First of all, some much needed clarification. Feminism by definition is the promotion of women’s rights and freedoms, and works in society to enforce equality between men and women. N.B. feminism is not a cultish movement hoping to slowly wipe the male species off the Earth by depriving them of sex and participating in bra burning rallies. The reason feminism exists is because women are not treated by and held by the same standards as men. All we want is a level playing field, and we are using feminism as our sword and shield to obtain it.

The world needs feminism largely because it desperately needs a new set of leaders and innovators. Imagine how far our society could have travelled by now if we had educated and treated our women in the same way as our men. There would be two times the amount of creative ideas, solutions to problems, and so much more. We can still encourage this kind of thinking now, but equal pay and equal opportunity are non-negotiable elements in moving forward. If we want women to aspire to be CEOs, presidents, ambassadors, and so on, they need to know that they will be judged equally against their competitors and will be compensated as such.

Once women feel confident enough aspiring to higher career goals and self-respect, life for everyone will be infinitely better. Women can finally overcome the media’s overwrought standards of being thin, perfectly tanned, shaven, and well-endowed in the breast department – overall appealing to men, and little else. Instead, new standards that emphasize intelligence, success at work, and general interests will be the bar of judgment they use to assess themselves, regardless of their looks. Women can take on responsibilities and problems that had previously been assigned to male-dominant fields. Women can make more assertive decisions about their futures and, this is a stretch, could also drastically lower the divorce rate. If a woman feels comfortable waiting to see when she is ready to wed, and whom she wants to wed, there might be less of a tendency for divorce (a 2011 study by the U.S.’s National Center for Health Statistics found that of the 50% of marriages that ended in divorce, 80% of them were initiated by women).

NOTICE: these new standards of self-evaluation for women will not help society move forward if men don’t also recognize them; that’s the “equality” part of feminism. Just as women judge men on their success, intelligence, and interests, the opposite must also be true. The closer women can get to being considered human beings, rather than simply objects of sex, the better. This is the most important lesson since it extends much farther than the workplace and social arena: it’s an issue of safety.

Feminism can help us overcome political, economic, and ecological issues, however, the direst of problems the world faces today is the safety of its women. From a campus shooting in California triggered by sexism, to the Boko Harem kidnapping of over 200 girls, it is important now more than ever to enforce women’s status as human beings. It is sad to think that close to 100 years ago, women earned the right to vote in the United States, and yet we continue to struggle to feel safe – a basic necessity of life. This lack of comfort spreads from the corners of dark streets on a Saturday night, to lingering pats on the back from our male supervisors at work. It’s everywhere. Until we can all come to an agreement that these conditions against which women strain are in fact wrong, they will continue to live cautiously, all men will be seen as possible threats and the world will continue to vacillate.

This is why we need feminism.

Katie George