SAAD: Varieties of feminism should be considered
Opinions Column: My V is for Victory
I am sitting at a desk in my dorm’s lounge, attempting to separate Jane Austen’s ironic and burlesque disposition from the actual naivety of Marianne Dashwood in "Sense and Sensibility," when I overhear my “men and women should be equal, but I’m not really a feminist” floor mate speaking to our male friend about why he “hates today’s feminists.” Disregarding the fact that this is the same male friend who points out to me how excessive the girl passing us on the street’s makeup is, while in the same breath reassuring me that he “doesn’t mind” mine, I begin to dwell upon what I, being a member of “today’s feminists,” have done so horribly wrong to offend him. His opinion is one that is common within contemporary society, but why?
“Today’s feminists” are simply the evolved state of the feminists of the 19th century. From the 1830s to 1900s, the political movement of feminism focused primarily on the advancement of political prowess for women. Getting women to begin to trickle into the political world meant getting their opinions to follow suit. By fighting for women’s rights for political voices, the feminists of the first wave were fighting for the inclusion of women’s concerns and rights in the nation. The 1960s to 1980s shifted gears and began to shed light on the issues that women faced in their workplace, whether that be in an office or a home. An emphasis on reproductive rights was also developed. This gave passageway to the third wave of feminism — this being the one that seems to upset so many individuals. From the 1990s to present day, the age of feminism has developed into a sort of hybrid age. The third wave of feminism can be considered to have multiple sub-waves. The Washington Post describes these waves as “shaped less by a struggle against oppression than by a collective embrace of individual freedoms.” Rather than specific common goals, today’s feminists fight for equality in various aspects of their lives. So what about this is such a problem to people? It is simple: These people think we have grown enough.
The common plea that is heard by those who oppose intersectional feminism is that we have already achieved all of the equality that there is to gain, and that our focus should remain on those who have not come to this same position of elevation. The problem with this thinking is the underlying assertion that another person’s worse situation should overshadow your own. There is a plethora of liberties that have been granted to women in the United States that have not been given to women abroad. Fighting for these liberties to be actualized is a mission of any feminist today. However, this does not mean that they cannot have other missions in their own micro-politics. The issue that women are paid less than men in the same position (the assumed face of the feminist movement) is nowhere even remotely near to the severity of the fact that women in underdeveloped countries are subjected to being thrown acid on for rejecting men — but today’s feminism never said that it was. Today’s feminism is merely saying that both of these situations are problems. In fact, today’s feminism is saying that the smaller scale problems may even give way to the larger cases of sexism that are apparent today. Regarding women as less in any manner — whether it be the way the media portrays her, or men assuming they have the right to dictate what a woman wears — all contribute to an overall attitude of inferiority of women.
Oftentimes, the opposing side loves to bring up the “Free the Nipple!” campaign to exemplify how “twisted” and “useless” today’s women’s movement is. I have heard people comment that the movement is merely a way for “girls to get naked and objectify themselves in the way they claim they do not want to be.” Lina Esco, creator of the “Free the Nipple!” campaign, explains that her work is not to “just show breasts,” but focus on the conversation of censorship and choice. When a woman is subjected to being told which parts of her are not to be shown while they are to be shown on men, things become skewed. Once a woman’s body is regarded differently than that of a man’s, she as a person and an entity begins to be regarded differently.
What my male friend fails to realize is that everyone’s feminism is different. That is what this new wave is about. My feminism is fighting against the sexual violence of girls, but my feminism is also you not telling me what amount of makeup is acceptable to you. And if I want the option of being able to flash a nipple while I’m at it, well then, that’s okay too.
Syeda Khaula Saad is a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore majoring in English and Journalism and Media Studies with a minor in French. Her column, “My V is for Victory” runs on alternate Tuesdays.
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