Mid-Suffolk Chapter

Facts About Feminism

 “I myself have never been able to find out precisely what feminism is: I only know that people call me a feminist whenever I express sentiments that differentiate me from a doormat.”

-Rebecca West, 1983

 

We need FEMINISM. You are a feminist if you believe there should be political, economic and social equality between men and women. Feminism acknowledges that people are oppressed for a variety of reasons: their immigration status, race, age, income … thus to achieve equality between people, we must eliminate discrimination based on all of the above.

 

Gender inequality is unfortunately alive and well: we do not live in a society where sex and gender are irrelevant. It is apparent from the first question we ask when a baby is born: is it a boy or is it a girl? Attaining gender equality is the essential first step towards all social progress.

  • Gender roles stem from the ideas that:
    • men belong in the public sphere: they are tough and professional
    • women belong in the home: women are maternal and emotional

 

Some people say that we already have achieved gender equality in the United States. In reality, gender discrimination runs deeper than blatant, obvious sexism.

  • Blatant gender discrimination: obviously unequal and unfair treatment based on someone’s gender (ex. only allowing men to apply to a job)
  • Covert gender discrimination: unequal and unfair treatment based on someone’s gender that is recognized by the discriminator but purposefully hidden from view
  • Subtle gender discrimination: the sexism that we experience day-to-day, but it is not necessarily seen as sexist or discriminatory

 

Subtle gender discrimination is also called Institutional discrimination; it is a form of non-obvious, structural, and mostly unconscious discrimination that permeates American society. These are beliefs that are so engrained in our understanding of people that these assumptions often are mistaken as essential, natural, biological – as just the way it is.

  • Descriptive: assuming someone has certain personality traits due to their gender
  • Prescriptive: feeling negatively towards someone who is not behaving as their prescribed gender role dictates   (ex. man not assertive or woman not warm)
  • Other examples of institutional discrimination:
    • In our language: “hey guys” – using masculine term to define a group of men and women
    • Enforcing work rules more strictly on one gender over the other
    • A boss suggesting a woman wear more makeup to look more polished and professional
    • Father and actor, Ashton Kutcher’s, new campaign: add changing tables in men’s bathrooms. Former assumption that fathers will not be along with their baby
    • The current status of the ideal role of men and women in America today

 

The standard for the ideal man is more stringent than the ideal role of a woman. Masculinity is strictly defined as a certain ruggedness, unattached and non-emotional.  A man’s primary role is to be the breadwinner; people will avoid hiring a male babysitter,“real men don’t cry.” Women are, on the surface, able to do it all today: you can be a career woman, have a family, wear pantsuits. But this is a way to set women up to feel like failures, they are not treated equally in the public sphere, and they are expected to be solely responsible for their home and family life.

 

Ultimately, if we buy in to the falsity that we have achieved equality between men and women, then we will revert back to when blatant gender discrimination was acceptable. In order to have true gender equality, men and women are to have the benefit and responsibility of functioning in the public and private spheres – free from gender stereotypes and expectations.

 

What is social activism?

  • Identifying issues in the world, nation, our community → what can I do about it
  • Taking action to effect change in our society – this can come in many forms
    -Civil disobedience, protests, boycotts
    -Lobbying, writing letters, social media campaign, petitions and attending meetings
    -Creating social centers, housing cooperatives
    -Using your strengths and available resources to empower others
  • But it almost always begins in simply engaging in a conversation that sparks analysis of our lives and society

 

What is grassroots activism?

  • Group of people come together with a common concern or cause; abottom-up approach
  • Start a change within our lives, then our community, and work up the ladders
  • What does this mean to you? You do not have to be in a “position of power” to raise awareness on an issue and effect societal change. You can improve your life and community right now. You are already powerful, but of course there is strength in numbers.

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