The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

Court’s Corner

You’re familiar with the “f-word.” It’s that four letter noun, verb or adjective declaration people drop in regular conversation to “emphasize” their point. Let me introduce you to the new one – feminist.

The media, politicians and society in general often accuse women activists of being man-hating, bra-burning, masculine ladies who are just trying to take power away from men. It is not surprising that most young women aren’t eager to be labeled a feminist. In fact, many would prefer to keep the underwire and toss the detrimental term out the window.

Women and men of all ages and colors have, at times, bristled at the term, embraced it, praised it and disdained it practically since it was created.

It’s no big news that feminism – the word, and by extension, the movement – has an image problem.

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It’s almost remarkable that feminism has survived as long as it has – stigmatized as it has been a derogatory right, and criticized by groups for its lack of interest in concerns for minority women.

The problem isn’t its definition – belief in the social, political and economic equality of the sexes – the problem is that our generation has clashed emotionally with our parents’ generation.

We’ve allowed the stereotypes to define our course of action and dictate our beliefs.

Beginning in the late 1800s, first-wave feminism led to women attaining the right to vote in the early part of the 20th century.

Second-wave feminism, beginning in the late 1960s and 70s, focused on the issue of economic equality between the genders and addressed the rights of female minorities. This wave of feminism saw women fighting for reproductive rights, access to equal pay for equal work and other liberal notions of citizenship.

The third-wave movement, in the 1980s and 90s, was strong, and with it came a backlash toward the second-wave generation.

It labeled the feminist movement as exclusive and included primarily white middle- class women.

Author Joan Morgan once said, “White women’s racism and the feminist movement may explain the justifiable bad taste the f-word leaves in the mouths of women.”

While second-wave feminism focused on the inclusion of women in traditionally male-dominated areas, which led to the stereotypes of feminists as crass man-haters, third-wave feminism sought to challenge and expand common definitions of gender and sexuality.

The third-wave has shown how issues of gender, race, class and other statuses are
interconnected and create divisions of power
and privilege.

It was unfortunate that the negative labels given to feminism during this time created a steel-plated, bulletproof us vs. them barricade.

Feminists spend a lot of their time and energy challenging the stereotypes. They also spend a lot of time defending the issues they think are important.

What do we do about feminism? Do we replace it, phase it out? Or do we embrace it with renewed enthusiasm and a spruced-up, all-inclusive definition?

What I know is that if we erase the movement from society, we would be slapping the faces of all the women of our history – brave women like Harriet Tubman, illiterate women like Sojourner Truth and civil-rights activists like Rosa Parks.

For us to say, “I am a humanist,” versus “I am a feminist,” is ridiculous. If we are going to uphold the rights women and men from first and second-wave feminism fought for, then scream it loud. We are the third wave; continuing to work toward equality between men and women. If you’re going to stand up for it, accept the terminology, don’t just tolerate it.

Studies show that there is still a significant representation of inequality among the sexes, including lower wages and fewer job promotions for women in comparison to their male counterparts.

Unless our generation looks to the horizon and moves past the stereotypes of feminism, redefines the term and takes ownership of this political identity, the gender inequalities will keep on trucking.

I want a feminism that would allow me to explore who we are as women – not victims.

I used to hold a preconceived notion of the feminist movement. Even today I think some of my male and female friends are surprised and shift in their seats when I say, “I’m
a feminist.”

We need to start calling ourselves the feminists we already are.

Whether we are men, women, black, yellow, white or orange, it doesn’t matter. That is the beauty of American history; the beauty of the feminist movement. It is equality between the sexes and equality among the races.

I am a woman. I believe in equality. I am
a feminist.

Courtney Kostick is a junior mass communications major and a chief copy editor for The Spectator.

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