Women's rights: Dare to be strong

As the end of March approaches, so does the end of Women’s Empowerment Month, a celebration of women's contributions to history since 1987.

The creation of this annual tribute to women, was largely influenced by International Women’s Day, which since the early 1900s has taken place on March 8. The day later turned into a week, and soon thereafter a month.

The women’s rights movement was around even before International Women’s Day was established, and we have come a long way since then. Work conditions and salaries have improved for women in the workplace, and an increasing number of women are taking over positions of power in various countries.

However, conditions are still far from equal. In 2012, the Institute for Women’s Policy Research found that women still earn 23 percent less than their male counterparts.

According to the Rape Crisis Center of Medina County, Ohio, one out of six women in the United States become victims of rape or attempted rape during their lifetime, while the ratio for men stands at one out of 33.

But in spite of these inequalities, Women’s Empowerment Month and International Women’s Day barely receive attention in our community or at Santa Monica College.

24-year-old SMC student, Sabina Wickforsen from Sweden didn't even know there was a Women's Empowerment Month, simply asking, "what's that?" Wickforsen, however, was knowledgeable on Black History Month, a tribute to African Americans only one month prior.

The reason women's rights get overlooked in comparison to African American's rights might likely be due to the divide in attitude in the rest of the community and maybe even in the country as a whole.

Chanel Mozer, a women's studies major at SMC, feels that women’s rights are being overshadowed by other issues.

“Most folks believe that the genders are equal all over the world and that women already have their basic rights so there's nothing to fight for,” says Mozer. “Objectification of women is rampant, specifically in television and magazine ads. Women aren't accessories and shouldn't be treated as such. If a product is any good, it shouldn't need to use sexism, racism, homophobia, or any other type of systematic oppression to sell it.”

The truth is that women’s rights are in competition with one of the greatest forces in the U.S. today: capitalism. Millions of dollars are made on using women's bodies on billboards, music videos, fashion magazines, on the runway, and in nightclubs.

Multinational corporations will not benefit from acknowledging women as human beings with rights. It is much more beneficial for them to reduce women to objects of desire, or trophies for men to acquire.

Therefore, the media will continue to paint feminists as man-hating extremists, and show women who keep quiet and serve their men in a better light.

The media will also keep using women as sexual objects in advertising, but condemn those who show that they are sexual beings with their own desires that go beyond pleasing a man. It seems that a woman's role is to be a passive sexual object and not one with their own will.

With no end to female objectification in sight, women must be prepared to speak up for themselves.

Men, along with our capitalist society, benefit from the existence of sexism in many ways, and therefore we can not rely on them to sort out these problems. Some men will sympathize, but it is really up to us women to demand our rights.

So why don’t we?

As women, let’s stop to remind ourselves of the true meaning of feminism - equal rights and treatment for women.

We continue to remain silent when other women are being judged, shamed, attacked or even subjected to violence. Instead of competing with each other and constantly fighting for the approval of men, let’s start helping each other out and build a strong female community together.

Let’s celebrate the women that fought for our rights, and let’s be an inspiration to the women in the generations to come. Dare to be strong, and dare to point out the inequalities that you and the women around you are subjected to.