Sorting through my many files of writing–with the intention of shredding some of it, I came across a questionnaire from my college-age granddaughter…she was writing a paper about my generation of women.
The first question was “Do you consider yourself a feminist?” As I rewrite this question here, I wonder if the concept of feminist even exists in other cultures. I’d like to know. Or does it belong to a time and era, culture and country, localized?
Regardless, it’s food for thought. Once I answered, yes, I consider myself a feminist, the question arose…How do you define feminism? I pose that same question to you, the reader.
One dictionary definition of feminism is: “The belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities…” A second definition: ” Organized activity in support of women’s rights and interests.”
Then I elaborate. I think that it’s important to realize that in 1787 when the US Constitution was ratified, where it says that “all men are created equal” it refers to educated white males. Though women in this country were granted the right to vote as of August 18, 1920, the mentality that classed women as property and inferior to men exists to this day. Within the mindsets of both women and men, women continue to have less status than men in this country–and throughout most of the civilized and third world countries. Is it changing?
We hear examples of this inequality around the world daily. Though it is less explicit in this country, wherever women are objectified–popular men’s magazines (like Playboy), sitcoms and movies that portray women as “dumb,” crimes against women that aren’t effectively addressed, the lack of education that would enhance women’s self-esteem and re-educating men to foster respect for the contributions of womankind, up close and personal and globally–the very roots of change that are being undermined today contribute to this inequality.
Truly, the personal is political. One thought that I would add in defining feminism is this: Women do have gender-specific abilities, responsibilities, qualities that men obviously don’t have. One cannot command respect. That said, a reframing of the intrinsic value of women’s work both to a household and its benefits to a society should not go unrecognized and unappreciated. That the tasks that are particular to her gender, specifically, childbearing, nurturing, intuiting, nourishing and any other innately feminine traits be honored as worthy and equal to any work that a man does out in the world boosts esteem. Different but equal was a phrase commonly used in the sixties when women were burning their bras. I don’t think that what that statement means is reflected in our policies yet today.
Are you a feminist?
How do you define feminism?
A good discussion topic with your friends?