Monday, November 30, 2009

Let's Talk About Feminism!

I am a Feminist and Couldn’t Be More Proud
By Laura Timperman

To be a feminist is often characterized as a negative characteristic due to off-putting connotations associated with the word. When people think “feminist” they often think bra burner, man hater, crazy woman or lesbian, but what does feminism really mean? “Women’s Voices, Feminist Visions” by Susan Shaw and Janet Lee, defines feminism as the belief in the social, political and economical equality for women (56). You don’t need to be a man hater, you don’t need to be a lesbian and you most definitely do not have to even be a woman!

Many women do not like to associate themselves with the word “feminist” because of the fear of being stereotyped, when in reality, feminist merely means you want women to have equal rights and opportunities (16). If a woman tells a man, “I am a feminist,” then there is often the possibility that she will be shunned or even feared because women with voices for themselves are not what is considered a conventional feminine trait.

A woman, in order to be accepted into a society that considers her as “the other sex” or considered being below the male gender, must act feminine. This includes traits such as soft, passive, domestic, nurturing, dependent, sensitive, dependent, needy and fearful or helpless (134-137). Women must often “do gender,” meaning she must walk, look, act and speak in feminine ways. These types of adjectives associated with women in mainstream North American culture have kept women in positions of subordination and encouraged them to be domestic and remain submissive (137-139). As a result, the term feminist was established for women who “broke out of the box.” Feminism is in no way encouraging women to be like men, but is about encouraging women to create their own culture, believe in themselves enough to pursue greater opportunities and break out of what society expects of them, such as being a cook, a maid and a mother.

Feminism is also “a political discourse aimed at equal rights and legal protection for women” (11). There were three waves of feminism. The first wave began in the nineteenth and early twentieth century, the second in 1960s and 70s and the third wave began in the 1990s. In the nineteenth century, there were very few legal, social or economic rights for women, so there was a great struggle for gender equality. Married women lost inherited property rights to their husbands and women were barred from higher education until women’s colleges began opening. At this time, women learned how to fight for themselves because they had been observing and helping slaves gain their rights. The second wave of feminism was “mainly concerned with independence and greater political action to improve women’s rights.” The third wave of feminism focused on the inclusion of women in areas that were normally dominated by men. It challenged the common definitions of feminine and masculine characteristics as well as the definitions of gender and sexuality (11-13).

The Women’s Liberation Movement (WLM), a title adopted in 1960 to move away from the objectification of women in political discourse, was to gain equal opportunities in education; employment and pay; self-determination, such as birth control and/or abortions and an end to discrimination other grounds of sexuality, race, religion and ethnicity for women.

All the social, political and economical changes for women could not have occurred without strong, confident and optimistic females that rose above and fought to give women voices all over the country. To claim that you are a feminist is something a person should feel proud to say. I am a feminist. It feels good to say because I know that I have the power to make a change. My bras are not used to make a fire burn stronger, I like men and I am not sexually attracted to women, but I am a feminist who has a fiery passion in her heart to support her fellow women in fighting for the rights and opportunities that men already possess.

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