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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Shopping for Truth: Feminist and proud

Published: May 2, 2008
Section: Opinions

Are you a feminist? Do you know what this even means? Whether you’re male or female, you have a stake in feminism, something I’ve realized after taking Women and Gender in Culture and Society Studies (WMGS 5a) with Professor Sue Lanser.

I guess I’d always been sort of unsure of what feminism meant and of whether I could truly define myself as a feminist. On the one end, I’ve always felt a strong aversion to traditional female stereotypes and fought for women’s rights, mentally at least. Sure, I was the little girl who always had pink dresses and bows in her hair, but that was through choice, and if I had been forced into that I would’ve said no way! That is, if it wasn’t my own choice. I’ve always believed that women could do what men could, but the negative connotations surrounding the word feminism had left me unsure of how to identify my affiliations with this word.

As it is the end of the school year, I’ve had several months to digest what I’ve learned from all of my courses this semester. Ok, so maybe I am, like most of you, cursing the fact that finals are upon us, but I’ve also become enlightened in so many ways and the knowledge I have gained from WMGS 5a has extended further than the readings I’ve read or the videos I’ve viewed in class.

As our readings and discussions in 5a have proven, feminism doesn’t mean what you might think it does. To be a feminist does not mean you are a man-hater or a crazy person. On the contrary, feminism means what you make it to mean and is tailored to the individual invoking it. Some feminists might choose not to marry or have children simply to ‘stick it to the patriarchy,’ some may choose a career out of self-interest, some may protest and lobby for women’s rights, some may simply be a silent voice for their fellow human beings.

Feminism has gone through so many stages and has jumped so many hurdles to get women where they are today. Sure, women hold more jobs now than they did before and there is less blatant prejudice against women nowadays. But maybe that’s because the prejudice is more hidden, or in some ways openly advertised under the guise of a beauty campaign.

I for one am absolutely disgusted by the way our media treats women as plastic Barbie dolls to mold into the perfect prototype they desire. Women are told to lose weight and starve themselves or asked to undergo painful and risky plastic surgery to fit a ‘beauty ideal’ that is purely plastic and manufactured in the minds of a sadistic few and projected upon the masses. But let me stop myself before I rewrite my first column (Media Sends Mixed Messages 8/31/07).

It is clear that women are still discriminated against on the world stage, as are women of minority status. Furthermore, domestic abuse still exists and is frequently exhibited towards women. No one is about to deny that women too are capable of and do abuse men, but overridingly it is women on the receiving end of the hostility.

Typically feminism has addressed these issues. But feminism doesn’t only extend into the depths of issues pertaining to females; it also affects minorities because feminist issues are intersectional. Did you ever think about who takes care of those rich career women’s children? Minorities, especially women of color, step into these roles to support their own families.

Moreover, the glass ceiling still exists and women hold less high-up positions in corporations and are paid less than men. But women are moving up and showing that they are more than just pretty faces. Both women and women of color have made gains in the workplace and are gaining respect in the media through TV and film. Slowly but surely, baby steps have been taken.

After all, why do we have to differentiate between male and female when we’re all ultimately in the same situation? We all have problems, we all face adversity, and we’re all human beings so we should all just be a little more accepting and cut each other some slack.

So thank you to Sue Lanser and WMGS 5a for opening my eyes to what being a feminist truly means. To conclude, I’d like to get it out in the open in case you hadn’t already figured it out from this whole column, yes I am a feminist, and proud of it!