I believe feminism at its core respects the varying viewpoints stemming from the different yet in many ways unifying lived experiences of females. Within my definition of feminism, I criticize the most recent widening of the term and see the attempt to expand its scoop, as weakening towards its overall message. Feminism I believe is a powerful and essential foremother in developing a construct worthy of a new title encompassing an ideology of human equality. In response to my observations of the third and most current wave of feminism, my personal definition of the movement aims to bring focus onto the differences between the ideas of equality and equity for both sexes. It also seeks to explore, through feminist ideology, the phenomena of what is currently being branded as “gender fluidity” in relation to the sexes. Feminism is a term that understands its own malleability but can like any construct see benefit from a recognizable identity.
Throughout its course, the evolution of feminism has been documented in waves. The first wave of feminism fought for suffrage and legal gains, the second took a more social justice approach introducing the beginnings of what we now call intersectionality, as well as working to break stigma on family and marriage injustices. Stated by the Cambridge dictionary, feminism is defined as “the belief that women should be allowed the same rights, power, and opportunities as men and be treated in the same way or the set of activities intended to achieve this state.” (Ray, Kimberley, 2016) With my own focus on the term “same” and questioning the current climate within masculinities, Audre Lorde’s piece The Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master’s House, is where I find a truer account for how I align with feminism. “What does it mean when the tools of a racist patriarchy are used to examine the fruits of that same patriarchy? It means that only the most-narrow perimeters of change are possible and allowable.” This statement, along with her blatant title, brilliantly explains how the same system that has made us sick cannot heal us from its own produced side effects. In defining feminism to align by the same standards that men adhere to, I believe would regretfully be a repetition of a system that has demonstrated its shortcomings.
When analyzing the cycle of gender violence, statistics show us that men are most likely to suffer both physical and sexual violence at the hands of other men. Men are also at higher risk during childhood and adolescents when we observe rates of physical abuse committed by both female and male caretakers. (Hattery, 2012) So we can understand then, that adult male violence is not exclusively committed against females nor are its effects. The dynamics of what is explained as hegemonic masculinity through R.W. Connell and James W. Messerschmidt does not paint a powerful, independent, or fulfilling existence that I personally, identifying as a female, would want to join. “The dominance of men and the subordination of women constitutes a historical process, not a self-reproducing system. ‘Masculine domination’ is open to challenge and requires considerable effort to maintain” (Connell, 2005). In Jackson Katz Ted talk, Violence Against Women – It’s a Men’s Issue, Katz explains how in America the common trend when discussing topics of race, sexual orientation, and gender each result in the dominant group being absent from the conversation. “As if white doesn’t have a race, straight is not a sexual orientation, and male is not a gender.” In the recent rising trend of gender violence feminism must allow for the overarching globally expressed experiences that echo explicit commonalities for women to be explored. If we have decided that being a female makes you no more inherently apt to be a fairy princess, then being male cannot conclude in a genetic aptitude for sexual propensity and t-shirt ripping, hulk-like-rage behavior.
Lorde continues by focusing on the importance that differences among women which she attributes necessary in the development of creativity. I believe this is important and still requires careful focus for feminism in today’s discussion. With my adherence regarding the rejection of “universal truths” on a rigid level, I agree with Lorde when she explains the need for a paradigm shift when thinking about the term, difference. “The failure of academic feminists to recognize difference as a crucial strength is a failure to reach beyond the first patriarchal lesson. In our world, divide and conquer must become define and empower.” (Lorde, 1984) Gloria Cowan’s words in Women’s Hostility Toward Women and Rape and Sexual Harassment Myths, focus upon the true essence of power for feminism. While self-identified men such as Jackson Katz, Connell and Messerschmidt, and Michael Kimmel, work to speak on the benefits of feminism and raise awareness to the issues among their own studies and experiences within masculinities they begin the development of space that men must have in order to expose themselves to the reworking of gender dynamics. Men must participate in the conversation and be recognized for their possible differences as well. The goal must be to understand rather than to condemn for both male and females relating towards one another. Cowan discusses the ways in which rape myths are commonly accepted by women leading to victim blaming. This contributes to the trivialization of male violence and disregard for the demographic pitted as “in control” (Cowan, 2000)
With the goal of understanding feminism for its embracement of difference within its subjects and outside of them, and as a tool to redefine inter-dependency as unthreatening rather than a weakness, the idea of the construct must understand the dichotomy of the sexes. Being born female I will never understand the experience of living as male and thus the same reversed. I will never know what it is like to be born trans or to identify as for example two spirit either. These are all unique in their construction. “Difference is that raw and powerful connection from which our personal power is forged.” (Lorde, 1984). The power then lies for what the study of femininities has brought and what the study of masculinities can bring. How else other than studying the mechanisms of masculinities and its individuals are we to avoid what has occurred historically to femininities on a fundamental scale? Peggy Orenstein’s book Girls & Sex: Navigating the Complicated New Landscape investigates how adolescents are influenced by a grassroots approach. She seeks to understand what dynamics during the 21st-century female sexualities are taking form in and why. The battle between self-empowerment and self-objectification/self-sexualization is a large debate between leading feminist today, a focus feminism has rifled with continuously. Also, many women with large platforms such as Tomi Lahren (Lahren, Tomi, 2017) and Kara McCullough reject the label of feminist exclaiming (in very different ways I may add) their unwillingness to align with the hard to define the term. (Miss USA, 2017)
Cowan, G. (2000). Womens Hostility Toward Women and Rape and Sexual Harassment Myths. Violence Against Women,6(3), 238-246. doi:10.1177/10778010022181822
Hattery, A., & Smith, E. (2012). The Social Dynamics of Family Violence. Boulder, CO: Westview Press.Ch. 6 Abuse Across the Life Course: Child Abuse
Katz, J. (2013, February 11). Retrieved July 13, 2017, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KTvSfeCRxe8
Lahren, Tomi. (2017, March 08). Tomi Lahren offers a clear message to left-wing feminists: This is what ‘real women’ look like. Retrieved July 10, 2017, from http://www.theblaze.com/video/tomi-lahren-offers-a-clear-message-to-left-wing-feminists-this-is-what-real-women-look-like/
Lorde, A. (1984). The Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle The Master’s House. Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches, 1, 100-113.
Miss USA 2017. (2017, May 15). Retrieved July 14, 2017, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M7PEaAe5iwk
Orenstein, P. (2017). Girls & Sex: Navigating the Complicated New Landscape. New York, NY: Harper, an imprint of HarperCollins.
Ray, Kimberley. (2016, May 15). Retrieved July 15, 2017, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t_R3w5ERHOE&feature=youtu.be(2017, May 15). Retrieved July 14, 2017, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M7PEaAe5iwk