The Truth About Feminism

by Ashley Buckowing

Published in Ethos Magazine, 5-29-2015


The person sitting next to you in class, the girl sharing your booth at the Hub, a man sitting across the table from you at Parks Library and your professor in Civil Engineering—all of these people can be feminists. A woman who takes pride in being a female or a man that wants his girlfriend to make the same amount of money that he does can be a feminist.

A frequently used definition is one similar to that in the book “Gendered Lives” by Julia Wood: “An active commitment to equality and respect for all forms of life.”

According to women’s studies and English professor Elyse Demaray, the most misconceived notion about feminism is “that it’s anti-male or male bashing. I think because we have gotten more conservative in a lot of ways, and the energy from the ’60s and ’70s has dissipated, and as we’ve gotten more opportunities, we’ve confused that with actually achieving the goal of an equal playing field.”

In the 1920s, women were found with a drink in their hands, dancing the night away in a speakeasy, and men were right by their sides. Women started smoking alongside men, raised their skirts and cut o their hair. Women made up almost 24 percent of the labor force. Women played sports. They drank openly during Prohibition. Almost a century later, women are doing some of the same things. Although, they are being held back in other areas.

In the State of the Union Address held on Jan. 28 this year, President Obama spoke about women’s rights in current times: “Today, women make up about half our workforce. But they still make 77 cents for every dollar a man earns. at is wrong, and in 2014, it’s an embarrassment. A woman deserves equal pay for equal work. She deserves to have a baby without sacrificing her job. A mother deserves a day o to care for a sick child or sick parent without running into hardship—and you know what, a father does, too. It’s time to do away with workplace policies that belong in a ‘Mad Men’ episode.”

Dr. Denise Oles-Acevedo, a professor of Speech Communication in the English department, agrees with Demaray, saying that she believes the most misconceived notion about feminism is that it is male-bashing. “You know, yes, there are those fractures of the women’s movement, but the majority of feminists don’t hate men,” Oles-Acevedo says. “I would say that the majority of feminists would welcome the support of men to pushing their causes forward.”

Oles-Acevedo explains that there are men’s movements alongside women’s, and that it’s important to understand both sides. “Most men’s movements develop out of a response to women’s movements, [so] one has to understand why men might feel that their rights are being infringed upon, or why men feel like they need to join the fight to end oppression against women.” Men’s movements include “masculine men’s movements” which support men, and “pro-women’s men’s movements” which are in support of women. Both movements generally support equality.

I was curious to see what a few ISU students enjoying their lunches at the Hub thought about feminism. Here’s what they had to say:

“Accepting everyone as they are, not only women, but all genders, races and really everyone. Wanting equality for all living people.” –Rylie Pflughaupt, 20, speech communications.

“The belief that humans should be treated equally, regardless of gender or gender choice.” –Morgan Pecrson, 19, biology. “People who are really into women’s rights and are extreme at times, throwing out traditions of our culture.” –Nick Hennessy, 21, industrial engineering.

“Equality for women in the workforce, government and other aspects of life. To be seen equally and as strong and intelligent as men, but without disrespecting men.” –Amanda Purcell, 22, psychology.

“A misguided view that women aren’t equal to men.” –Matt, 22, financial counseling and planning.

Mostly, the responses were in favor of feminism. Many students said they thought feminism was important in some type of way. When I surveyed ISU students, a question on their sheet read, “What is your opinion of feminists?” Generally, the responses were positive. at being said, students uniformly stated that they think feminists are pushy. “They can be slightly overwhelming and overbearing,” says Anna Vickliter, student in civil engineering.

“I think in any situation you’re going to have the more outspoken individuals that garner more attention than the soft spoken individual…which will taint the impression of others. You know, the squeaky wheel gets the grease, sort of thing?” Oles-Acevedo says.

“We still have a lot of gender roles that maybe aren’t as obvious or explicit as they have been in the past. But they still shape what we think it means to be a man or woman in our culture,” explains Demaray.

In a class taught by Demaray, students learn that feminism can mean all sorts of different things. She teaches what feminism entails and what they fight for, including the safety and independence of women and their rights. Subjects vary anywhere from working for equal pay, to cultural issues such as female genital mutilation (FGM), to a very predominant local issue like sexual assault and rape.

“What we do to raise awareness here is the Vagina Monologues. It’s called the monologues because they’re actual stories. It’s put together by the director Eve Ensler and every year we have a production of this. [It’s] telling stories from basically anything, like one of them is talking about a five-year-old girl and what would her vagina wear if it could wear clothes. And it goes from anything like to that to stuff about periods and the menstrual cycle all the way up to sexual assault,” says Matthew Drilling, a volunteer at the Margaret Sloss Women’s Center. He then adds a disclaimer, “It’s not a play! A lot people think it’s a play.”

It is important to celebrate the wonderful women that have had an impact on our history. Emily Dickinson, Coco Chanel, Mother Teresa, Rosa Parks, Billie Holiday, Betty Friedan, Marilyn Monroe and Anne Frank: the list of amazing women goes on and on. Emily Dickinson taught us poetry; Chanel taught us innovative clothing and design; Rosa Parks taught us strength; Billie Holiday taught us blues, and Marilyn Monroe taught us confidence. What does feminism mean to you?


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