Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Are you a feminist?

For our first class of the semester, our professor requested that we come equipped with answers for the following two questions: “are you a feminist?” and “what does feminism mean to you?” I recall mulling over my answers in the days leading up to first period. I knew I was going to answer "yes" to the first question but was unsure as to what my reasoning would be. Now, some fourteen weeks on, after our many discussions, readings and documentaries, I feel confident in answering these questions with clarity and force.

I have become acutely aware of the gender issues permeating our society. I find myself critiquing the media more harshly, particularly when women’s physiques are addressed. The materials discussed in class e.g. the documentary “Missrepresentation”, have prompted this shift of mindset.

I used to not think twice when looking at women’s magazine covers, almost all of which advertise some ‘diet-tips’ or ‘exercise regime’ article. I now see through the transparency of these journalists and recognize that their sole desire is to target vulnerable women in the hope of boosting magazine sales. I have also gained insights in to my classmates’ similar mindsets through their well-articulated blogposts on these issues.

I particularly took offense to the “locker room talk” scandal which surfaced in the media towards the end of Trump’s presidential campaign. Had I been reading the reports back in my home country, Ireland, I most-likely wouldn’t have felt such intense outrage.  I would have deemed myself to be far-removed from the matter and thought it not to have warranted much contemplation. However, considering my knowledge gained throughout this class and hearing what my peers had to say on the matter, I felt more personally involved in the harm perpetuated by Mr. Trumps comments.

I decided to ask a few of my friends (other international exchange students here in Davis) the same two questions I grappled with in the beginning of this class. I was curious to see if their views reflected mine. The answers are given from three females and one male, all of whom have never taken a gender-studies class. (I have given my friends pseudonyms to protect their anonymity.)

Q1. Are you a feminist?
Q2. What does feminism mean to you?

Mary:
1. Sort of, depending on how you define feminism.  
2. To me it should be the equality of men and women, particularly in terms of career opportunities and expectations. However, I do not support some radical feminism that goes against men to the point that it becomes sexist. Also, when it comes down to it, men and women are biologically different and feminism needs to understand this. Men will always be better at some things and vice versa.

Martha
1. I believe I am a feminist but I hesitate to classify myself as such because of the stigma attached to it
2. Feminism means equality for everyone. It strives for equal opportunities for men and women in all aspects of life.

Mandy
1. I believe I am a feminist in a way but I am not a radical feminist
2. Feminism represents the belief that men are not superior to women, that everybody is equal and women are not stereotyped into one specific role/category in life.

Mark
1. I am a feminist because equality is the right thing to do
2. Right now feminism is associated with man-hating which is not something I’m on board with so sometimes I prefer to distance myself from the term ‘feminist’.

The above answers are not wholly dissimilar to the ones I gave. Much like my friends, I was only able to address feminism in vague terms. I shied away from discussing the topic in depth to avoid appearing frigid or being labelled a ‘man hater’. I can now take pride in announcing that I am feminist and can articulate my views with confidence. I believe that a large part of being a feminist is giving other women the freedom to make choices which I may not necessarily make myself.


These past fourteen weeks have benefited my legal education and enhanced my personal development. I now feel the obligation to pass on this enlightenment to my friends and family, encouraging them to push the boundaries which they may have sub-consciously set in their own minds surrounding the feminist movement.

3 comments:

Kyle Kate Dudley said...

Louise,

I love this post and your reflections on the class. This was very similar to my journey. I have felt so empowered by everything we've learned as well. I really appreciate that you interviewed your friends, and have been trying to talk about feminist viewpoints a lot more often in my regular life as well. I think bringing the gender conversation to the forefront is the only way to dispel the negative connotations with the word "feminist". I'm proud to be called a feminist now too. In solidarity!

Joan Maya said...

Louise,

I really appreciated you reflecting back on the beginning of class. Without realizing where we came from, we can't appreciate how much we have grown! I love that by interviewing your friends, it was also another way for you to reflect on your new viewpoint on feminism. A lot of people (including myself!) have a tendency to not bring issues that they may deem as controversial up with friends and family, but doing so can be so important! Having a little brother, I hope myself along with my sister can make feminism something that is not scary or something my little brother shies away from. The only way we can do this is by talking about it on a regular basis!

I also want to say, having your opinion a long with all the other international students' perspectives has been such a valuable addition to my education! Feminism to me is something that is supposed to help women reach equality in all parts of the world, so having an international perspective in class was most appreciated!

Josie Zimmermann said...

Louise,

I have so enjoyed seeing you come around to feminism. Your post reminds me of the day I told my mother that I thought I was a feminist, and she replied, "Don't tell your father." I used to think that identifying with feminism was controversial, and rebellious. But now, I feel zero shame about being a feminist killjoy. I've become so confident in calling out the parts of our culture that classify women as lesser, and I know that this confidence comes from talking about those things with other feminist women, the way we have in this class. I hope you, and all the exchange students in our class are able to keep your boldness and confidence in your newfound feminism when you go home. Maybe keeping up with this blog will help!