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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/

 

 

Should Boy Scouts Include Girls?

in Contemporary Politics/Gender Issues/Political Issues by

Recently, the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) announced that they would be introducing girls into their Cub Scout and Boy Scout programs, which among other things, would allow girls to earn the coveted Eagle Scout rank, the highest award available to Scouts. Obviously, this announcement has met all types of criticism. As a scout myself, a few months away from becoming an Eagle Scout, I feel it necessary to respond to some common arguments against this controversial move.

#1. The Boy Scouts of America are just doing this to be politically correct.

The most common complaint I hear when people discuss this matter is political correctness. For some reason, they come to the conclusion that the BSA has felt pressure from outside authorities, such as the government or others, to open its doors to girls. This is absolutely not the case. During an interview, BSA Chief Scout Executive Mike Surbaugh stated that the decision to allow girls arose from the demand from families already involved in scouting. These families simply wanted their daughters to also be able to take part in the unique activities BSA has to offer (see point 3). BSA’s motivation behind the change comes from their goal to extend scouting’s values and lessons to as many people as possible. Through numerous studies, they found this to be in the public’s best interests as well.

#2. The Boy Scouts are just doing this to boost their membership.

Technically, this is true. As stated above, the BSA wants as many young people to be involved in scouting as possible, in order to better achieve their goal of teaching people strong moral codes and excellent leadership skills that could one day make a positive difference in our world (Some notable Eagle Scouts include Neil Armstrong, President Gerald Ford and Sam Walton). Allowing girls to join means twice the potential for this.

#3. Girls can join Girl Scouts, they don’t need to be in Boy Scouts.

Well, yes and no. Girls can indeed join Girl Scouts, but why should that stop them from having the option to join Boy Scouts as well? Girl Scouts of the USA and the Boy Scouts of America are two very different organizations. Some girls would much rather be hiking the mountains of New Mexico at Philmont Scout Ranch, or serving their community through the completion of an Eagle Scout Project, instead of selling cookies or learning how to sew. In my opinion, the Boy Scouts of America is a great organization full of tons of great experiences, and there’s no reason why girls must be barred from this opportunity.

#4. Will Boy Scouts really be a good fit for girls, and will they get the same experience as boys?

Absolutely. The BSA would not be making this change if they did not feel it was in everyone’s best interest. They have made it abundantly clear that the girls who decide to join will absolutely not be put in a second-rate program. Everything will be the same, from the requirements to achieve Eagle, to the wide selection of over 130 merit badges scouts can choose to complete. Some argue that girls will feel unwelcome, as if they are barging in to something uninvited. I don’t believe this will be an issue at all. The Scout Oath and Law teach scouts to be open and kind to everyone, regardless of their differences. I feel that this value, which is ingrained in every scout’s head, will be evident as girls start to join Scouts BSA (which will be the new name for Boy Scouts).

#5. Allowing girls into the Boy Scouts will ruin the organization.

I hear this a lot from people not familiar with scouting. In fact, girls have been involved in Boy Scouts since 1971! Back then, girls were able to join a program called Exploring. Today, there are still notable co-ed programs in Boy Scouts like the Venturing Scouts. In this program for 14-21 year olds, both genders are able to take full advantage of scouting by going on campouts, attending youth leadership programs like NYLT and NAYLE, and braving high-adventure outdoor courses like Philmont and Northern Tier. The success of this co-ed branch of Scouting gives the BSA a good template for how to successfully allow girls into Boy Scouts, which brings me to my next point.

#6. How will the BSA accommodate both boys and girls in Scouts BSA?

Well, for one, girls and boys will be separated into single-gender troops, meaning they will NOT be mixed together. Many people complain that allowing girls into their troops will make both the boys and the girls feel uncomfortable. What they don’t realize is girls and boys won’t even be in the same troops. The troops would meet separately and would operate independently from each other. The only time different gendered troops might meet up would be during special inter-troop events (like the national jamboree) and certain summer camps. Additionally, sponsors such as churches, schools, and youth groups will be able to decide if they want to host a girls troop, boys troop, or both (St. John the Divine will have both a girls and boys troop starting in February). The BSA has been preparing for this change for years, and have determined that their program is 100% relevant to girls as it is to boys, so the lesson plan won’t be much different between the genders.

Through Boy Scouts, the BSA has been teaching young men invaluable lessons and skills for over a century now, and it’s great that they are finally extending this opportunity to young women as well. I urge everyone; if you know someone going into 5th grade or older, boy or girl, to encourage them to join scouting, as its a great organization full of awesome experiences that stick with you for life.

Graphic Design by Jackson Edwards
https://www.cnn.com/2017/10/11/us/boy-scouts-will-allow-girls-to-join/index.html
https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2017/oct/12/boy-scouts-america-are-boys-not-girls/
https://blog.scoutingmagazine.org/2017/10/11/bsa-welcomes-girls/
https://livestream.com/bsa/nationalcouncil
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