Women must be proactive

By Hannah Sparks

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Fifty years after the publication of Betty Friedan’s groundbreaking book, “The Feminine Mystique,” the face of feminism has undeniably changed. Terms like intersectionality, sex-positivism and rape culture are now in the vernacular, and there’s a movement to re-claim sexist slurs and remove their stigma. It’s not your mother’s feminism.

Currently in its third wave, the movement has lost much of the power it once had, when it had the more broadly understood goals of dismantling legal obstacles to female equality in the government and workplace. The aims of third wave feminism, though no less admirable than those of their predecessors, are less easy to pin down.

For this reason, some say that feminism, after initially making a tangible difference for women, has stalled.

To continue to be relevant and effective in improving the lives of women, feminism must become, again, about women, and what women themselves can do to improve their status. It is the best way to get more women to understand and support feminism’s basic goals. Only by drumming up the same support that it had in the 1960s and 1970s can we see a return to real progress.

Recently, feminism seems to have been directed not towards what women should do to enhance their status, but what men shouldn’t do. Most of the discourse is aimed at eliminating gender-based violence, and while this is of course an incredibly important issue the feminist movement must address, unfortunately, upending a paradigm in which misogyny and violence against women is accepted is not the place to start.

Not only is that Herculean task incredibly difficult, I believe the reasoning behind it hurts the kind of female agency the movement was meant to engender in the first place. One of my favorite quotes, by Roseanne Barr, is “The thing women have yet to learn is nobody gives you power. You just take it.” Fed up with their claustrophobic, nearly option-less lives, second-wave feminists attacked institutionalized sexism from multiple angles at once, ultimately destabilizing the system.

I don’t think “Take Back the Night” and “Slut Walk” are having the same effect. Unfortunately, the stereotype of feminists as “man-hating” harpies endures and causes some women to reject the movement. To combat this, we must be proactive and direct our efforts to where they’ll make a real, tangible difference.

Improving conditions for women in the workplace, which are still not up to second-wave snuff, is one place to start. Making women more respected and valued members of society will precipitate other changes, as sexist behavior will simply become less acceptable.
Feminism isn’t about hating men, but about improving the lives of women. It doesn’t ask for the betterment of female lives at the expense of men. The only way feminism “hurts” men is by making sexist behavior less acceptable.

You can love the men in your life and still realize that they have privileges you do not. Wanting women to be afforded those same privileges doesn’t make you hysterical, disloyal, or hateful. It makes you a feminist.

Hannah Sparks is a Collegian columnist. She can be reached at [email protected]