By Kate Feuling
As feminists, I’m sure everyone reading this, has, at some point, been hesitant to define themselves outright as a feminist under certain circumstances. I’m stuck in a class this semester taught by a good instructor, but an instructor that is quite traditional and conservative, who has made jokes about a fear of feminists and has stated that “yeah, they [women] should be allowed to vote.”
There are an innumerable amount of things wrong and offensive with what he said, and unfortunately it does not end at that one statement.
It seems obvious that there is a huge public confusion and misunderstanding about what feminism is. Literal dictionary definitions boil it down to a (I’m paraphrasing) doctrine that fights for social, political, etc, rights for women to create an equal footing with men. In its literal definition, feminism is not a scary thing at all. It is more than reasonable, and many people who argue with it do not do so in a public forum. In a culture where ‘gender’ typically signifies women and not men, it is fair to say that feminism is hard at work, especially considering how often the term ‘gender’ appears in the media and in society.
One of the most interesting questions that was posed in the introductory blog prompt was something along the lines of ‘what is the biggest problem facing feminism today?’ I think there are a huge range of possible answers to this question, but the issue that I keep coming back to time and time again is the issue of women judging, criticizing, and acting condescendingly to other women. To their own allies, counterparts, and members of the same cause.
Part of the goal of feminism should be to provide women with the option of making a whole array of choices and NOT having to defend them. To me, this means decisions regarding whether or not to breast-feed to whether or not you choose to watch (and enjoy) football. The beauty of the feminist movement, in the past and present, is that choices exist to be made without consequences of guilt, judgment, or a fear of constantly having to defend yourself. Audre Lorde would say that the problem with feminism (and she speaks in regard to white women vs. women of color) is not that differences exist, but that we as feminists and as women do not recognize them and therefore cannot really, successfully, move forward as a community working together.