Feminism is Equality

“When a man gives his opinion, he’s a man. When a woman gives her opinion, she’s a b—-.”  – Bette Davis

According to Merriam Webster, feminism is the doctrine advocating social, political, and all other rights of women equal to those of men. This may be the dictionary definition, but in modern society today, what exactly is feminism? In order to understand its presence in the country today, it is important to understand its origins.

American feminism is said to have three large historical waves, each uniquely important in shaping how modern feminism is today.

Wave #1: Women’s suffrage

In the late 1800s into the early 1900s, industrialization opened up a new opportunity for women to get outside of the home and into the “men’s world” that was America. Women began to work, and some advocated for the passage of what would be the 19th amendment, giving them the right to vote. The idea that women were fragile objects (very slowly) began to diminish.

Flappers began to appear, and so did birth control. Women began to have more control over their lives, but were often scorned by women who did participate in the traditional gender roles given to women at the time.

World Wars I and II also continued women’s push to leave traditional roles, as men went off to fight and women took their jobs. However, after men returned from war they also returned to work. But some women continued to work outside the home, and more held jobs than ever before.

Wave #2: 1960s through 1980s

This wave of feminism questioned gender roles and their place in American society. It also brought in women of color compared to the previous movement, which was mostly white, middle-class women. This wave critiqued the patriarchal society and the confines it brought down upon women. This wave often attacked products such as makeup and high heels that they claimed only further trapped women in the patriarchy.

Wave #3: The riot grrls of the 1990s

This wave of feminism encouraged women that even if they wore makeup and acted traditionally feminine, they were still strong and empowered women. They used words such as “b—-” and “slut” to challenge and destroy the labels that had been previously used to hurt women. This wave included women of all races, sexual orientations, and trans women.

To find out the extent of feminism in the PRHS community, I asked students and teachers what they thought that feminism truly was, and how feminists are typically perceived in our culture today.

“Feminism is equality. Not just for women, but for everyone,” says junior Danielle Nadeau. “Hopefully in the future, everyone will be a feminist.”

“Feminism is empowering women because the media tells them to be a lot of things, it’s our way of trying to be who we are instead of being the ‘bimbos’ that society tells us to be,” says Ashley Magee, also a junior.

PRHS Chemistry teacher Mr. Goguen says he definitely considers himself a feminist. “Feminism is equal rights. I’ve worked side by side with women all my life with situations that have equal pay, and equal responsibility.”

“Feminism is the radical notion that women are people,” says Ms. Ducolon. “Feminism in the future will disappear. I am worried that women are becoming more like they were in the 1950s. We have gone back in time to more traditional gender roles in many cases.”

This may be true, but the problem is not whether women in 2014 spend their days cooking and cleaning. It is whether they want to or not. Some aspects of modern society still encourage women to stay home and take care of children, and enforce the traditional gender roles. If a woman wants to be a stay at home mother, if she wants to cook dinner for her husband, if she wants to wear makeup and wants to be a traditional “housewife”, then by all means let her. But if a woman wants to become president, or wants to work on Wall Street or run a marathon or start her own construction company, than let her. If she wants to do both, than let her.

Women should not face shame whether they are traditionally “feminine” or not. But the stereotype of a feminist in today’s society is one that has grown out of proportion and it extremely inaccurate in describing true feminists.

Sophomore Aaron Arsenault says feminists are “people who worked really hard to gain women’s rights. But a feminist today is pro-females over males and against discrimination.”

According to junior Brianna Repke, a lot of people equate feminism with “not shaving your legs” instead of women’s rights.

Ms. Costello, PRHS librarian, is a proud feminist but acknowledges the harsh stigma around feminism. “Unfortunately, in American society today feminism means man-hater, of which I am not.  I refer to feminism as the F-Word, because it is used with the same vile tones as the slang. Why am I a feminist? Because I don’t believe I should be beaten, raped, paid less for the same job,  charged more at  the dry cleaners, or asked if my husband will be co-signing a car loan all because I am a female.”

“There is a stereotype that feminists are extremely emotional and uncompromising, sometimes even hateful,” says junior Cooper Slack.

An anonymous girl added that “There’s a stigma around feminism. If a girl is too confident, they’re conceited and a b—-. But if they don’t stand up for themselves, they’re weak.”

“I feel that people assume feminists are snobby, self-centered people. However, that’s not the case,” said Megan Walsh, a junior.

“We are considered whiny, lesbian man-haters,” says Ms. Ducolon.

Some women who label themselves as “feminists” are, in fact, man-haters. These types of “feminists” act as if women are above men in all aspects of life, especially intelligence and morality. Feminism is supposed to be about equality. It seems that the true purpose of feminism has been degraded by a select few who take overly radical actions in order to destroy men and promote women. These actions have created and perpetuated the negative stereotype of feminists, when true feminists want women and men to be completely equal.

“Some ‘feminists’ want to kill off cis males and think they don’t want them to live. Many people believe that trans people can’t be feminists,” says senior Amber Richard.

The types of so-called feminists that Amber mentions are not really true feminists. Feminists do not attempt to destroy everything that the women’s movement has worked for. By making feminism seem as some sort of evil idea, people are dissuaded to join the cause for women’s rights. Girls don’t want to be stereotyped, and boys don’t want to associated with a movement that appears to want to destroy them.

There is a big difference- and a thin line- between a strong movement and a hateful movement.

True feminism should be promoted peacefully. Its real purpose is simply equality for all human beings. True feminists do not want to kill off men; they just want to be paid and treated equally without being labeled as a b—–.

Everyone interviewed was for women’s equality, but it was the stigmatism around feminism that prevented some from identifying themselves as feminists. It is time to change that, and make feminism a positive force in our school and in our society.