Graphic by Austin Mai
On the first day of my WMNS 301 class, my peers and I were asked to take out a piece of paper and write down our perceived definitions of feminism.
I had taken a Women’s Studies course previously and considered myself decently educated on feminism, yet the only definition I (and many of my peers) could come up with was something along the lines of “Women’s Equality”.
I quickly realized my perspective on feminism had only ever been seen through the lens of a white, middle-class female, and I was missing much of the language and knowledge needed to accurately talk about feminism in all its complexity.
Since then, I have written this piece numerous times, and deleted it just as many. Feminism has a bad rap, but I refuse to avoid discussing it solely out of fear of being judged. So listen up.
When you type in “why fe” into google the second listed suggestion is “Why feminism is bad”.
It’s time to understand there is much more to feminism than simply equality for women. It’s also time to stop uttering the word “matriarchy” in relation to this topic.
If you still believe feminism advocates for special treatment of women and a female dominating society, then I invite you to climb out from the rock you clearly live under.
Often times it is understood only in relation to gender, when in reality, the feminist movement cannot begin to eradicate gender inequality without first understanding and analyzing sex, class, and racial oppressions (and that’s just the beginning).
I am not here to preach feminist politics solely from my white, female perspective because Patricia Arquette has already done that for us.
I do believe equal pay for women is necessary and individuals should not be confined to socially constructed gender roles. More importantly, though, I also understand by saying “we” when talking about these social problems, as many white, middle-class women do, I am excluding transgender, colored, bisexual, lower class, oriental and multiple gendered individuals (the list goes on) from my exclamation.
For example, when women fight for equality of the sexes, they neglect those who do not conform to a gender at all, and exclude them from rights they are just as entitled to. Women are not fighting for no reason, there are many issues in modern society that need to be dealt with and many of them pertain to the sphere white women inhabit.
But there are also voices that are not, and have not been able to speak or be heard over the dominating white woman’s voice.
“We” beg for equality in relation to men, thus wrongly assuming all men are treated equally.
“We” fight for gay rights and in turn make straight conformity the measure of gay success.
“We” petition for pro-choice without understanding that some women do not have the support or resources to exercise abortion as a “choice” due to social, political and economic conditions.
It’s necessary to understand just who “we” are speaking for before we open our mouths, and in turn tarnish the feminist movement with negative connotations due to ignorance. Clearly there is more to understand than simply equality of the sexes.