Before I started this week’s reading–or even enrolled in this class–I thought I had a pretty good idea of what feminism was. I had defined it as having equal social, political, and economic rights for all genders. While my personal definition wasn’t wrong, it was just the basics. After looking more into women’s rights and gender equality, I saw that feminism is so much more.
One of the first articles I read was Bell Hooks’ “Feminism is for Everybody.” According to her, “feminism is a movement to end sexism, sexist exploitation, and oppression” (page 1) and I think that this is a much better idea of feminism is. In this book, Hooks writes about how feminism started and what it has become today. One thing Hooks wrote that stood out to me most was how people responded to her when she said she was a feminist. “…I tend to hear all about the evil of feminism and the bad feminists: how ‘they’ hate men; how ‘they’ want to go against nature–and god; how ‘they’ are all lesbians; how ‘they’ are taking all the jobs and making the world hard for white men, who do not stand a chance” (page vii). Most people tend to think that feminists are bossy women who want to put an end to men. Even though legislation would help lead towards gender equality, Hooks talks about how we must change society’s perception first.
In her video “Why I’m a Feminist,” Laci Green brings up the many reasons that she is a feminist. One reason why she says she is a feminist is because of the gender wage gap, something many people cite as a main example of gender inequality. However, there are some people like this:Some people refuse to believe that the gender wage gap is a real thing. While people may think that women do not get paid as much because they are not working as hard as men, it has been proven that women only make 79 cents for every dollar a man makes while doing the same job. Like the YouTube comment above, it is sexist thinking that creates the need for feminism.
It is important for us to understand why people have sexist thoughts. In 2008, a study called “I’m all for equal rights, but don’t call me a feminist: Identity Dilemmas in Young Adults’ Discursive Representations of Being a Feminist” was published in the research journal Women’s Studies in Communication. In this study, multiple communications professors looked at why young adults either do or do not identify with being called a feminist. The researchers were able to determine that the youth who identify as feminists disapproved of how society labels feminists as men-haters. However, some men were afraid to call themselves feminists “because of the negative connotation that goes along with it (page 118). It was determined that many youth seem to be reframing feminism, or changing its meaning. Most youth will say they believe in equal rights for all, but do not want to be labeled as a feminist.
Based on what I have learned, I know now that the most important thing to do is be educated on what feminism really is. Many people have misconceptions that the end goal is not equality but to have a reversal of the sexes. People are afraid to call themselves feminists because of how society has labeled it in a negative way. We need to let people know that sexism is wrong, and that feminism isn’t a bad thing after all.