The Dangers of the Anti-Vaccination Movement

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Anti-Vaccination advocate Jenny McCarthy, photo by Duncan Arsenault.

In the age of the internet, it is pretty easy for misinformation to spread like wildfire. For better or worse, just about everyone has a voice that they are eager to share, and people with opinions that could easily be considered harmful to society or not exactly exempt from that. Take the anti-vaccination movement, for example.

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March On

It’s been about three months since Donald Trump was elected President of the United States, and it’s safe to say that the country’s current political landscape has people in an uproar. The Trump administration has made it perfectly clear that the policies they intend to put in place will negatively impact the lives of minorities in the United States, and for many, now is an important (and terrifying) time to become an activist.

On January 21st, 2017, a global protest known as The Women’s March took place. In Washington DC alone, over 500,000 people marched in order to start a conversation about the state of women’s rights. With conversation typically comes curiosity and debate, and there was one question specifically that was asked frequently during the march’s lead-up and aftermath.

What are people marching for?

This question managed to garner a variety of responses. On one “side,” you had people defining the march’s purpose by saying it was a way of bringing attention to topics such as reproductive rights, immigration, the LGBT community, racial inequality, and more. On the other, you had people stating that they didn’t feel there was a need for a protest, stating that they feel there is already widespread equality in the United States.

As a result of this opinion division, memes were created, with those against the march often citing oppression occurring in other countries as a way to minimize what those in favor of the march felt they were fighting for. Those in support of the march responded to these types of posts with memes of their own, listing the reasons why they felt the march was a necessary way of taking action and fighting for what they believe in. The discussion was very reminiscent of posts that went around a few years ago with women holding up signs and stating why they didn’t need/needed feminism.

Personally, I agree with line of thinking that the march was necessary. There is still a lot of progress that needs to be made for women in the United States before they can be considered equal to men. Protesting is a way for people to have their voices be heard, and I don’t see anything wrong with speaking out against injustice.

What is feminism?

A fairly important question to ask yourself at the start of a Women’s Studies course!

Personally, if I was to give feminism a somewhat generic definition, I would say that it is a social/political movement that’s overall goal is to advocate for women’s rights. That being said, I think the movement is much more complex than what a single sentence can describe. Not every feminist has the same set of values and beliefs, and not everyone is going to agree on what identifying as a feminist entails. Feminism is nuanced.

I would say that my “role” in the movement as a man is to listen, reflect, and uplift. It’s important that I take what the feminist movement teaches me and incorporate it into everyday living. It’s also equally important  for me to evaluate the privilege I have as a result of my gender and correct any behavior that contributes to the oppression of women.

Overall, I would say that I identify as an ally of feminism. There’s a lot of debate among feminists on whether or not men should use the feminist label, and I think that those are voices I should consider. I would rather define myself as an ally and avoid upsetting those that disagree with the idea of a man identifying as a feminist than identify as a feminist for the sake of having a more progressive label attached to my identity. At the end of the day, I don’t think the process of labeling myself as a feminist is really a priority when it comes to supporting the feminist movement and doing what I can to fight for women’s rights.