Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Feminism vs the feminine?

Hace días que he estado elucubrando una columna sobre el feminismo.  Aquí va una inspirada en una columna del Huffington Post que me envía el amigo Louis.

For Louis (who is just discovering feminism) and Ivette (who misses my rants in English)



In response to “What's so Feminine About Being a Feminist?”

First of all, the title is plain stupid.  There is nothing “feminine” about “feminism” because feminism isn’t about being “feminine”—if we think of the word "feminine" as “having qualities or appearance traditionally associated with women, especially delicacy and prettiness.” The word feminine is also used to describe things that are “weak.” SO feminism and feminine are NOT synonyms although feminism derives from the word female and feminine as gender (the denotation, not the connotation of the word). Feminism, as I understand it—and so many other women—is about equality, about being treated as a full human being, as a full time citizen.

Lisa Marie Jenkins, who is described as a “consultant, leadership coach & author” is obviously biased about the term feminism, and I am not surprised.  Once in a class, I dedicated a couple of sessions to a discussion of feminism, and some women who could be considered feminist or already considered themselves feminists, like Virginia Woolf, George Sand, Gloria Steinem, etc. I began by asking if any of the members of the class considered herself feminist.  Only one student raised her hand.  Although the sessions were lively and the women in class, and even some of the guys, were infuriated when they learned about the injustices heaped upon women throughout history, when time came to define themselves again—at the end of the course—the same girl raised her hand.  No one else was persuaded to change sides. I asked why.  One student said that feminists hated men, and she didn’t. Another one said feminists were “unattractive women”. I asked them whether they had considered the wonderful women we had studied and how they didn’t fit the image they had of feminists, but students wouldn’t budge. (As my favorite colleague tends to say: “Don’t bother me with the facts, I already made up my mind”)So, I gave up.

Jenkins, like my students then, has made up her mind about what feminists are and has encapsulated them into a box she won't, despite the evidence, let them out, or give them a second look. So, I'll just comment on some of LM Jenkins biases: 1) “feminism is no longer necessary”. Feminism will continue to be necessary as long as women earn on average less than men do. (From 75 to 80 cents for each man’s $1.00) Feminism will continue to be needed as long as women do not have full control of their bodies—the right to an abortion is still being fought in courts, and contraception is not easily available to all women who want or need it. (And I am only talking about women in the US, in other parts of the world, things can be even worse.) Feminism will continue to be relevant as long as women are treated as objects, and used to sell everything from a chocolate bar to a set of tires.

2) Feminists are angry: Do some feminists come off as angry? Yes, they have good reasons to be; see list above.  Also add, rape being dismissed with attitudes that range from “she asked for it” to “boys will be boys.” Add, women are still physically and emotionally abused by their partners and asked to be cute, and quiet, instead of strong and assertive.

3) Feminists shouldn't pick on insensitive men with no sense of style: And why should we care that an important scientist is wearing a t-shirt demeaning to women? Duh! It sends the wrong message: he is a scientist, that has made an important contribution to the world, yes, and people (young kids) will want to emulate him.  I don’t accept the claim that he was absent-minded and didn’t realize he was wearing an offensive t-shirt.  He obviously has a collection of them. You don’t wear a t-shirt that you find offensive or is against your values.  Sorry, I don’t buy that, and if that were true, to me he is at best, insensitive, at worst indifferent to the world around him.  I mean, he was going to be on TV, the world was going to see him! Plus, I know men who found the t-shirt equally inappropriate and down-right hateful.

4) The last bias I’ll address is the one in which she says “Women are empowered and have equality in Western culture.” Again, see all the above. Although we’ve come a long way, there are still many miles to go for men and women to be equal in society, and Jenkins is very much aware of this for she says: “The answer lies in creating balance between masculine and feminine energy in the world, call it the yin and yang. Gender diversity and partnership in commerce, technology and politics is a 21st century necessity.”Enough said.

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