While going through the readings this week, one piece stuck out to me the most. “I’m all for equal rights, but don’t call me a feminist”: Identity Dilemmas in Young Adults’ Discursive Representations of Being a Feminist by Olsen left me with various feelings and thoughts on new age feminism. What once was a movement with good intentions is now a word that comes with a lot of baggage. In Feminist Thoughts, Tong discussed traditional feminism, also referred to as liberal feminism. These feminists believed customary and legal constraints caused women to be subordinate, which in turn didn’t allow them to be as successful as possible. They believed their own actions and choices would result in equality. To me, this sounds like a noble pursuit. You are the change! Cue radical feminism. Radical feminists don’t believe your own actions and choices will result in equality, instead the patriarchy must be entirely transformed. Personally, I can understand a little of both sides. Actions and choices will definitely help, but is it enough? Is the system of inequality so deeply rooted that we need a brand new one? Maybe. Maybe not. Over time more branches of feminism have emerged, with many varying viewpoints. With so many different ideologies housed under one term, I can’t help but think it’s not enough. When the word feminism comes up today, most people are quick to place feminists in one category: man-hating, hairy-legged, ball-breaking women. I know this thought outrages many feminist who are not like that at all. Therefore, more and more people don’t want to associate themselves with the term feminist. Honestly, I can’t blame them. The term is deeply misunderstood today. The article by Olsen notes some reasons people have for rejecting feminism, including: don’t want to be identified as a radical feminist, lack of including men, rejecting a separatist-oriented political strategy, and the association of white, middle-class, heterosexual women with the term. These are all very valid reasons for not wanting a feminist label. So, what’s the best course of action for reviving the underlying principles of feminism and turning it into a modern day movement? Perhaps there shouldn’t be an umbrella term for so many different ways of thinking. However, although the term may have a bad reputation now, the [women’s rights] movement has accomplished so much since it began. In 1848, Stanton used the Declaration of Independence to draft the Declaration of Sentiments, alerting to people to the unequal treatment of women. The first Women’s Convention discussed and endorsed the Declaration of Sentiments and 12 resolutions (amendments). The women faced a lot of ridicule and backlash for this piece, but they persevered. Soon after, the movement exploded and eventually the equal rights amendment was passed, women won the right to vote, and women could be elected to any public office. Those are some huge accomplishments! For that reason, I think we should embrace the word feminism. Past generations worked tirelessly for equal treatment and their movement should continue on until the battle is won. Instead of abolishing a term with such a vibrant history, we should all work to educate others on what feminism truly means. This is not a movement of hate, it is a movement of against sexism.
Eisenberg, Bonnie. Ruthsdotter, Mary. (1998). History of the women’s rights movement. Retrieved from http://www.nwhp.org/resources/womens-rights-movement/history-of-the-womens-rights-movement/
Olson, Loreen N. Coffelt, Tina A. Ray, Eileen B. Rudd, Jill. Botta, Renee. Ray, George. Kopfman, Jenifer E. (2008). “I’m all for equal rights, but don’t call me a feminist”: Identity dilemmas in young adults’ discursive representations of being a feminist. Women’s Studies In Communication, 31 (1).
Tong, Rosemarie. (2014). Feminist Thought. Boulder, CO: Westview Press.