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Feminism is for Everyone

Published: December 2, 2005
Section: Opinions


We are feminists. What does that mean to you? Are we man-haters? Are we bra-burners? Are we dykes? The author bell hooks defines feminism as the fight to end sexist oppression. We define feminism as choice. The choice to do, say, think and act freely. Feminism is about breaking boundaries and setting new standards for everyone, regardless of gender, race, class, sexual orientation or national origin.

Not all feminists enact feminism in the same way, yet we are all joined together by the use of the same title and a greater purpose. Feminism is not about trying to bring men down or trying to define our equality through the status men hold in society. Its about egalitarianism. Breaking down traditional standardized gender roles and fostering a sense of societal acceptance.

Feminism, just like any other label, has different meanings for different people. Who can claim the label of feminist? A recent CBS poll, conducted among a random sample of 1150 adults, found that when given a definition (not provided by the article) 58% of men and 65% of women say they are feminists. That means that feminists constitute the majority of people in this country. If so many people agree with the ideology presented in the feminist definition, then why are people not embracing the label?

Perhaps the lack of identification with the word feminism is due to a misunderstanding of its definition. When given its definitionof choice, egalitarianism, and personal agencyhow can anyone refuse? Feminism addresses human rights issues. But somehow, when the majority of people hear the word feminism in isolation, they automatically bring up negative associations. Even on our campus we see feminist being used as an insult to attack a persons perspective. Maybe its time to rethink our attitude to this word and where we think it fits in our lives.

While feminism might be hard to define, imbedded sexist practices are easier to spy. They are ubiquitous and often unnoticed in our everyday lives. WE SPY SEXISM on campus where we see: Only two female presidents in the Student Unions history;

a majority of female students and professors in Womens and Gender Studies but a majority of male students and professors in Economics;

an absence of women authors in the required Politics Department theory course;

a nonexistent feminist media;

the majority of the sports page devoted to mens teams;

a deficiency of women headliners in Student Event concerts. Where do you spy sexism?

Isms of this kind are all around us. We act and reinforce sexism, racism, heterosexism and classism through systemic and individual acts of effortless performance. It is only through identifying them that we can begin to address the issues they present. We cannot categorically define feminism, because it means many things to many peoplewe can only define the word as we see it ourselves. We see feminism as equality. We see feminism as personal agency, strength in ones voice and ideology. We see feminism as sexual agency, intellectual confidence, and ambitious goals. We see feminism as extremely relevant at this time and in this place. We see feminism in many places and people, but not everywhere. We have no choice but to hope that it is there. We challenge you to find the feminism in your life.

Authors note: bell hooks spells her name in all lower case letters. Its part of her ideology.