Saturday, September 20, 2008

"I'm not a feminist, but..."

In the past, I have been severely annoyed by the reluctance of friends, educators, clubs, and even activists for women's rights, to call themselves feminists. On the first day of my Sexual Behavior class, Dr. Fischer explained that he describes himself has an "egalitarianist," rather than a feminist, because he beleives that feminism is "anti-men."

In addition, when it comes to young girls, most cannot relate to the term "feminism" at all. In my opinion, this is mostly because of lack of education on the subject and a culturally perceived stereotype of the "butch, man-hating, bra burning" feminist. In other words, a "feminist" is thought of as a one dimensional, negative character. Similarly, on page 197 of Young Femininity, the author explains that girls are reluctant to use the term "feminist" because it is seen as non inclusive. Though there clearly is a need for a collective, unified women's movement in which girls also participate and identify with, calling the movement "feminism" seems to turn girls off.

Then there is girl power. As exemplified by the Spice Girls in their book, Girl Power (what a surprising title), "feminism has become a dirty word. Girl Power is just a nineties way of saying it. We can give feminism a kick up the arse." When I read this, I was shocked. Having grown up with the Spice Girls, I always associated them with female bonding, personal freedom, and being yourself. But I had no idea that the Spice Girls so adamantly lashed out against feminism! I may have a whole different opinion of them now, actually...
However, I can't deny that I felt empowered by them as a girl. And I was not alone. In a study cited on page 200 of Young Femininity, the strongest messages that girls who were Spice Girls fans received were of girls' independence and self worth.

So maybe girl power isn't so bad after all?

The later texts assigned for this week described projects that young girls were working on, political projects that implemented real change in policy (for example, one girl successfully campaigned for a new sexual harassment policy at her school). In almost all these instances, girls were not self described "feminists," but clearly had feminist values and were making progress in standing up for their equality. In agreement with Jennifer Baumgardner and Amy Richards, maybe we need to stop worrying so much about the lables and recognize young girls for their acheivements. However, I still believe that there needs to be a movement to educate girls about feminism (shameless plug for YWLP! =D)

This is a really cool program where girls in the US work together to help out girls in other countries.
http://www.genv.net/en-us/team/girls_helping_girls

1 comment:

۞ Lauren said...

I relate to your statement that you were annoyed by the "reluctance of friends, educators, clubs, and even activists of women's rights, to call themselves feminists." Those girls and women that do not understand and do not want to be labeled as feminists, fail to realize that "Lables, politics, their identities and world views are deeply shaped by feminist frameworks." (Young Femininity, 195)