In my efforts to embody the overachiever I have always wanted to be, I found myself a cozy nook in Starbucks and started our assigned readings first thing Monday morning. I had successfully conquered Bell Hooks and half of Shaw when it came time for me to head to work. Although I’d intended to continue working after my shift, I instead decided to reward myself and half an hour later I was sipping my friend’s leftover slurpee watching Neighbors 2 in the theatre.
My expectations were low as I entered the theatre, banking on the same crude humor and ridiculous plot as last go-round. When the movie began, however, I found myself relatively surprised that I was connecting to Shelby (Chloë Grace Moretz), the main character, as she made some familiar-sounding comments that echoed what I had read earlier in the day about feminism. Combined, the literature and the movie convinced me that this movement could apply more to my own life than I had originally anticipated.
The introduction to Bell Hooks’ Feminism is for Everybody highlighted that the manner in which most people are exposed to feminism is through patriarchal mass media, and that although they act as though they understand feminism, they could not explain what it was to another individual. Unfortunately I identify with this description far more than I would like to. As I delved further into the provided explanation of feminism, I found that I agreed with many points that were offered— particularly that men are not the only contributors to sexism as all of us were socialized to accept the same sexist thinking and patriarchal lifestyle.
More and more I see myself filling these roles: for example I would never ask out a guy, dresses I buy for fancy events generally accentuate my boobs or butt, and I listen to more degrading rap music than my mother would like. What causes me to hesitate here is that I enjoy my rap and my dressing up, and it seems as though it would be hypocritical to proclaim that I am a feminist while listening to such music and dressing in such a style. In What is Women’s Studies?, Shaw points out towards the middle of page 16 that popular culture and media encourage women to “participate in their own objectification.” So where does one draw the line in enjoying pop culture and standing ground for rights and privileges that we should already naturally assume?
Olson’s I’m all for equal rights, but don’t call me a feminist, which ascertains the perspective of 18-30 year olds in the midst of the third wave of feminism, seemed to be calling my name. While the study did not address my question specifically, a transcript of a conversation on page 123 caught my attention. A participant named Laurie described an extreme professor she had college, who she assumed would have made a negative remark about any outfit that was even slightly promiscuous. The other participants agreed with Laurie that this was extreme, and they too rejected the professor’s demeanor. They do not identify themselves as feminists, although they do agree that they are fully in support of equal rights.
It seems to me that many people identify with the basic concepts of equality, freedom, and the need for a change in the patriarchal structure of society. However far fewer people are willing to identify as feminists. If feminism had been broached so blatantly in Neighbors 2, the movie would not have been half as well received. As I’ve been reading and understanding more and more, I have to wonder how the concept of “feminism” would flourish if it were rebranded— repackaged and renamed as an entirely new movement focused on anti-sexism and equal rights?
hooks, bell. 2000. Feminism is for Everybody. Cambridge: South End Press. (Selections)
Shaw, S. M., & Lee, J. (2012). Women’s voices, feminist visions: Classic and contemporary readings. New York: McGraw-Hill.
Olson, Loreen N., Tina A. Coffelt, Eileen Berlin Ray, Jill Rudd, Renée Botta, George Ray, and Jenifer E. Kopfam. “I’m All for Equal Rights, but Don’t Call Me a Feminist”: Identity Dilemmas in Young Adults’ Discursive Representation of Being a Feminist.” Women’s Studies in Communication 31.1 (2008): 104-32. Print.