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A New Look on Feminism: Breaking Misplaced Labels

in Gender Issues/Political Issues by

When I was growing up, my family members made very clear that gender does not limit a person’s abilities. When I was in 8th grade, I realized they were wrong. I thought sexism had died off with cooties in elementary school, but learning about things such as the wage gap and cat calling opened my eyes to a whole new world of discrimination. Yes, I had mocked double standards growing up. However, that did not mean that the rest of the world had necessarily caught on. At 14 years old, I grew outraged at our world. How dare my gender determine my opportunities in life. How dare I get unequal treatment. And that’s when I discovered feminism, the idea that men and women should be given equal opportunities.

At first, my rush to feminism was personal: I did not want these obstacles in my path, and feminism promised to remove them. I spoke to classmates about how ridiculous sexism is, and encouraged them to slap on the label as well. But there were two major issues with this: first, I didn’t entirely understand feminism. I thought it was merely a group that required unconditional support for all other women. Second, I gave little to no thought on the wide variety of causes feminism advocated for, and instead focused on the ones that specifically pertained to me.

And then one fateful day I saw a post bash Taylor Swift in my instagram feed, complaining about her “white feminism” and subsequent lack of actual activism. I was confused; this feminist account literally just bashed another girl, which according to my idea of feminism wasn’t supposed to happen. My confusion and the further research led me to my first breakthrough; feminism isn’t about unconditionally supporting other girls, it’s about judging them using the same criteria you’d judge males. You’re “allowed” to dislike other women, but feminism just says if you do, then it better be for legitimate reasons and not because of the way she dresses or a misguided sense of jealousy.

And then the phrase “white feminism.” I had no idea what this term meant, so yet again I googled it. Wikipedia informed me that “white feminism is a form of feminism that focuses on the struggles of white women while failing to address distinct forms of oppression faced by ethnic minority women and women lacking other privileges.” Having grown up relatively sheltered, I had to do a solid bit of research to find out what oppression these non-white women were experiencing. And that’s when my privilege hit me.

While I was angry at the wage gap, particularly those 19 cents I felt personally robbed of, as of 2017 African American and Hispanic women were only making 68 and 62 cents to the man’s dollar respectively. More frighteningly, African American women experience domestic violence at a rate 35% higher than that of white females. Even yet still, American Indians are twice as likely to experience a rape/sexual assault compared to all races. I realized that women of color experience exponentially greater discrimination than I would ever ordeal; on the daily they encounter obstacles I have never faced and won’t ever have to. But race is only one factor in the broad spectrum of sexism; class and religion also determine the levels of discrimination a woman can experience. It was humbling and scary to think of all the ways the circumstances of my birth, my natural-born privilege, had shielded me from the harsher realities some women have to face every day. I did not deserve to be born to this life any more than a struggling sex worker on the street deserved to be born into hers. This is not to say that all sex workers are struggling or all of them were forced into the industry, but the point still stands: no one earns their privilege. Conversely, no one deserves to be discriminated against for factors outside of their control. Cue intersectionality.

Intersectionality is another form of feminist ideology that is almost the opposite of white feminism. The concept states all oppression in a society stems from the same certain ideals. Therefore, advocating against your one specific form of oppression creates limited progress, progress only for you and your small minority. In short, you need to tackle the roots of oppression, the ideals creating an environment of oppression for all, to enact real change.

For example, toxic masculinity leads to the belittlement of both women and the LGBTQ community, cutting down anyone who displays “feminine” characteristics. So women could either focus on just themselves and advocate for more female CEOs, or we could protest toxic masculinity and work to create a healthier environment for boys and girls alike, regardless of sexual orientation or pronouns. Both paths have an impact, but there’s no question as to which one benefits a wider range of people.  

White feminism is the opposite. It’s the advocacy of privileged women, whether by race or socioeconomic status, for increased representation in society. Although it can align with problems feminists in general deal with (catcalling, wage gap, workplace discrimination), white feminists tend to ignore the issues that disproportionately affect less privileged women (such as increased rape statistics, police brutality, and the cycle of poverty). This is what Taylor Swift had been called out for. The most prominent example of white feminism excluding less fortunate women is a highly educated woman advocating for paid maternal leave in her company but not giving her housekeeper the same parity. The white feminist isn’t malicious; her heart is most likely in the right place. She is most likely just unaware of the misfortune around her. If you see a hint of white feminism in you, take some time to introspect, but don’t dwell too much. You’re still leagues ahead of the people who insist they can’t be feminist “cuz they’re guys.”

So there you have it: while white feminists give priority to certain causes pertaining to the privileged few, intersectional feminists advocate for all. This means they don’t just show up to the Women’s March, but also Pride and Black Lives Matter marches.

While such unwavering solidarity sounds ideal, this exposes one of intersectional feminism’s biggest flaws: though it “creates a unified idea of anti-oppression politics”, it “requires a lot out of its adherents, often more than can reasonably be expected,” resulting in a lack of action. Basically, it’s hard to advocate for so many groups of people in all aspects of your life. While this criticism is definitely warranted, I personally find it worthwhile to at least try.

Having finished my research, I realized I was a white feminist and felt ashamed. While I thought I was advocating for feminism, I was really just advocating for myself. The idea of feminism is to uplift all women everywhere. That day I chose the intersectional interpretation: all women everywhere regardless of race, sexual orientation, ability, or socioeconomic background. And while it may be impossible to implement perfectly in reality, the awareness it champions for and the small steps we can take together make me a proud intersectional feminist to this day.

Graphic Design by Jackson Edwards

https://www.google.com/search?q=define+feminism&oq=define+feminism

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/White_feminism

https://www.doj.state.or.us/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/

https://rainn.org/statistics/victims-sexual-violence

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/

 

 

How Taylor Swift Reveals a Dark Aspect of the Feminist Movement

in Gender Issues/Political Issues by

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, a renowned feminist icon, offers a simple definition of a feminist: “a person who believes in the social, economic, and political equality of the sexes.” If this definition is true, it would be hard to imagine anyone not calling themselves feminists. However, in my high school experience, I have seen multiple well-intentioned guys and girls shy away from labeling themselves ‘feminists.’ I asked all of these individuals if they believed in the “social, economic, and political equality of the sexes.” They all claimed that they did. Naturally, I then asked them why they were afraid to call themselves feminists. All three of their answers included the words “angry,” “screaming,” and “rioting.”

This language parallels an old Taylor Swift interview. When asked about being a feminist, the singer eloquently stated, “So many girls out there say, ‘I’m not a feminist,’ because they think it means something angry or disgruntled or complaining, or they picture rioting and picketing. It is not that at all. It just simply means that you believe that women and men should have equal rights and opportunities.”  

However, since that interview, countlessthinkpieces” have been written on Taylor Swift’s “spineless” brand of feminism. Liberal women, in particular, have been vocal in attacking Swift for her complicit silence in the 2016 election. Where in  Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s definition did she say being a feminist entails endorsing a presidential candidate? Many of Swift’s contemporaries, including Bruno Mars and Carrie Underwood, did not endorse a candidate; however, the number of tweets and Google results indicate there was significantly more backlash to Swift’s non-endorsement than Underwood’s or Mars’.  

When asked why the backlash to Taylor Swift’s feminism is so pronounced, liberals frequently argue that she exploited feminism to boost her career but did not authentically support the feminist movement. How exactly did embracing feminism bolster her career? Bruno Mars and Carrie Underwood, who have not publicly labeled themselves feminists (Underwood actually claimed that she would not call herself a feminist), received exponentially less criticism from “feminists” than did Swift. Putting aside her triumphant sexual assault lawsuit, Swift used her platform of millions to promote the ideology of feminism. Unfortunately, the backlash to Swift’s support of feminism exemplifies a dark, exclusive brand of feminism that ostracizes women for “not doing enough” or for “being a fake feminist.” Swift’s case merely illuminates a broader issue within the feminist movement.

Some extreme, radical feminists have hijacked the movement, creating a misconception of feminism that has repelled many people from the movement. A culture of attacking women for not doing enough for feminism seems, ironically, very anti-feminist. Perhaps this exclusive climate contributes to the hesitancy of young girls and guys to label themselves feminists. How can the feminist movement reach equality by putting down other women? Feminism should strive to be an all-encompassing movement of men and women, conservative and liberal, working together to address the systemic inequality between men and women. Bashing other women, however, does not seem to be a good starting point.

Graphic Design by Jackson Edwards
Product of Errant Publishing Co.

Waging a War on Gender Pay Inequality

in Gender Issues/Political Issues by

Despite countless studies proving that gender inequality exists in the workplace (both in terms of salary and treatment), seven out of ten people still believe that men and women are paid equally. Due to the widespread denial of the mere existence of the wage gap, the efforts to find solutions are far less concentrated than they should be. Frankly, gender inequality is an outdated term for male dominance, and the wage gap is used as a pawn in maintaining the existing power hierarchy.

The Second World War marked the first awareness of the wage gap. While in desperation for workers, women were forced to contribute to the war effort in various ways, leaving their children or families. Because most women had not previously worked outside of their houses, workplace inequality was a largely unnoticed phenomenon.  However, once the men left to fight and women began filling their roles, they were, on average, paid fifty percent of male wages, sometimes less but rarely more. In the seventy-nine years from the discovery of the wage gap until today, the gap has closed by only around 30%, placing it roughly around 80¢ per dollar.

Yale University recently hosted a study that provides substantial evidence proving the extent of the wage gap. To see sexism in STEM field (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) jobs, they used two completely identical resumes with only one expensive difference, one had the name John and the other with Jennifer.

The faculties of both genders were biased in favor of the male; furthermore, they were more willing to mentor, employ, and offer more money to John. Disregarding the fact that both people had the exact same qualifications and experience, Jennifer was perceived by professors and employers as substantially less competent. On average, women earn 75.7% of a man’s salary in the STEM field. Not only does gender inequality exist pecuniarily, but it also impacts the manner in which women are treated by their bosses in the workplace, which in hindsight significantly hinders their careers.

According to research from the World Economic Forum, if change continues at the same slow pace as it has done for the past fifty years, it will take a staggering 168 years—or until 2185 —for women to finally reach pay parity.  Financial equality would help more than half of working women and their families out of poverty in addition to adding approximately four hundred eighty-two billion dollars to the economy. With data supporting the economic benefits of equal pay and the potentially drastic change quality of life for so many families, the hesitance to pay men and women the same amount for the same job is beyond perplexing. Even if the wage gap somehow disappears  in 168 years, there are not any indications as to whether the gap will stay gone or what impact it will have on the younger generations. Ultimately, the wage gap is a solvable problem that, if solved, will have nothing but a positive impact on America’s economy and society.

 

https://www.womenshealthmag.com/life/dont-believe-in-wage-gap

http://www.history.com/topics/world-war-ii/american-women-in-world-war-ii.

http://reports.weforum.org/global-gender-gap-report-2017/

https://iwpr.org/issue/employment-education-economic-change/pay-equity-discrimination/

http://gender.stanford.edu/news/2014/why-does-john-get-stem-job-rather-jennifer

 

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