The Voice of Sacred Hearts Academy

Ka Leo

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Feminism for dummies

A+symbol+of+feminism.+Photo+courtesy+of+Wikimedia.+
A symbol of feminism. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia.

A symbol of feminism. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia.

A symbol of feminism. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia.

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Using the word “feminism” is guaranteed to get a response from people.

Some people, often men, believe that women have little use for the word today. Others ardently defend feminism or use it as a marketing strategy to target women. This leads to even more people reacting with confusion. With how often the media uses the word, we need to do a better job at defining what feminism means.

“I think a lot of people are afraid to be labeled feminist,” said Jenelle Ho, a senior at Sacred Hearts Academy.

The common misconception about feminism is that it only refers to women who hate men or believe that the world would be better without men. This is not true. Feminism is the basic belief that people are equal, regardless of gender or sex.

“At its core, feminism is about equality and dignity,” said English teacher Jill Sprott.  “Feminism questions what has for too long been assumed to be ‘natural.’ For instance, woman’s inferiority to man, woman’s imperative to behave ‘like a lady,’ or woman’s predisposition toward certain professions over others and exposes it as artifice, as a social construct.”

Some modern feminists have begun to use the label “intersectional feminist” to distance themselves from a history of white, middle class, heterosexual women using the feminist movement in the 1960s to fight for women’s rights. This was known as “second wave feminism,” a movement that became widely popular, despite its lack of support for queer women or women of color. Echoes of this past era can still be found in today’s feminist movement, a fact that continues to divide people in the struggle for equal rights.

“Historically, as feminists tried to raise awareness and create a sense of solidarity, the rhetoric of “sisterhood” emerged,” Sprott said. “However, though such a rhetoric was empowering, it was also limiting, in that it did not go far enough to foster a dialogue regarding diversity and multiplicity. Factors such as ethnicity and class converge with gender to create very different realities and experiences. To focus on gender alone is to neglect the more complex dynamics behind oppression and liberation.”

We are now in a period known as “third wave feminism.” This is said to have begun around the 1990s, around the time “intersectionality” was coined by Kimberlé Crenshaw, a professor at the University of California at Los Angeles.

Intersectionality means that people are composed of many different identities and deal with varying levels of oppression. Acknowledging this also means regarding discrimination as a multidimensional force. For feminism to have an impact on our society, we must target every form of oppression, whether that be sexism, racism or homophobia.

To be a feminist, you do not need to know how to define “intersectionality.” With all the different terms and definitions, it is easy to get confused about what feminism means. In many ways, these different labels are separating people instead of bringing them together.

“It’s also a misconception to believe that only women can be feminists,” Sprott said. “Feminism is not about putting down men or elevating only women. It is about believing that everyone deserves a voice and is committed to working toward equality and dignity for all humans.”

There is no way to spot a feminist, no obvious look or style. Anyone, regardless of gender, ethnicity or sexuality, can be a feminist. You merely need to support others’ right to decide for themselves what is best for their life and body. Feminism is the first step we must take to reaching equality on all levels of politics, careers, and society.

“Feminism has made it safer for people to be who they are,” Katherine Christian, a senior at Sacred Hearts Academy said.  

Modern feminism calls people to bring an intersectional approach to their life and way of thinking. We are multifaceted creatures whose gender, ethnicity or intelligence cannot define who we are or how we interact with others. Acknowledging those facts about ourselves can also help us develop a mindset that encourages diversity and acceptance of others.

“It is my hope that every student at the Academy knows her worth,” Sprott said. “If she does, then she has the power to transform the world because she will not compromise when it comes to standing up for herself and for the voiceless.”

An all-girls school is perhaps the best place to learn about feminism. We have the opportunity to put the misconceptions to rest and instead learn to embrace our differences. With a media that cannot agree with a standard definition of feminism, we need to make sense of the word and its meaning in our lives now.

“The Academy isn’t a charm school; it is a place where the mascot carries a lance,” Sprott said. We are called to be warriors in pursuit of truth and goodness. How is that not feminist?”

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The Voice of Sacred Hearts Academy
Feminism for dummies