Let’s Talk Feminism

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Hi everyone! So today is going to be a little different for Guest Post Month! Catherine, from Never Stationary, and I decided to collaborate on a topic. After much discussion and brainstorming, we narrowed it down to a wonderful, yet possibly under-covered topic: feminism. Being that this strays from the usual guest post, we wrote out some questions to ask each other and both answered them in this post!

1. What does feminism mean to you?

Catherine: Feminism means equal treatment of males and females. It means believing in the advancement of women’s rights to the point that they are equally as accepted and enforced as men’s rights. In an ideal world these beliefs would proliferate into every area of life, including but not limited to, the workplace, the home, school systems and entertainment.

Chelsea: To me, feminism is the equality of men and women. To society, it means different things because let’s be honest, society doesn’t always know the origin of everything. I have studied women’s rights since the 6th grade, when I sat in my Social Studies class and listened to how women in the 1920’s began the movement. I haven’t read any second-wave feminist theories nor did I even come close to debating women’s rights in high school, unless my partner made me. In that case, my partner knew what was going on more than I did.

I believe in feminism, but I am not a feminist. Even though women have come extremely far over the past few decades, we are not exactly equal to men, employment-wise or achievement-wise. There is a chance that this could be due to the fact that we are women and society is still developing towards accepting gender equality. However, there is also a chance that the people who are doing better are just men…which may be unlikely.

On my college campus, I am the weird liberal child who wanders among a sea of conservatives. This does NOT, by any means, signal that I have no friends (having opposing political and social views doesn’t prevent you from being friends…). A lot of my girlfriends are psyched (and I am not exaggerating) to graduate from college, have 8 babies, and become a stay-at-home mom. Yet, conservative or not, didn’t our ancestors fight for us to not have to do that? And even if we were doing that, we should have the ability to be able to be a mom and a full-time worker. Just like a man can be a dad and a full-time worker. So, in some cases, there are women who are holding themselves back, staying at home and feeding the kids, with no goal to obtain employment.

You see, but that’s not really a problem. If that’s what a woman wants, then why can’t she do it? And if she wants a job, why can’t she get it? This is why I’m not part of the Women in Technology clubs or Feminist Theory Organization; I don’t think gender should be a factor when applying for a job or school. If I am the best person who qualifies for the job, I should get it, despite whether or not I am a girl or not. I don’t intend to use a trait that I was born with to gain me an advantage, because, ultimately, that’s unfair.

2. Would you consider yourself a feminist? Why or why not?

Catherine: I am a feminist! I believe in the equal treatment of males and females, though the steps required to get to that point mean breaking down lots of rigid misconceptions and rooted notions about interactions between the two sexes.

I used to not want to refer to myself as such because I feared the stigma. I once thought that feminists were the flappers of the 20’s in their short skirts with their bobbed hair, lesbians, Rosie the Riveter or the batshit women that got offended way too easily and called you out for saying words like “guys”.

The above certainly can be feminists, but I also see modern day feminists in many men, single mothers and celebrities. They come in all shapes and sizes.

I also used to consider myself traditional enough that I wasn’t particularly concerned with the equal treatment of both sexes. Lots of discussions with friends like Mallika and Colin helped me get to the bottom of this issue. I still see myself as pretty traditional, but I now realize how much being unequally treated because of my gender has negatively impacted my life and the lives of those around me.

It’s a huge issue that has molded itself into our culture and has warped the decisions that we made, and definitely not in all positive ways.

Chelsea: I have very mixed feelings about the word “feminist.” When I say this, I don’t mean that I hate women or women’s rights, because that’s far from the truth. Just like any other girl, I believe that I have rights. The problem I have with this word is that it starts with “fem-.” I know you’re thinking, “Why is that a problem?” Well, like I always say, when we see a word for the first time, we make assumptions about it based on how it looks. That goes for anything in life by the way. The saying “Don’t judge a book by its cover” is a brick wall that prevents you from seeing reality. So when I see the word “feminist,” and not just for the first time, I automatically think this equation: women > men. As a matter of fact, I don’t think I’m the only one who thinks this, so I’m not really ashamed to tell you this.

Whenever I saw this word, I always saw the picture of the woman in the workforce, flexing her Feminism010915biceps with a bandana covering her forehead. Unfortunately, the people who are posting this are wrong, because that’s not what the picture was for: it was meant to recruit women into the workforce during World War II when all the men were drafted. So, not only is there this huge falsehood among society, but also that we have misunderstood a word that is supposed to be extremely well-known. The problem is that we do this with a lot of words.

All in all, I do not consider myself a feminist. Feminism is the equality of men and women, not the superiority of woman to man. I believe in feminism. I respect the women of our past who have fought for our equal rights. However, the reason why I say I am not a feminist is because I haven’t actually done anything for feminism. I haven’t joined organizations that promote women’s equal rights or joined any Women in Technology club on my campus. That being said, I am not exactly a woman’s rights activist, and I’ll explain why below.

3. What is one misconception you once had about feminism?

Catherine: Feminism doesn’t mean that we’re all clamoring for a CEO position. It means empowering women so that they don’t feel confined, mistreated or stereotyped. There’s no accurate way to depict how a feminist acts or looks. Feminism could mean embracing the role of a stay at home mom. It could be working as a model or a fitness trainer or a cook.

It should be, ultimately, a mindset that expands through a society, not just a job description or a one-time thing.

Chelsea: Honestly, I never thought about feminism that much, because I never really thought about gender roles that much. At least, not until high school. When I read this literature in high school, it was always for debate and it was always with a partner who was a girl, which was uncommon for me. Because I was never really partnered with a girl, I never really pursued the literature. I’m not trying to blame my male partners by any means – if I wanted to pursue it, I’m sure they’d be fine with it. But that wasn’t really the problem. When I was rarely partnered with another girl, she would consistently put all this gender literature in front of me. I read it, of course, but I don’t think I ever understood the deep passion for women’s equality. I definitely cared deeply about sexual orientation and rights, but equality was always something I just…assumed.

Because I didn’t look at feminist literature that often, my main misconception was that this topic isn’t that big of a deal. I thought terrorism and resource wars were the hot topics that needed to be front and center, which is partially true. Yet, there are so many other issues, whether they are international or not, that go ignored. When I talk to a woman who considers herself a feminist, I usually nod along. To say the least, I have never really argued with a feminist, unless she made some rash statement about how women should dominate men, which has never really happened. When I learned of the term “feminazi” (an extreme version of a feminist), I imagined a woman who tried to make herself look like a man. To seem tough.

And, damn, was I wrong. Just because you are a feminist doesn’t mean you have to wear the boy-cut and basketball shorts. That makes me so happy to say because, in a way, I think most of society believes in feminism. You don’t have to be a woman to believe in equality.

4. When was a time that you got really riled up about sexism? How have you responded or how would you respond in sexist situations? If not, how would you respond in a sexist situation?

Catherine: When I was a senior in high school, I worked as a cashier and barista at a local bubble tea shop. I loved the job, learned a lot and appreciated the pay, but one thing that bothered me alot was how I was encouraged to stay in the front and garner tips with my femininity and charm.

Sure, I am a feminine and (occasionally) charming person, but one of the reasons I was excited to work in a bubble tea shop was because I wanted to learn how the drink was made. The employees who went to the back of the kitchen to cook the tapioca balls were primarily male. They wouldn’t let me carry the heavy containers of sugar and kept urging me to get back to the front, where I would take orders, because I was a female, who was believed to be able to flirt with the customers and get more tips.

Maybe I’m overstepping, but I recognized this logic as the same logic that supports the idea that women should rely on their looks and overall outward appearance rather than their intellect to make a living.

We’re better than that, really, and we deserved to be given a chance.

Chelsea: Because of my fairly neutral position toward being a feminist, I have never gotten really riled up about sexism. When I say that, I mean I didn’t start shouting across the table, banging on glasses, or punching anyone in the face. However, I have met a LOT of misogynists, who are men. The problem I’ve always had when talking to these types of people are that the sexism is subtle. Not subtle in a way that you don’t notice it, because of course you do. That’s Status-Quo_LGwhy I can easily point out the misogynists. The thing is that they keep saying things that will make your palm twitch and want to slap them any minute.

I’m also not a violent person, though. I’m more of the girl who makes a sarcastic comment on the side – pretty chill. Yet, if you say something VERY offensive to me, I will blow up like a cannon. I’ve never been around anyone who has said, “That girl got the job because she’s a girl.” I probably haven’t heard that because people are smart enough to not say that around a girl. If anyone’s a misogynist, I would honestly just walk away. Step away from the scene. I have no desire to surround myself with people who make false assumptions about the world in addition to making rude comments about it.

I know of a lot of feminists who will try to teach the other person a lesson if they made a sexist comment. Describe the history of the women’s movement. Talk about the feminist second-wave. Pull out all these statistics about how women are under-paid. To me, that’s not worth the time because if the comment was that sexist, I don’t think there’s hope in changing that person’s mind. Honestly, if the comment was that sexist, I’m sure other women, who would be a lot better at explaining the history of women, would do a lot better fixing this person up than I would.

Yet, if I were on a date and the guy said something really sexist, there is nothing stopping me from walking out the door without a glance over my shoulder.

5. Is it possible for a man to be a “feminist”? Why are men so afraid to do it?

Catherine: Definitely. It’s not something that should be supported by just women. I’m sure that some males are afraid to support this cause, because yeah, the word “feminism” can sometimes be misleading, and often wrongly gives off a negative connotation, but I think that more people are coming to terms with the fact that if it promotes a greater acceptance of women’s rights, it doesn’t have to trade off with the privileges that men already have.

Chelsea: HECK YEAH! This is my other problem with the word “feminist.” Men don’t think they can be called feminists if the word “fem” or anything related to feminism is attached to it. Like I said, a majority of society thinks that the word means women should have more power than men. Since men don’t usually explore this topic deeply, they may think the same thing and who would want to advocate for something that makes them powerless?

However, that’s not the case AT ALL. I know a lot of men who consider themselves to be feminists, but they will only tell me that if I asked them. I know of no man who will voluntarily come out onto the streets and yell, “I am a feminist!” I’ve been to meetings like RSVP, a relationship and sexual violence protection club, and I’ve never seen men there. Because there are clubs that advocate for women, a lot people think that these clubs are exclusionary to women, even if that’s not in the footnotes. The word “woman” signifies that there will be only women there, sometimes, and what guy wants to be the only man there? That’d be sort of awkward.

Then again, why would that be awkward? In the past hundreds of years, there is no doubt that men have had a dominating power. In Greece, they were the only ones who would go to war. In the 1800’s, they were the ones who were expected to work. Power controls society – we all want it, and if we’ve got it, we all thrive on it, despite whether you are man or woman. If a man has the power, why would he give it up?

Times have changed though: there is this understanding that equality is needed in society. The problem is that some men are afraid to scream out that they are a feminist, because it may look as if they are giving up power, when, in a lot of ways, they’re really not. Feminism doesn’t mean man should subject themselves to woman. And when a man advocates for the opposite gender, it may look as if he is gay or homosexual, which is another social pressure and humiliation that can be brought upon, especially at early adolescent ages.

Yet, there is no reason to be ashamed of being a feminist or believing in the concept. If anything, I think the feminist movement would be a lot stronger if men were openly advocating for feminism, as well.

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