We need a feminism worth fighting for

Kennedy Brookins

I have a confession: I’m embarrassed to call myself a feminist. The movement started with the simple goal of wanting women to be valued and heard in the same way as men, but the most recent wave of feminism has strayed from this purpose. While this may not have been our intent, the frivolous hashtags and offenses we pay attention to have rebranded feminism into a movement that is difficult to defend and, ultimately, unlikeable.
Let’s recap some of the most popular battles feminists have fought over the last few years. In 2014, the #FreetheNipple campaign took off in full force with the goal of women being able to be uncensored and topless in the same ways that men are.  A year later, women began to fight back against the societal pressure to shave by letting their armpit hair grow freely.  Last month, Always launched the #LikeAGirl campaign which claims that emojis are sexist because they do not represent working women.
I’m sure somewhere below the surface, these campaigns have a purpose that helps advance feminism as a whole. But the way I see it, these campaigns have made fighting against microaggressions the face of the movement when we should be focusing on the bigger issues such as the wage gap and unfair gender roles. I don’t want to imply that microaggressions should be excused, because they are definitely damaging in their own way. However, they should not be our focus when fighting for equality.
Our society’s patriarchy has strategically put women in subservient positions throughout history. This systemic oppression has made a woman’s success an anomaly and her abuse expected. Yet we’re demanding emoticons dressed as doctors instead of princesses as if total equality will be found through texting.
Being able to show off my nipples is at the very end of a long list of things I want equal access to as a woman. I’ll gladly keep my shirt on or have my nipples blurred if it meant that I could get equal pay for equal work. I’ll stick to shaving if it meant I wouldn’t be obligated to take on the “second shift” of domestic work when I get home after a long day. I’ll frequently use the princess and ballerina emojis if it meant that violence against women stopped being so prevalent.
Sadly, these issues are not the ones that receive viral popularity through media campaigns. These aren’t the fun issues, but they’re the ones that will save young women’s lives. We have to bring attention to them.
Campaigns like Elle’s #MakeThemPay, which brought light to the gender wage gap, are highlighting the real issues in a way that’s easy for our generation to understand. We need more campaigns like this. Don’t drop the hashtag. Let’s just make what comes after it something we can be proud of.

Brookins is a psychology junior from McKinney. Follow her on Twitter @kenneteaa.