized by the harassers having a sense of entitlement that allows them to make unsolicited comments about others or engage in unwanted physical contact. Overall, such conduct affects many people, and steps should be taken to address it.

The problem of unwarranted advances and comments in public places should be viewed as a feminist issue. A national report shows that 65% of all women and 25% of all men in the United States have experienced a form of street harassment (Kearl 13). Although verbal insults are the most common type, 41% of all women were exposed to more aggressive forms of harassment, including unwanted physical contact, compared to 16% of all men (Kearl 13). Women are almost three times more likely to be verbally or physically abused by persons unknown to them in a public space. Furthermore, harassed individuals are often forced to change their behavior to prevent further attacks (Kearl 20). These statistics illustrate the persistence of outdated beliefs on the place of women in society, with the harassers believing they are entitled to behave towards women in the way they see fit. The equality of sexes cannot be achieved with one of them feeling unsafe, suffering mental health and physical well-being consequences, and being denied their human rights. Thus, street harassment is an issue that needs to become the primary focus of feminism today.

Participation in the Public Sphere

Participation of women in the public sphere and their underrepresentation is another crucial topic for the modern feminist movement. Today, fewer women are being engaged in politics compared to men. According to Lawless and Fox (1), 84% of the 112th Congress in 2011 were men, with women being significantly underrepresented on all levels of the government. For instance, only 8% of mayors of the largest cities in the United States are women, with 12% of state governors being female (Lawless and Fox 1). Thus, the underrepresentation of women in politics is substantial, with men being the dominant force in the United States government.

There are numerous reasons for the disparity between genders in the public sphere. Women are still expected to become responsible for childcare and the majority of household tasks (Lawless and Fox 13). Thus, they are less likely to engage in politics while taking care of their children and have less time to garner the necessary experience. Furthermore, women rarely receive the offer to run for office and often do not believe they are qualified for political roles (Lawless and Fox 13). Lawless and Fox (15) note that household and childcare responsibilities do not affect women’s desire and preparedness to engage in politics. However, it can be argued that the perception of women in society as primary childcare providers impacts their chances of entering the public sphere.

Furthermore, women in politics are treated differently compared to men. For example, Katie Hill, a former congresswoman from California, was forced to resign after allegations of an inappropriate relationship with a campaign staffer arose, and nude pictures of her were leaked (North). Although the decision to leave should be viewed as a correct course of action, the media did not focus on the ethical issues raised but on Hill’s personal life, sexual orientation, and body (North). Moreover, North notes that similar incidents involving male politicians, including those with nude pictures being leaked, are not discussed in the media from the point of view of their body and sex life outside of the misconduct case. Thus, female politicians receive a strikingly different treatment than their male counterparts, partially explaining their hesitance to engage in politics.

It can be asserted that female politicians as public servants are subject to sexual harassment similar to that many women experience in public spaces. Katie Hill’s treatment following the inappropriate conduct scandal exemplifies this as different media outlets chose to focus on her body and sexual orientation rather than the ethical considerations of the incident (North). The media felt entitled to make unwarranted comments on a woman’s body, shifting the focal point of the conversation from a politician being suspected of unethical behavior to a woman’s sex life. These statements stem from the same mentality that enables the harassers in the street to remark on the appearance of women they do not know. The media encouraged their readers to make similar comments about Hill, disregarding her political standing and the nature of the scandal. Thus, it is imperative to address the street harassment culture that women are subjected to in public places. Furthermore, the definition of the concept should be broadened to include undesirable conduct online, as many news and social websites can be viewed as public spaces. Overall, modern feminism should make harassment its primary focus.

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Conclusion

In summary, feminism is a vital movement that addresses gender disparity and a variety of issues affecting women and preventing them from succeeding in modern society. Nevertheless, it should become more focused, concentrating its efforts on the problem of street harassment. Two-thirds of American women have experienced verbal and physical assault in public spaces, impacting their health and well-being. Furthermore, the tendency to comment on female bodies can be noticed in the public sphere, with female politicians being criticized for their appearance and their sex life being discussed. Overall, street harassment and the mentality that allows people to make unwarranted remarks with sexual subtext about others should become the main focus of feminism today.

Works Cited

Kearl, Holly. “Unsafe and Harassed in Public Spaces: A National Street Harassment Report.” Stop Street Harassment, 2014, Web.

Lawless, Jennifer L., and Richard L. Fox. “Men Rule: The Continued Under-Representation of Women in U.S. Politics.” Women & Politics Institute, 2012, Web.

North, Anna. “What the Katie Hill Story Means for Young Women in Public Life.” Vox, 2019, Web.

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StudyCorgi. 2022. "The Focus of Feminism Today and Current Problems." October 21, 2022. https://studycorgi.com/the-focus-of-feminism-today-and-current-problems/.

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