Tuesday, April 7, 2009

I'm not a feminist but..

Originally posted at Apparatchicks . No, it's not about comedy. But it does a fantastic job of dispelling myths about feminism that we're up against as a feminist organization.

As the leader of a feminist group on campus, if there was ever a phrase I heard commonly, it was this. I never quite understood it- otherwise intelligent women who professed their support for things like pay equity, reproductive rights and ending violence against women but refusing to call them feminists. What gives? To be sure, some of it is just confusion over what the label entails.

Feminism as a movement has often been hijacked by radicals, meaning different things to different people. On the one hand, women like Ann Coulter and Phyllis Schlafly proudly call themselves feminists, even though their careers have been founded on misogyny and anti-woman policies. By the same token, you have some crazies who think that pornography and stripping are actually “empowering” to women. Or those who think that reproductive rights are absolute, without any regard for moral and ethical considerations. Clearly, the extremes aren’t good and as is the case with many movements, people are often presented with a vision that is out of touch and unrepresentative of most feminists.

And, where to begin with the ugly stereotypes of feminists, many of which surely turn off young women? A friend, after attending the Jessica Valenti at IU Monday, stumled upon this link titled “Feminism is Evil” during a regular google search for “feminism.” You know what, though? Some feminists are hairy, some are lesbians, some are fat, some are ugly, some hate men, some don’t wear bras. So what? As Anna would say, hurray for uncompromised and radical feminism! At the same time, no woman wants to be called ugly or fat and these stereotypes, according to Jessica, demonstrate that many still feel threatened by the feminist movement. Why else would they spend so much time trying to discredit it?

Jessica, who is hella cool by the way, also spent some time during her lecture dissecting the purity myth in our society, the topic for her upcoming book. Valenti called for the deconstruction of virginity as a concept, specifically as it relates to women’s sexuality. Indeed, conservatives and anti-feminists have spent so much time obsessing about young women’s sex lives, decrying the rise of “raunch culture” or the “hook up culture.” These exaggerated phenomenon are then used to make judgments about a woman’s character- as Jessica stated, for women, their moral compass lies between their legs. Based on the reaction from the audience, I could tell that this was the most relevant part of Jessica’s speech and I’m not surprised. I only hope that events like these bring out the closet feminists and I know there are a lot out there!

Sorry ladies (and dudes)…many of you are feminists. You just don’t know it yet!


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