Tag Archives: Gender equality

Feminism Gets a Bad Facelift

6 Nov

Feminism Goes Under the Knife

Rebrand1For a while now, various individuals, media outlets, and organizations have called for the rebranding of feminism, claiming that the movement’s bad rep (you know: man-hating, no-shaving, bra-burning lesbians) must be fixed. Last month, Women’s media platform Vitamin W made a big “oopsie” when launching what they call the “Rebranding Feminism” contest.

Originally, the contest looked like another bad facelift on a type of feminism that is no stranger to the back-alley plastic surgeon—a type of feminism whose privileged members seek to revamp the movement, yet, blindly fail to address the experiences of women of color, the LGBT community, low-income workers, and full-time mothers. Yes, maybe this type of feminism should seek an upgrade.

Vitamin W’s mistake was their approach: Their original signage, presenting a white woman in business attire drinking Scotch, called for people to create an image, video, or poster to represent the new face of feminism.

Fem Makeover

(click for larger image)

Ironically, the contest displayed the very reasons many educated women who fight for gender equality do not identify as feminists. The woman’s image and some of the wording on the signage (the wording offended many people who do not identify as male or female) displayed the historically exclusionary practices of the feminist movement .

Fortunately, there was immediate outrage on the internet and Vitamin W listened. They changed their signage, and have recently announced their contest winner, who was smart enough not to use an image that would be viewed as discriminatory. However, neither the change in Vitamin W’s signage nor the winning poster touches the heart of the issue.

Rebranding enthusiasts tend to focus on changing the face of feminism so that it’s prettier and more inviting to the masses. Yet, we don’t need a commercialized version of feminism because feminism isn’t always pretty—it isn’t 24-7 Kumbaya. Sometimes it’s about checking your privilege, admitting the ways you have wrongly (sometimes unknowingly) oppressed others, and shutting up so you can listen to people with experiences different from your own. Otherwise, the movement becomes as weak as 2 Chainz’ lyrics, with uninformed feminists who talk a good game about solidarity, but are grossly bigoted. A cutesy version of feminism would water down the multifaceted aspects of the movement and its potential to address not only gender issues, but also intersecting issues of race, class, sexuality, ability, and everything in between.

Instead of preparing feminism for facial reconstruction to appeal to audiences who shy away from the F word, rebranding enthusiasts should switch their focus. As a participant in on Bitch Media’s rebranding feminism online discussion panel suggested, those seeking to upgrade feminism should address the needs of women who already identify as feminists or believers in gender quality, but feel left out of the movement. Just ask the women who participated in #solidarityisforwhitewomen, a hashtag that fuelled worldwide discussion about how women of color feel their issues are unaddressed by the feminist movement.

Mainstream feminists in the movement need to open their eyes and acknowledge issues of women who aren’t quite as privileged. For example, feminist campaigns to widen access to Plan B, often do not benefit women on Native American reservations, who in many cases, have the least amount of access in the country. White feminists who reclaim the word slut fail to realize that it isn’t quite as easy for Black women to do so. And exactly where was all of the feminist outrage, rallying, and campaigning when reporters announced that California doctors illegally sterilized about 150 women in prison?

Clearly, rebranding without any real effort to acknowledge all equality issues isn’t going to solve the exclusivity problems in the movement. Instead of simply talking about feminism being an all-inclusive fight for equality, we have to truly be about it.

Unfortunately, Vitamin W’s contest won’t be the last we hear about rebranding. Elle U.K. has made it their task for their November issue, and an organization called We are the XX recently created a new “feminist manifesto.”  But frankly, these tired calls to rebrand feminism are futile.

Rebranding isn’t enough. It isn’t enough to make feminism “cool.” Instead, as writer Samhita says in a recent Feministing article, “As much as it is easy to rest on the “equality between the sexes” definition of feminism, if we want to change public perception of feminism, we actually have to change feminism itself. We have to both push for a world that demands gender equality, while pushing for a feminism that acknowledges, accepts, and truly incorporates difference.”

3 Things My Boyfriend Taught Me About Feminism

9 Jul


My boyfriend is not a feminist. He will probably never claim feminism, he hated his Women’s Studies course in college, and no matter how much I point it out he cannot recognize his male privilege. Yet, some of my most crucial lessons on feminism are from him. Since the day I came out to him as a feminist, he has taught me these three things:

1. The Matter of Paying the Check

One day my boyfriend, Ryan,  had the nerve (the nerve!) to ask me, “How can you be a feminist and always expect me to pay the check?” At first I was quick to dismiss the subject with a quick “that’s the way it is,” but I thought about it and realized that he had raised an interesting point. Men are expected to pay the check partially because they are expected to handle the finances. Some women argue that in a push for gender equality, women must demand to be treated equal financially, and paying the check is included in that equality. They suggest going Dutch or taking turns paying. Others suggest that the one who makes the most money should pay (and since my bf and I are both drowning in student loans, we should probably stay our butts at home).

Honestly, I get that whole gender equality argument for women paying. Power to the women who pay! But I won’t be reaching for the check. I won’t even pretend to. Being wined and dined makes me feel appreciated. I’m happy as long as the guy isn’t expecting anything physical in return (I know some guys do—but those are the guys you let pay and then toss to the reject pile).

2. The Importance of Car Maintenance.

Car maintenance is a feminist issue! My bf didn’t say those exact words of course, but he showed me that women need to put more effort on learning about their cars.

When my car got a flat, the first thing I did was call AAA. Ryan got irritated, saying that I need to learn to change a tire on my own.

I wasn’t convinced.  “Well then what the heck do I have AAA for?” I said.

Then he presented me with a scenario: what if you get a flat and your phone is dead?

He then explained that I also need to learn the basics about my car so I don’t get ripped off by mechanics. According to Ryan and the Better Business Bureau (I looked it up), a mechanic is more likely to pad a bill when the customer is a woman.

Often times, young girls are not taught about cars like young guys are because our society doesn’t expect or demand girls to know about anything that involves getting our hands a little dirty.  As a result, we run the risk of getting ripped off by mechanics and auto repair shops.

I know this isn’t the biggest issue facing women, but if you want to save money on costly repairs and feel empowered, here are my suggestions:

~Call up a friend who knows something about cars and have them give you a lesson on the basics. You should at least know how to:

  • Check the oil and add more when needed
  • Check the water (also called coolant)
  • Change a tire
  • Change the windshield wipers
  • Learn the basic terminology so you can understand what a mechanic is saying

~Google and Youtube whatever you don’t know

~Read the manual (I know it’s boring but it has some information about the car that can save you a bit of money)

3. The REAL definition of feminism

When I told Ryan I was a feminist, he then asked, “Okay, so what’s feminism.” Having already taken a class, he knew the definition—but he likes challenging people’s ideas. I fell right into his trap.

“Feminism,” I told him, feeling all proud that I was going to instruct him on something (I didn’t know he had taken the class), “is believing in and fighting for equal rights for women.”

“No it’s not,” he told me. “It’s not just about women.” He explained that a lot of people get that definition wrong and don’t understand that the real definition of feminism is believing in equality for all people.

Now, I don’t like being wrong, and I certainly don’t like being corrected. So I fought him on  it, explaining that women are the ones who are not treated equally in society. I went on about sexism and double-standards and all that—but in the end, he was right (well, we were both right—he was just more right).

Feminism does focus on women’s issues, but it is about equality for all, social justice, and human rights. It touches on issues of class, race, gender, sexuality, and political influence.

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