Why is feminism a hot topic again, after 100 years of the emancipation movement?

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17 October
13:41
October
2016

Ninety-eight years after women gained partial rights to vote in the UK and 96 years after suffrage in the US, women still face immense barriers to full equality. 

Laws have certainly changed in both these regions of the world to promote gender equality, and moreover to create equatable conditions for men and women. Certain political-legal battles remain: women having and keeping reproductive rights; women and men having an even playing field to advance in workspaces and receiving the same pay for the same work; sexual harassment being taken seriously in work, home, and on the street -- just to name a few.

And there is the egregious issue of violence against women. For example, in the US women 1 out of every 4 women experiences sexual assault in her lifetime, a rate that is grossly disproportionate to men. Convicted rapists, on the other hand, are rarely punished -- 97 out of 100 escape punishment according to the Rape, Abuse and Incest Network. What is more, women are often blamed for the assault, made to feel shame and guilt over a crime they did not commit. 

Then there are instances of gender inequality that are more subtle, yet intensely felt and experienced every day by women. For example, a girl may notice that every one of her teachers and professors are men, and the majority of the books she reads for class are by men. It may not register as outright inequality, but an insiduous message begins to germinate: this is not a place for girls. She may be asked to do an unfair share of housework and wonder why her brothers have so much time at their leisure and she has so little. It may be even more subtle: the slight feeling of fear or uneasiness that creeps up when walking home at night and noticing a man's gaze lingering just a bit too long. Or the authority -- to know, to speak, to have a voice -- that is often denied women, and for which they must fight.

These conditions are intensified in certain regions of the world, and importantly for some women more than others. Women of colour and those from lower socio-economic classes will undoubtedly face gender discrimination and violence in particular ways that intersect with racial and class oppression. 

bell hooks advises us thus: "The soul of feminist politics is the commitment to ending patriarchal domination of women and men, girls and boys. A genuine feminist politics always brings us from bondage to freedom, from lovelessness to loving. I choose to re-appropriate the term 'feminism', to focus on the fact that to be 'feminist' in any authentic sense of the term is to want for all people, female and male, liberation from sexist role patterns, domination, and oppression."

Nearly 100 years on, and we have just begun. 

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