Not a dirty word
I want to write about my favorite f-word: feminism.
Are you a feminist?
I'm guessing you had a pretty quick reaction to that question: either
"Yes, yes, I am!" or "well, I'm not so sure about that."
Contrary to what many people believe, feminism is actually a pretty
basic concept: The belief in the social, economic and political equality
of women. Or, in short - gender equality.
Gloria Steinem, arguably one of the most famous feminists, put it
this way: "A feminist is anyone who recognizes the equality and full
humanity of women and men."
Now let me ask you again: are you a feminist?
This was the topic of Women2Women, an event hosted by the Stow-Munroe
Falls Chamber of Commerce recently, a monthly event hosted by the
Chamber, geared toward its female members.
For this particular meeting, the speaker was Pam Harr, a teacher at
Kent Roosevelt High School.
I was lucky enough to have her for multiple classes when I was in
high school: in my women's literature elective course and as my adviser
for our journalism magazine.
Her presentation centred on a variety of reasons that feminism is so
important in our lives.
It's pretty unusual for a high school to offer a course like women's
literature, and I credit Harr for being one of my favourite teachers.
I can safely say that the things I learned in her class have proved
to be some of the most important things I've learned in school and I
think that everyone could benefit from the information.
Here are a couple statistics related to some of the topics Harr
discussed that might get you thinking about gender equality:
• Women still only make 78 cents to a man's US$1. This changes
dramatically between races, too. Women of colour make 64 cents and
Latina and Hispanic women make 53 cents for a white man's US$1.
• One in four women is sexually assaulted in their lifetime. Around
80 percent of these women are under the age of 30. Only five percent of
students in college will report their assault to the police.
Women are still frequently taught that their main way to prevent
being assaulted is by wearing different clothing, making sure they don't
drink too much and to be sure to "watch out for strangers," even though
four out of five assaults are committed by someone the victim knows.
• A study found that more than half of teenage girls and one-third of
teenage boys have used unhealthy weight control behaviours, including
skipping meals, fasting and vomiting.
Some people are scared to label themselves as a feminist because they
think it's a dirty word, that it associates them with a group of
activists they don't really feel a connection to.
"Women's issues" really aren't just women's issues anymore. A well
known political analyst and writer, Zerlina Maxwell, tweeted recently:
"We need to reject the notion that 'women's issues' are a special
interest. They are family issues. Everyone's issues."
I'm pretty sure nearly everyone reading this has a connection with a
female: you are one, you're related to one or you're friends with one.
While equal pay may not directly affect your paycheck, it's affecting
wives, mothers and sisters. You might not be at as high of a risk for
sexual assault, but the woman standing next to you is.
You might not feel the pressure from media to look a certain way, but
someone else around you certain is.
These issues affect everyone, both men and women. For those of you
who aren't as lucky to have a Ms. Harr in your life, I encourage you to
do some research and look further into some of the issues.
Feminism isn't a dirty word, and I think we could all benefit if it
was used more often.
Feminism is about living your truth and leadership. A force.