Organizers of January’s Women’s March on Washington made a concerted effort to target college-aged women with their messaging – and with good reason. While only 23 percent of American women identify as feminists, 47 percent of millennial women do.
Unfortunately, policies supported by modern feminists have proved particularly bad for young women.
Many of today’s young women struggle with significant student loan debt and have a hard time finding a job that will get them out of mom and dad’s basement. About 42 percent of women have more than $30,000 in student loan debt, compared to just 27 percent of men.
This could be a result of the increase we’ve seen in the number of women pursuing higher levels of learning. But significant student loan defaults among this group indicate that women may not be getting a good return on investment. Women are vastly overrepresented in majors that are known to have low returns on investment, such as gender studies or social work.
Yet the feminist movement encourages more young women to pursue these degrees. Their solution is to advocate for further government assistance through policies such as free public college, loan forgiveness and income-based repayment policies that drag out the life of a loan while doing nothing to put pressure on colleges to keep prices in check.
One of modern feminism’s stated goals is to eliminate the perceived wage gap. The movement claims that women are paid 77 cents for every dollar a man makes for the same work, and that this discrepancy is due to rampant sexism in the workplace. However, this oft-cited figure is calculated simply by dividing the average salary of women by the average salary of men. However, when controlling for education, experience, hours worked and other factors that would contribute to earnings, the wage gap virtually disappears. Moreover, women sometimes pursue less-lucrative fields than men, or take time off work for family obligations.
Yet students at Georgetown University claimed to be traumatized by one of modern feminism’s greatest critics, Christina Hoff Sommers, after one of her talks about the trigger warning culture. Hoff Sommers frequently discusses how statistics on the gender gap or campus sexual assault can be misleading. But instead of listening to facts, some women on college campuses meet new information with hostility and anger.
It does a disservice to young women on college campuses to hear that no matter how smart or driven they are, the world is stacked against them. This encourages young women to see themselves as victims of a faceless adversary before they have even entered the workforce.
Advocating for policies that force others to bear the consequences of one’s decisions, such as loan forgiveness, will not advance the position of women, many of whom don’t hold bachelor’s degrees (as is the case with many men), and all of whom see their taxes increase as a result.
Feminism used to be about removing the barriers of opportunity for all women. Unfortunately, the ideology has taken a sharp departure from its roots. Instead, modern feminism has become a lobbying group for liberal policies that do little to empower millennial women to climb the ladder of economic opportunity.
Events such as this week’s Day Without a Woman don’t really help. Women on college campuses should reconsider whether modern feminism is helping advance their position or whether they should pursue their hopes and dreams on their own terms.
If feminists on college campuses encourage young women to tune out the opinions of others and advocate for policies that disenfranchise conservative women and men, this generation of women will be known for its flashy protests but little else.
Mary Clare Reim is a policy analyst in the Center for Education Policy at The Heritage Foundation.