Sunday, March 03, 2013

The F Word - Feminism

This week we watched the documentary on PBS "Makers: Women Who Make America" and the videos can be found online. It's about 3 hours and I think I only caught part of it, so I'm excited the rest are online. My daughter did not watch it with me, but I'll have her watch this.

For me, I had a feminist awakening in college with my women's studies classes, which clearly defined situations. While watching this documentary, I remembered all these women from history, as well as the history we lived. I loved seeing Pat Schroeder's biography and miss her voice from the political arena today. It was inspiring to see this video because it reminds us of how recent the women's movement is in historical terms and the advancements that happened quickly. Once one  door was opened, others could follow through swiftly.

I'm proud to be a feminist and it comes down to a single idea: Feminism is giving women the choice to do what they want with their lives and not as it is decreed for them by society. If they'd like to be full time homemaker/stay at home mother, go for it. If they want to run a company or start their own business, they can. If they'd like to join the military and fly fighter jets, they should. It's their choice of how they want to live their life. That's it.

I'm dismayed by the next generation of young women who say "I'm not a feminism, but.." and they live their life enjoying the benefits of feminist movement. Marissa Mayer, CEO of Yahoo!, says she's not a feminist. It's ironic when she's the female engineer and corporate executive. The early feminist movement fought hard for women to be accepted into science programs (there were limited quotas for women's admission). Plus, it was a challenge to be acknowledged seriously in the workplace. I don't know where she comes up with the "militant" feminists and "chip on shoulder" statement. Seriously, I'm not sure where she's seeing that - maybe there was an overly aggressive Women's Studies student in her dorm? I think we were all overly enthusiastic when we finally understood. By making this kind of statement, she's playing into the stereotype that feminists are militant and she's distancing herself from "those type of women". This is a crucial move on her part because it's doesn't threaten men. Maybe it's her own survival technique.

Frankly, "well behaved women seldom made history." Women had to be stronger and louder to be heard. Of course that made them "militant" and "lesbians" and "sluts" and any other name men could use to denegrate women to their "role."

When the next generation of women say they don't believe in feminism or think the world is just for all, they need to pick themselves up and walk over to another part of the world. Wait a second. Actually, sexism is still alive and well in the US. We saw that on the night of the Oscars with Seth MacFarlane's jokes about women's bodies and sexuality; there are a ton of articles out there but here is link to one that talks about "sexism fatigue"and how we don't even notice it. It was unacceptable and offensive, especially for a show. Unfortunately people thought he was funny because he had that charming smile on his face. (We were extremely offended by the 'boob song' when we have a 12 year old daughter watching the show. I thought Oscars were supposed to be family friendly?)

One of the sites/organizations that I follow regularly is Miss Representation. The film itself is astounding and enlightening (I saw this on OWN, but it's a must-see for all, men and women). I saw  films in college about portrayal of women's bodies in the media, and I believe I did a paper or two about this topic. However, this film made me realize that it hasn't changed much in 20 years and has potentially gotten worse. Now, as a parent, it's more alarming to see the sexism and "sexuality for sale" in the media.

Even though we're progressing socially, professionally, and academically, there are still reminders around us that we're still being considered "the other" and not part of the whole.

In one breath we can say we've come a long way, but the struggle is not over. Women are still held hostage by religion, by economic conditions and by political strife in different parts of the world. Like Hillary Clinton said, "women's rights are human rights" and should be treated as such.

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