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After Todd Akin comments: Why women – and men – still need feminism

My students' Who Needs Feminism online campaign is reclaiming feminism as an umbrella for dialogue on issues that affect all of us. And it holds the potential to effect real change, especially in the face of Todd Akin's shockingly misinformed and misogynist statements.

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Missouri Republican Senate candidate, Rep. Todd Akin talks with reporters in Sedalia, Mo., Aug. 16. Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan are heading to the Republican National Convention in Tampa with the national debate focused on rape and abortion and with the divisions within his party on full display. Op-ed contributor Rachel F. Seidman says of her students' Who Needs Feminism online campaign: 'Changing how we talk about issues can change how we think and act.'

Orlin Wagner/AP

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This Sunday, Aug. 26, Women’s Equality Day, marks the date in 1920 when women in the United States won the right to vote after nearly a century of political organizing. It also commemorates the 1970 March for Women’s Rights, when feminists emphatically declared it necessary to continue working toward women’s full equality in the workplace, the home, and American culture as a whole. 

In 2012, is Women’s Equality Day still relevant? In the 21st century, who needs feminism?

As it turns out, thousands of young women and men from across the globe, of all different races, religions, sexualities, and economic backgrounds, have spoken up to say they do, through the Who Needs Feminism online campaign. Their efforts to reclaim feminism as an umbrella for dialogue on issues that affect all of us – men and women – hold the potential to effect real change. The campaign is especially relevant in the face of the outrageously misinformed and shockingly misogynist statements that Missouri Republican Senate candidate Rep. Todd Akin made last weekend when he claimed that the female body has a way of preventing pregnancy in cases of “legitimate rape.”

In spite of pressure from GOP leaders, including Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan, to bow out, Mr. Akin vowed to stay in the race. He apologized for the wording of his statement, but did not disavow its content. 'I used the wrong words in the wrong way and for that, I apologize,' Akin said in a TV ad released Tuesday.

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