Happy International Women’s Day! In celebration of this special day, we’re breaking down the very real, very factual ways feminism improves the world for everyone. 2014 and 2015 were watershed years for feminism and gender equality. What was once a “scary” misunderstood word, is now gracing the stage, 20 feet tall, at Beyonce concerts and bouncing off the mouths of influential starlets like Taylor Swift and Harry Potter star, Emma Watson. Influential men have also become outspoken about gender equality and jumped on-board the feminism train via HeForShe, a non-profit organization that unites men and women together for gender equality. Feminism, once associated as only for “Birkenstock-wearing, angry, man-hating women” was having a seemingly re-branded resurgence as something it always was -the belief that women and men are equal. The criteria is simple: if you believe women worldwide deserve equal social and professional respect and rights as men, you support feminism.
All suffering is caused by ignorance.
The Dalai Lama once said, “All suffering is caused by ignorance,” and we couldn’t agree more. Feminism is not radical propaganda created by extremists. Feminism is a fact-based progressive social movement that helps everyone and can literally save the planet. It’s not just about “first world” American problems, it’s about worldwide inequality, where millions of women across the globe are still routinely treated as second class citizens. (Here are some very sobering facts about violence against women and gender inequality worldwide.)
It’s time for a mass change to make the world a better place for everyone. It all starts with awareness and education -not just about the definition of “feminism,” but about the many ways it can really improve everything from leadership to the environment. Here are 5 ways feminism changes the world for the better:
Economic Empowerment For Women
Women make up over 70% of the world’s impoverished people. Feminism not only calls for equal pay, but equal opportunities for women -especially in developing countries. Teaching women to be independent and financially responsible will help solve global poverty in a big way. With the right resources, education, and programs women can flourish, start their own business, and be financially independent. There’s no doubt about it -poverty starts and ends with women. Eco-feminism can not only help solve poverty, but can help save the planet and help our environment.
More Happiness & Equality in Relationships
It’s no mystery that when partners feel equally valued and respected in their relationships, they’re happier. A core value of feminism is independence and equal social respect for both men and women. In fact, the #1 determining factor for happiness is autonomy. When people feel in control of their own lives, they are happier. A study by Rutgers University also found that feminists -both men and women- have stronger, healthier relationships. When partners respect each other’s independence and individuality, there is a better chance a relationship will last. A patriarchal relationship structure often suppresses women, placing them in subservient roles where they are at the mercy of their spouse and financially dependent. When women are treated as “damsels in distress,” they are more likely to believe their role as the “weaker” sex than if they’re treated as equally capable and strong.
Financial abuse has recently come to the forefront as a means that women are controlled and abused in their relationships. In fact, many women do not leave abusive relationships because over the course of their relationship, they became completely dependent on their spouse and can not afford to live on their own. When we teach women to be financially independent, strong, self-sufficient, and capable, they’re able to make better decisions and leave situations that are unhealthy.
Reproductive Rights & Responsible Parenting
There’s no doubt that we are facing major strains on earth’s resources and mass worldwide poverty. According to the UN, by 2050, the population is expected to swell to 9.6 billion people. Feminist culture is very vocal and supportive of birth control, reproductive rights, reproductive education, and the encouragement of women to choose their own paths and control their own bodies. Among those paths, the normalization of choosing to be child-free. Now, more than previous decades, women are choosing to forgo parenthood. While some religious groups and conservative thinkers may have a problem with this, it actually helps the environment and it encourages women to make decisions that are right for them. Not all people on the planet wish to be parents and that is perfectly okay. Of course, starting a family and parenthood is a beautiful thing, but some people choose to opt out of it, and there’s nothing wrong or selfish about it. If anything, child-free people help reduce our carbon footprint, so let’s all respect their personal decisions and thank them for the favor they’re doing for our planet (intentional or not).
1 in 4 women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime. Further, almost every single woman will experience sexism and/or sexual harassment at some point in her life -whether it be at work, on the street, at school, or in a relationship. These statistics are even worse in third world countries where women are routinely seen as second class citizens. The core of violence against women is the lack of gender equality and respect that leads men to seeing themselves as superior and entitled to a woman’s body. When we teach men to respect women from an early age, we can help reduce violence and gender discrimination.
More Women in Leadership
The statistics are out, and they’re very positive for women in leadership. An in-depth, decade-long study by leadership consultancy firm, Zenger Folkman, on over 45,000 leaders across various industries that accounted for over 450,000 feedback instruments, concluded that women are more effective leaders. Women outperformed men consistently across major fields within organizations including legal, manufacturing, marketing, human resources, information technology, sales, R&D, general management and operations. Women were also perceived as better at building relationships, motivating others, collaborating, having integrity, developing others, and goal setting. If that wasn’t enough, a study by an MIT researcher, concluded that companies led by female CEOs perform better in the stock market and organizations that balanced male-to-female employee ratio increased revenues by about 41%. In conclusion, more women in leadership is better for everyone.
Hopefully, as awareness about the true meaning of feminism spreads, we can all unite together and understand that treating each other respectfully and as equals makes the world a better place for men, women, and all future generations.