Sunday, July 12, 2020

Column: Forget what you've heard, women's marches are valuable

January 16, 2019
Protesters gather outside of the capitol to listen to speeches during the Women's March on Lansing on Jan. 21, 2017 at the Capital Building in Lansing. Activists gathered and expressed their opinions through peaceful demonstration.
Protesters gather outside of the capitol to listen to speeches during the Women's March on Lansing on Jan. 21, 2017 at the Capital Building in Lansing. Activists gathered and expressed their opinions through peaceful demonstration. —
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As we approach the women’s marches in Detroit Jan. 19 and the Michigan State Women’s March held by the Women’s Council Jan. 20, I find myself wondering what defines feminism? Is it the increasingly large amount of social media users urging their followers to "fight the patriarchy?" Celebrities coming forth, promoting the idea in the past few years? The sole views of an individual? Does one have to outwardly express their favoritism to women’s liberation? What is feminism? 

Feminism is the idea of equality between the sexes, encouraging the achievement of social, political and economic impartiality. In the past few years, it has become a prominent movement with issues such as reproductive rights and sexual assault becoming notable in the media, especially in Hollywood. 

Figureheads like Harvey Weinstein and Bill Cosby were exposed for sexual misconduct with minors and women. The Weinstein accusations brought attention to the #MeToo movement. The #MeToo movement was started by Tarana Burke, a social activist, but noticed and brought to infamy by actress Alyssa Milano via Twitter. It is a movement which embarks on emphasizing claims of sexual assault and harassment. 

Not only did the #MeToo movement elicit responses from Hollywood, but the worlds of music and academia were affected by attests of sexual abuse and harassment too, as seen at Michigan State with the Larry Nassar cases and the administration fallout

Women merging together to have their voices heard has never been more indispensable. We live in a time where technology is at a new high, meaning the ability for women to connect and communicate worldwide is possible. This allows women to share their stories and experiences, foster justice for others and themselves, and spread messages of liberation. 

As we saw with the Nassar, Weinstein and Cosby scandals, once one survivor comes forth to share their story, it opens the door for other women to be honest, to tell their truth, to encourage justice. 

In 2016, Rachael Denhollander was one of two gymnasts who initially reported Nassar’s abuse. By being brave enough to share her story, attention was brought to the situation and allowed at least 250 other women and one man to come forth with accusations. 

For a long time, sexual assault against women was something disregarded. When a woman would confide in someone and tell them about their encounter, the first question to emerge from the other person was either, “what were you drinking?” or “what were you wearing?" Today, we still face a problem of others pondering the victim’s actions rather than the attacker’s crime, but to a lesser extent.

It’s a societal problem. Women’s accusations of sexual assault should be taken more seriously. If women are not given aid when in need, it can prompt mental health problems or even worse, suicidal tendencies. 

Though, this isn’t to say that men aren’t affected. Men feeling discouragement to share their experiences with sexual assault because of beratement or hilarity they fear might surface from their peers is an immense concern. Unfortunately, the idea of sexual assault against men is something that has yet to be conventional, leaving many suffering in silence. 

While sexual assault can be a difficult topic to discuss, we need to keep fighting to normalize the conversation. We need to fight for awareness. We need to ensure everyone’s voice is heard. 

Marches like the ones happening in East Lansing and Detroit this upcoming weekend are essential because they concentrate on people who need to spread their messages and have their voices heard. Whether those who show up wear pink, create signs, offer help to those who need it, share their stories or protest, every action helps, no matter the size. 

As feminists, we fight for equality. We should fight for women and men alike to have their voices heard and justified. For their claims to be investigated. For justice. For mental health awareness. For statements like “what were you wearing?” or “how could you let something like that happen?” to disappear. 

Emily Ludwa is a weekly columnist for The State News.

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