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On a hot Mediterranean afternoon during a trip to Israel, co-writer Mira Winograd fell into conversation with a swarthy, attractive Israeli soldier. When the topic of feminism arose (as it often does in her conversations), Mira bluntly asked this man if he would consider himself a feminist — expecting the usual defensive and immediate “NO!” Instead, she was shocked when he said, without hesitation, “Of course.” Mira found herself wondering why this came as such a surprise.
From past experience, we both have found that the average male student at CU, when asked the same question, would attempt to respond with whatever answer he thought would please us. But the problem here is not with CU’s men (who often seem quite supportive and enlightened about feminism), but with our society’s notion of what feminism is. According to American society, feminism is a dirty word that brings to mind entitled, whining women who don’t know how to appreciate the equality they have already achieved. Feminism is actually a movement toward equality for all and applies to a wide variety of groups.
With this column, our hope is to broaden CU students’ concept of feminism, allowing more people to benefit from this movement toward equality. It is important for the next generation of Americans to know that feminism is not a dirty word and primarily just invokes the idea of equality and strives toward that end.
In American society, there are many media outlets where people can find negative opinions of feminism. One such outlet is AskMen.com, which often tells its readers what to think of feminists. In an article called “How to Deal with Angry Feminists,” the concept that feminists are abrasive, crazy bitches is unveiled right in the title. Like many others of its kind, this article paints a vivid image of what men’s normal reaction to the “angry” feminists has become.
As the (surprisingly female) author says about dealing with such women, “you may find yourself instinctively shielding your balls while trying to figure out what to do next.” The image of a guy protecting his “manhood” from the attack of feminism is one that has become ingrained in the American psyche. This stereotype goes so far as to cross gender boundaries, as seen in the article’s female author.
AskMen gives credit to some feminists though, saying that milder feminists are okay, but it is important to beware of the “mean, frightening, extreme ones.” This attempt toward politically correct language does not earn much credit from the authors of this column. As self-proclaimed feminists, we believe that anyone who can identify with the label of feminist should do so strongly and unapologetically. There is no shame in working toward equality.
It must be noted that there is some truth to the stereotype of the angry feminist, however. In a variety of Women and Gender Studies classes, we have seen some feminists turn curious but naive classmates away from feminism. At the first sign of ignorance, some feminists get defensive and use exclusionary behavior such as eye-rolling and whispering or immediate verbal attacks to make their struggles and identities as feminists obvious. Although this is not the norm and feminists do have reason to be angry, it would be more beneficial to approach novice, would-be feminists with a friendly and helpful demeanor.
CU should be a place where people who support equality can readily identify as feminists. Feminism is not something that is made up by whining, man-hating women, and it still has a relevant purpose today. Feminism works toward equality for all, an idea that should be easy to understand and support in the 21st century.
It’s important to remember that feminism is not an exclusive club. In 2012, we are no longer in the world of Mad Men where equality is a revolutionary idea. Back then, women needed a more strident form of feminism in order to begin the movement toward equality. While today we are nowhere near being a post-feminist society, that movement has already made great progress and should now be realized; feminism is not just for angry women.
Contact CU Independent Feminism Columnists Becky Powell at Becky.firstname.lastname@example.org and Mira Winograd at Mira.email@example.com.