Thursday, April 30, 2009

Post-Obama Feminism: Have We Really Come Very Far?

Posted by Anonymous Young Feminist

The hardest thing about watching Obama's campaign and subsequent inauguration: we still failed to hear mention of equality for women. Somehow in the last 90 or so years since the first feminist revolution we have forgotten an entire history of sexism. What makes female oppression so unique is this: it is spread across almost all cultures, religions, traditions, countries, races, histories and governments. It’s not so cut and dry as black and white, because as my boyfriend aptly pointed out last night: women need men, and men need women. The relationship between the races is not the same. Even in a horribly racially divided society, we can still on the very baser biological level, survive. This is one of the many reasons we've forgotten, and continue to ignore, sexism.

I did not feel inspired by Obama's election. I thought to myself: this seems okay. He is black, after all. A minority that must be represented. But what about the silent majority? When will I hear someone stand up and make people confront the fact that oppression of women is so deeply rooted in our culture that we don't even believe it still exists. When will I hear someone stand up and say, "Feminism is not a dirty word!”

Well, maybe I’ll just say it now: FEMINISM IS NOT A DIRTY WORD.

As part of a younger generation of women (I am in my twenties), I have continually felt attacked both by men and other women for calling myself a feminist. There seems to be a general idea attached to the concept of feminism: that women believe they are ultimately superior to men and thus would like to do away with men altogether. Perhaps the most startling demonstration of this idea was in an undergraduate law class, for which I led a discussion on feminist law. One woman chimed in that "men are discriminated against too. Women are so selfish to think they deserve more. I feel so sorry for men for having to put up with feminists." ... !!!!!!! Needless to say my head exploded. I couldn't understand why women would not want the same rights as men! Perhaps my peer was afraid if she demanded better treatment, she would scare away all men and die alone.

Back to the point before: women need men. This is perhaps what's preventing a majority from demanding better treatment. It seems as though, since we got the vote less than a hundred years ago, we have settled for marginally better on the surface, rather than demand what we initially wanted: freedom to individuals with the same civil rights as others. Freedom to be viewed as an individual regardless of gender.

This all sounds so terribly familiar. Freedom to be an individual not judged based on a pigeonholed cultural group to which no one has a choice of membership?

All I want to say is this: in the midst of an American triumph, a political statement, a human rights revolution, I still feel under-represented. Actually, I feel unrepresented. Because no one even acknowledges that it's still a problem. Ask anyone if they think women deserve more rights - guaranteed most people would believe the sexes are now equal. Then count how many women presidents there have been: none. You can change the laws, but you can't change history.


Anonymous said...

I see your point, but here's the connundrum...women who are aware that they are subject to suffering from inequality are usually bright enough to prevent it from happening to themselves. Thus, you lose your activists, because they are beating the system.

Little Monkies said...

I get your point, but he did sign the Lily Leadbeater law...which is a hell of a lot more than we got from most folks. I think young women are taking the word feminism back a bit, but we as a movement have to consider what it's for. The feminist community has not historically fought for poor women...we need to figure out that feminism is not just for those of us who have good educations and can choose to work if we want to, but to be for all women to be able to exercise their choice in life across the board.

Anonymous said...

I do think that to assume some women are not 'bright enough' to be aware they are subject to suffering from inequlaity is simply... well, ridiculous. And believe me, my sisters who had their clitorisis removed with jaggad shards last week wish they could have prevented it from happening... some things just aren't that easy. (And if you think it isn't happening right here in North America... contact me, I'll even introduce you to a few).

Anonymous said...

Awesome post by the way!

Anonymous said...

I was actually just thinking about this same thing today!

Also think about this: the two women in the highest places were the presidents wife and former vice president elect. Did or do we hear about their good deeds? No we have blogs devoted to what they are wearing and what their kids are doing. THAT is what's holding is back. The fact that women (most)have a hard time focusing on the ins and outs of legislation when we have so many other things we must run in our lives. The maternal instinct kills any desire I have to fight to be one of the women that will do that one day. I'm sure I'm not the only one.
Think queen Elizabeth... She wasn't allowed to be seen as a woman AND a monarch, she had to pick one. The first woman president would still have to get through the good ol not network without losing herself I hope one can do it one day in the near future.

CH in Ohio

Anonymous said...



We are all people, we all need each other.

Anonymous said...

How do you make a statement like,
"Women need men." and then call yourself a feminist?

Anonymous said...

Very thought-inducing. I have a hard time getting riled up about equal rights in this country when I see the Middle East and they way those countries oppress their woman. Makes me glad to be an American. And maybe that's the problem.

Anonymous said...

I have to say that when I saw the word feminism in the title, I cringed and had to debate whether I wanted to read it. The feminists on my liberal college campus were people I tried to avoid. They weren't interested in trying to change things. All they wanted was to tell all the rest of us why we were wrong. They didn't just believe they were superior to men, they believed they were superior to anyone who didn't believe exactly what they believe. That's not my idea of feminism. I think that is part of our problem. We've created our own divisons among women. We judge each other and find each other lacking because we have diffeent opinions on how to bring about change. I'm as guilty of it as the next person. I think we all need to rethink how we view each other as women and stop judging each other. How can we stand up for ourselves and make our views heard when we can't even come together as a group of individuals wanting the same things?

Anonymous said...

Okay, this post failed to point out even one of the ways we're still oppressed?

I was raised by feminists.

I've fought tooth and nail for my career, for my education, for everything I have, and have had to promise various people that I won't be a stay at home mom to get where I am. Outside of being asked to make a long term commitment to my company, I just don't feel so much oppression. My compensation is incredibly fair for what I do, and I have no comparable laterals to compare to....

Joy said...

Wonderful, thought-provoking post... Thank you for sharing it with me today.

I find it incredibly sad that we (women) are typically judgmental about each other to the point where we often refuse to consider another person's point of view. There should be room for all of us under the umbrella of feminism, yet we keep trying to make the definition so bloody strict and narrow that hardly anyone else will accept it.

My version of feminism includes men. Yin & yang, and all that. My version of feminism allows for me to study and receive an honors degree from the post-secondary institution of my choice, in the field of my choice. My version of feminism celebrates my decision to have children, and stay home to raise them, and not return to work (full or part time, if at all) until they are all in school. My version of feminism celebrates the woman who has her children, studies for her professional designation while she is at home with her infant, then returns to work full time at the end of her maternity leave. My version of feminism celebrates all free choices that women make BECAUSE THEY SO CHOOSE, WILLINGLY.

My version of feminism decries the boss withholding a job from a talented young woman until she promises she will never ever stay home to raise her babies, lest she not get the job to begin with. My version of feminism weeps to hear of women returning from maternity leave, to find out their supposedly protected job has been eliminated due to the economy, but the replacement worker is still there, just for less money.

There is such a subtle, nasty taint to the constant degradation of women these days, in the media and elsewhere, that it can be difficult to see. Dolls marketed to little girls are becoming skankier and skankier, and the whole "my prince will come rescue me" marketing is on the rise. So much nonsense is heard about Sarah Palin's clothes, hair and glasses, and not about her credentials (or lack thereof). Michelle Obama is constantly being touted as a fashion icon. What about her distinguished career, and her intelligence, and her warmth and humanity... clothes? That's what counts about America's First Lady?? Really??? The lists go on and on...

Feminism is not, indeed, a dirty word. Spread the word.

Stephanie N. said...

To the Anonymous who wrote: "How do you make a statement like, "Women need men." and then call yourself a feminist," I assumed that Anonymous Young Feminist was referring to basic biology and human reproduction, the survival of the species. As far as I i know, science has thus far not reached a point where sperm isn't necessary for human reproduction. Men and women do need each other for that, whether it's done through intercourse, or in a test tube.

Also, I think it's a bit unfair to only partially quote her. She also said "and men need women."

To Anonymous Young Feminist, I hear you. In my niche career field, men are regularly treated better and paid more than women, and often not expected to work as hard. Also, because what I do is sometimes seen as more intuitive for a woman to do than for a man to do, men who enter this career field more quickly receive recognition and accolades than women doing the same quality and level of work. It is frustrating to no end.

I am a feminist, and happy to say it. We are far from done.

Anonymous said...

I DO NOT need a man...what kind of a statement is that: Women need men. NO WE DO NOT. I like men, hell, I even love some men. I would like to have a man around sometimes but I do no NEED a man.

Anonymous said...

Oh feminism. You, as a topic, piss me off. And I'm female, single, earning my own money and in higher education and feminism still pisses me off.

Do women deserve the same rights as men under the law? Of course. Equal pay for doing the same job? Yes. But anywhere beyond that, "I am woman, hear me roar" gets old. Women don't deserve an opportunity because they're female. If a male candidate is more qualified, it should be his.

We've gone so far in trying to correct past discrimination that being white and male puts people at a disadvantage when it comes to things like applying for university (minority quotas, as well as female quotas must be filled). Tell me that that's not stupid.

Women want it both ways. They want a man to be an old fashioned gentleman. How many times have you heard a woman bitch about how few "true gentlemen" are left in the world? Have they forgotten that we're not expected to be "ladies" anymore either?

If you want to be a strong, independent woman, earn something yourself, instead of expecting someone to hand it to you because you're a delicate flower. You can't be both. Sorry.

(Rant over.)

Anonymous said...

What is it that would make you feel represented? Does it take a woman President to make that happen?