I’ve never called myself a feminist. If fact, my views on feminism were always quite negative. I’ve always strongly believed that women could do anything they set their mind on so why be so vocal about women’s rights? Why fight a fight, that I had at that time thought, was old and buried.

As I’ve grown older, I now see the world through a different lens and my views have changed. I can now look back and see the ways I was objectified, the ways I objectified myself, at 15, 20, 25 years of age and it makes me mad. How are these situations okay? How did I not know my own worth? Where did I learn to instantly dismiss all situations or take credit for acts against me?

The way I presented myself? I was following the norm of my peers and the latest fashion trend.
Being physically grabbed and touched in the grocery store or while out for a girls night? Boys will be boys.
The lewd comments while out for a run? I just need thicker skin.
The stares or gestures while walking down the street? Everyone deals with them, it’s no big deal.

But it is a big deal. There is an underlying issue that is running throughout society. A culture that many people like to dismiss as feminist propaganda. As if ignoring it will somehow protect your wife, your sister or your daughters. It’s easier to avoid the truth by labeling the occurrences of sexual assault, discrimination or harassment as single incidents instead of looking at the bigger picture of where our society stands. It’s easier to take a stance of ignorance instead of looking at how we are raising our sons to behave and think in today’s world and the messages we are sending our daughters.

It’s not okay that so many people look at women largely from a sexual standpoint. It’s not okay that even today, in 2016, sexist comments are thrown around at the highest levels of leadership. And it’s not okay to suggest that women are incompetent of intelligently fulfilling certain duties merely because we are women. The fact that anyone can describe a situation like the Stanford University sexual abuse case as merely “20 minutes of action” is disgusting. Will you have to worry about your son being sexually abused when you send him off to college? Do you have to worry that your son will be grabbed, touched or otherwise violated and then suggest it was his fault for the way he dressed/walked/looked? Likely not, but you do have to worry about your daughter. You have to worry about teaching her to protect herself. You have to focus on teaching her to see her true value in today’s culture of outside validation and you have to teach her the great feats that she can accomplish.

If you take a second to look around you will see exactly where our daughters are learning to dismiss the harassment they receive. We are teaching them. It’s in the news, it’s messages in magazines, it’s running rampant on social media and it’s the way women are talked to every single day. It’s in the way we talk to each other and judge or put other woman down. I recently I got an earful from a man, a complete stranger, on how women do not belong in politics after he read the t-shirt I was wearing. How many men have been stopped and passionately told that they don’t belong in a certain career field or topic which has an influence on every area of their life? How many times have you seen women stop men at all to tell them ‘their place’ or to point out specific traits or rules they should be following?

There was a video released recently from Just Not Sports which went through mean tweets directed towards women in the media. The argument against this video largely followed the premise of – ‘men in the spotlight get negative feedback too!’. That is absolutely true. Anyone in the public eye will receive criticism, but the backlash towards these women goes beyond a few harsh critics. How many male reporters are told that they should be raped? How many of of them hear that they should be beaten by their spouse? Women are often being harassed in a way the holds a higher level of violence and they are attacked based on their sexuality, not their performance or knowledge.

There is an ongoing issue in our society in terms of how women are treated regardless of how many times you look the other way or dismiss it based on the argument of ‘political correctness’ or people being ‘too sensitive’. I won’t pretend to know all of the answers, but I do know that the first step is awareness. It’s talking about the experiences we’ve had and teaching our children about basic rights, equality and respect for themselves and others. It’s being conscious of the messages we are sending our sons and daughters. Something needs to change and I pray that one day my daughter won’t have to carry the same worries for her own children.

Amy Bellows

Amy Bellows, Ph.D. is a freelance writer living in the Midwest with her husband and their 3 children. She currently juggles the roles of wife, mom, step-mom, and a full-time corporate career while squeezing in writing between hockey practices and late night feedings. You can find her at http://continuedoptimism.com/ or on Twitter.