The Modern Women’s Rights Movement and What it Means for Society


Audrey Huynh, Writer

Before I get into the article, I would like to put a trigger warning for sexual harassment, sexual assault, suicide, and eating disorders. Please be aware that those topics are covered in this article along with an account from a victim of sexual assault, so if you are uncomfortable with any of those topics, please do not read this article. Thank you. 

“You can’t do that – you’re a girl.” “Put on some more clothes.” “Your skirt’s too short.” 

Those phrases are all things that women in this society have to deal with hearing on a daily basis. Women are constantly being told that they aren’t “wearing enough” or that “they asked for it” after being assaulted. As much as we try to advocate for equality for all genders, the reality is that women have been seen and continue to be seen as inferior and lesser than men. 

Society as a whole is so harsh on women that we feel like we need to look  as “perfect” as every social media influencer on the internet, however the beauty standards are so unrealistic that it is impossible for anyone to naturally look that way. Women have been brainwashed into thinking that they are unworthy of love just because they look differently, act differently, or think differently t from the people who are relevant on social media, and we are forced into extremely unhealthy habits, like eating disorders, depressive thoughts, and harsh self-criticism, in order to look how everyone wants us to look. 

Young girls are always told that they don’t look like they’re supposed to. Something always seems to be wrong with how a woman is: her hair, her body, her face, her personality, her height, her smile. For some reason, people always feel the need to comment on everything that is wrong with how someone looks rather than complimenting them on the things that are beautiful about them. Hearing so many different people and all of their different opinions on how “wrong” a woman looks can degrade her and shatter her self -confidence. The worst part is that these obsessive thoughts about not being “good enough” to be accepted by society are instilled within girls that are as young as six or seven years old. This then leads to a spiral of self-criticism within them and causes them to have extreme inner doubt and confidence issues later on in their life. 

The new importance of social media in the lives of  younger generations has only worsened the toxic thoughts that people  have of themselves, causing them to start taking extreme measures to look like the “perfect” social media influencers that they look up to. When girls that are in their pre-teenage years start developing eating disorders, depression, and suicidal thoughts because of the image that society has created for women to fit into, that is when we know that something is truly wrong. 

Not only are women forced to fit this mold  in order to be accepted, but we have to deal with living in constant fear. Fear of getting harassed. Fear of being assaulted. Fear of walking alone at night. Fear of being alone with someone that we don’t fully trust. All of this is because of the extremely misogynistic norms that are accepted in society. 

I got permission from a close friend of mine to share her story of an incident that happened a few weeks ago. She was out with some friends in a public place, and she was in a group of people, half of which she was close friends with. There were three other boys there that she did not know very well, but they were mutual friends so she didn’t think anything would go wrong. As the night went on, one of the boys began getting very touchy with her and groping her in inappropriate ways that she was not comfortable with. She repeatedly told him to stop because she was not comfortable and did not give him consent to touch her this way, however he disregarded her wishes and continued to make the situation worse. The breaking point for her was the fact that he began kissing her without her consent, then he proceeded to leave without telling her anything or apologizing for any of his actions. 

She called me crying that night because she felt used and objectified by a person she didn’t even know. The next day, she took the situation to the school authorities and wrote up a report with the police for harassment. As she waited, and as all of her close friends waited, we realized that the reports were read, but after the police took the witness accounts, they did nothing. Neither the school nor the police reprimanded him besides giving him a warning and a two-day suspension. He was able to get off with minimal punishment and  went back to his normal life, while she is stuck living in fear and with trauma from his actions. 

After hearing that the man who assaulted her was only minorly punished for his actions, I began doing more research into the common results of sexual harassment cases in the Unites States. I found that there are over 450,000 men and women who are harassed (verbally and/or physically) yearly, but only 6% of the assaulters are arrested. Society in general has always believed the word of a man over the word of a woman’s, so most cases involving sexual harassment don’t get reported to the police—66% according to—due to the fear of not being believed or due to insecurities. Most of the time, the women are blamed for the situation, when, although it may be true in some cases, in most  it’s the assaulter that oversteps their boundaries. Making the argument that the victim “asked for it” or that it was their fault is completely invalid because nobody would actively “ask” for life-long trauma after being harassed. 

Many victims of harassment are also degraded after telling their stories. People believe that it was their fault, and that the men responsible had a valid reason for engaging in sexual activity with women without their consent. People tend to defend the criminal rather than believing the victim, and that is the issue here. We should not immediately discount the story of the victim nor the criminal, but we should take both experiences into account when determining the outcome of the case. 

All genders are at risk of sexual harassment, however studies show that 1 in 5 women have been sexually assaulted at some point in their life, whereas only about 25% of men in the United States overall have been sexually assaulted. My theory on why more women are harassed rather than men is that men tend to look for a sense of validation from their peers. Some may also believe that it is “cool” to harass women. They think that by degrading women, they will fit in with their friends better and that it puts them at an elevated position in society, when it really does the opposite. Many people also don’t know that sexual assault is not limited to strictly rape and unconsented sexual intercourse. Catcalling, groping, making sexual comments towards a woman, and videoing/photographing women without their consent are all forms of sexual harassment that usually go unnoticed. 

All of the issues regarding harassment have made me start thinking about society now. Going back to my thought on men needing the feeling of superiority and validation and degrading women in order to achieve that validation, I think that women are generally seen as inferior in society as a whole, which is a huge contributor to this issue. I think that if we change our ideas and our views on women, the status of men and women in society would balance out, which could ultimately help resolve a lot of gender issues.

Karla Gomez, an undergraduate majoring in French and psychology at New Mexico State University, defines feminism as “being the woman that you are, without fears of judgement or a joke. It’s about being successful, not in a materialistic way, but in the way you want to be.” Feminism isn’t the absence of men in society like many people have falsely come to believe. It is the empowerment and independence within a woman. Being a woman should not limit opportunity or establish preconceived notions about a person purely because of their gender. 

Many people think that women’s rights and gender equality is already achieved in society today. They are wrong. Yes, there are laws against gender discrimination and suffrage for adults of all genders, but there are still so many misogynistic ideals and normalities that need reforming. Women on average earn 72 cents to every dollar a man earns when they work the same job with the same amount of time and effort. There are still some people who believe that a woman’s purpose is to serve her husband and to serve the men in society, even though women and men are equals. There are no biological or anatomical differences, besides slight changes in body structure, that would make a woman scientifically inferior to men, so I personally do not understand why people still consider the old-fashioned ideas from previous centuries as societal truths. 

This is the 21st century, and we as a society should move on and evolve from the conservative ideals that were the norms in previous time periods. Women should be able to wear what they want; women should have the same opportunities as men in society; women should not feel inferior to men; women should not have to feel guilty for being the victim; women should not have to fear walking home alone or fear that a man will assault her while they are alone; and women should never have to feel like they need to conform to the mold that society has given them. We as people need to change, and balancing the gender norms is one of the first things we can do to better ourselves as a society.