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10 pounds down 32 pounds to go!

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

77 cents on the dollar

jus me of chubby toes and i have been having a wee discussion in her comments about feminism and i've got to admit it's got my dander up. i mean no derision and i hope we can still talk about things in the future, but i think i should explain why i feel so passionately about it. i took this class in college with a new professor fresh from kansas. the class was called simply "racism" and there was no topic we weren't free to discuss.

the day rusty (his mom wanted a son his dad wanted a golden retriever...ha) started this particular class we were discussing sexism as related to racism. in the course of the class he asked which of us would call ourselves a feminist. three people raised their hands in a classroom of 25, me, him and an exchange student from spain. i honestly thought the man was going to fall over. here he took a job at a liberal women's college back east and he was standing in a room of women talking about the evils of sexism and only two of them would cop to being feminists. one european and the other queer. and then he started asking us questions.

he said he had a daughter and he had a son and he thought they were both valuable people. he said they both worked hard and they were both honest and smart. and then he said when they go out into the world one of them will earn a dollar and one of them will earn .77 cents for no other reason than what's between their legs. and he asked us if we agreed with that. and there was a chorus of uproar.

most of these girls grew up in single parent homes in baltimore. they know how hard their moms worked to get them to college. where they wore their "I don't go to a girl's school without men I go to a women's college without boys" t-shirts but wouldn't let the word feminist cross their lips. and he asked us why no one raised their hands. and they stammered. they didn't know why. they just know that they aren't supposed to want to be feminists. he asked us if we liked being able to vote, liked being able to own property, the right to our children if we bear them, the right not to be the property of our husbands. because feminism is not solely the bra burning construction of the seventies. if anything that should have been the culmination of the efforts of women since the year 500.

but it wasn't. the ERA didn't pass. legally, a man and a women do not have equal rights in this country. the same class that fought for two sessions over the iconic validity of aunt jemima had not a word to say about their own status as citizens. i've never been more ashamed. anyone who thinks that feminism is something of the past, or was taken too far, why? explain to me why a woman's rights aren't worth fighting for. why it's wrong to say women and men are equal. why should we be ashamed to say that every person on this earth is valuable and worthy? because i just don't understand.

13 comments:

PastaQueen said...

For whatever reason, the word "feminism" has gotten a negative connotation. I think people believe if you're a feminist you must be a "femi-nazi" with a buzzcut who goes around torching bras and screaming at men.

I think the problems lies in the word itself than the actual beliefs people have. If you think men and women should have equal rights, you're a feminist, right? People just get so scared of that word "feminist" that they don't want to use it. It's an interesting example of how the power of language can affect society and control people.

The only other example I can think of is the use of the word "liberal." In the 2004 presidential election the Republicans slung this word around like they were talking about pedophiles. John Kerry's a - dun, dun, dun - a liberal! What's so wrong with being a liberal? I'm happy to be a liberal.

Maybe feminists just need to rebrand themselves.

Amy said...

i think we've got to ask ourselves who decided feminism was negative?

...jus me said...

At the risk of REALLY starting something here, Amy, I don't think it is wrong to be for women's rights, but it turned ugly in the 70's. It was more about putting men down than building women up. I know there are people that want to keep women "at home where they belong". I have seen that mentality. I don't think that is the majority though! I have worked in a lot of non-traditional job fields. For the most part, I was accepted as soon as I could show that i could do the job. And I have done a good job in them. Not because of my brute strength, but because of my attention to detail etc. It is just funny to me the different ways men and women use to get the job done.
I agree with Pasta Queen, part of my objection is to the label, "feminist". In fact, most of it!

Amy said...

i just don't buy that it's just the word. suffragettes were as much reviled in their day but we wouldn't have the vote without them. saying it's just the word makes it seem like serial killers would be likeable if we called them something else. like the fuzzy bunny patrol. the connotations of words are what we make them, so why don't women own the feminine of feminism.

MayQueen said...

Oy, I remember the day in my American History class when Rusty asked us this question (in connection to?). I believe it was just me and my pal Rusty in a class that was roughly as large as yours. I like to think it's the actual word and the negative connotations it's accrued that a lot of women object to and not the actual principles of equality. But I also think a lot of young women have been lulled into believing that there is no more sexism in this country, or at least that it doesn't affect them in ways that they should worry about.

Still, remember that this was the class that included the young women who monopolized our 9/11 discussion with some of the most ignorant and jingoistic rhetoric I've ever heard from someone in my age group, so we're not exactly dealing with mental heavyweights here. I don't know, I guess the big problem people have with feminists is that they think they're whining about things that aren't important. Just look at the message board for any article on Fark that involves women's rights or sexual harassment for an example.

V'ron said...

I have to disagree with jus me. At 45 today, I WAS a feminist in the 70s, and it wasn't about putting down men. It was a point in feminist history where we were still trying to define our goals. We knew we'd inherited a lot (both good and bad) from previous movements, but the problem was that the resistance to our movement was still great. We were met with much uglyness whenever we so much as suggested equality. We didn't start the ugliness. People who wanted to keep us down did. Women and girls who stood up for equality had their femininity questioned, in extremely ugly ways. Girls who benefited from Title IX were beaten up because their sports programs took $$$ from the "rightful"" teams like boys' football. It was an ugly time, but, frankly, we didn't start it.

The civil rights movement of the 60s got ugly too. But the civil rights movement didn't start the uglieness. The Freedom Riders did not start the riots. They were beaten up, tortured, frankly, by the majority of people who had financial stake in the civil rights movement failing. And as feminists, we have made the error in allowing our "brand" to be co-opted by the right wing and used as a bad word.

Nobody in the 70s really burned bras except in the pages of Playboy Magazine. And certainly nobody advocated the emergence of unisex bathrooms or even implied that the ERA should usher those in. But I remember distinctly Phyllis Schlafly going on about these two issues in order to defeat the ERA in Illinois (and thus, the nation) because, overall, people in general are terrified of change, and the people most terrified are those who stand to lose their standing, be it social, emotional, or financial, upon change.

Jennifer said...

Interesting discussion. I agree with you, Amy, but I probably would have been one of the women who didn't put her hand up. I wasn't sure why when I first thought about it, but after reading some of the other comments here and on jus me's blog, I think it might be that I would feel that calling myself a feminist would imply I went somehow above and beyond the belief in the equality of men and women and would perhaps suggest that I was somehow more politically active or more informed about 'women's issues' or something. So it wouldn't be because I wouldn't want the label of feminist, but because I would feel I didn't deserve it. Also, though, maybe I felt that what was called feminism in the past is now simply the standard way of thinking, and so maybe there is no longer a need for the label. Thinking about it now, though, I suppose this is sadly not the case.

Jennifer said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
SLEM said...

As a 50 + woman I am PROUD to stand up and be counted as a "feminist"... We fought DAMN hard for our rights that the younger generation takes for granted...And yes the fight is still out there because no matter what Men (and even some women, shame on them) do NOT think Women should be equal in ALL things...and they also think Men should rule the world...NOT...

Amy said...

but slem, they do such a good job!

(it was irresistable, really)

Fluffie Bunnie said...

Wow, really, you guys do not have legislation for equal rights? I did not know that. That's pretty appalling. Maybe I'll quit whining about my country for a little while :-)

I agree with you, by the way. You would probably love the book I'm reading right now - Beauty Bites Beast, by Ellen Snortland. Skwigg recommended it on her blog. It's all about how women have been conditioned to think we're helpless and need men to protect us when actually, we're quite capable of looking after ourselves. I'm only into the 3rd chapter so far but I'm really enjoying it. It's very empowering.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/1891290002/202-5422242-1650235?v=glance&n=266239

Diet Woman said...

I am proud to be a feminist and I'm proud to be feminine - so may people think you can't be both.

fluffie bunnie - I assume you are in the United Kingdom, too - I am also very surprised that the US hasn't got similar equal rights legislation for women. Over here we may be behind in some things (for sure!) but whether we are a woman or a man, black, white, brown, yellow, disabled, gay, lesbian, straight - or any combination of the aforesaid - there is legislation to ensure equality (especially in employment) and I wouldn't have it any other way.

I have even heard that there may plans to introduce employment legislation so that employers can't reject an applicant based purely because of their age.

My daughter - who was 28 when she was taken from me - wasn't a feminist. She knew what feminism is/was but felt it didn't apply to her because in all her life she had been taught that she was the exact equal of anyone. Schools, universities, businesses, government ALL have charters guaranteeing people the right of equality and she never questionned that right. So, if she were asked if she were a feminist, she would probably have said 'no' - because she had no need to be.

Amy said...

they're working on age related legislation here too, but not for women. that's what people just don't realize when they start talking about feminism going too far, they didn't even get to finish. not that i'm on a rant or anything...