The word feminist is a hot-button topic in many circles. Feminists have been called ”suffragists,” “libbers,” “radicals” and the now popular, “misandrists.” A woman who refers to herself as a feminist risks being thought of as a pariah, a bitch, a woman who hates men, a man eater, and a ball-buster to many who are threatened by, or simply misunderstand, the concept.
I find the pejorative name-calling strange, as to me, feminism is merely a very pragmatic doctrine which desires to see women achieve comparable worth, not just in the economic sense of equality of wages, but also comparable worth in everything, from career choices to achievement in high school, college and professional athletics to greater representation in politics. Feminism strives to provide women with an equal platform of opportunities, including the right to equality in decision making within the family unit.
As a doctrine, feminism, very simply stated:
● enlightens society by highlighting issues pertinent to and affecting women, including, but not limited to, issues dealing with disparate treatment based upon gender and flagrant discrimination;
● demands political and legal redress to correct these issues and institute fairness; and
● encourages female empowerment, through education and by example, to accomplish and/or achieve life goals and other such pursuits, even if these goals had previously been prohibited to her merely by reason of her gender.
Further, feminism strives to focus on women’s success by virtue of intelligence and ambitions rather than merely as a function of physical appearance and feminine attributes or sexuality. I used to say that feminism merely meant equal pay for equal work as a way to simplify the matter and to show that feminism really is about equality, and not about female dominance or superiority – but I stopped saying that because feminism really does encompass so much more.
A feminist, then, is one (either male or female) who believes in the tenants of, and necessity for, feminism.
I believe (and this may be controversial) that all modern women are now practical feminists, as progress made via payment of more equitable wages, and inroads in the arenas of politics, education, societal beliefs and professional status, have created expectations of continuation. Gender advancements in equality, essentially unheard of fifty years ago, are ingrained in us, so much so that uncompromising expectations of achievement which are now inherent in women. Choice can be an intoxicating elixir, and we are not willing to give up our choices. We are not going back to a time when we did not have access to graduate schools (this really only changed in the 1970s) or high-paying corporate positions or even top-level political posts; when we could only think of a career as a teacher or mother or nurse. Ever. Perhaps most women would not call themselves a feminist, but they are a feminist in a very pragmatic sense.
When I call myself a feminist, I acknowledge the individuals who came before me and put their credibility, their livelihoods, their family positions, and often even their own physical safety on the line in order to speak their own truth and make the world a better place for other women – women (and men) like Mary Wollstonecraft, Clementina Black, Lucretia Mott, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, Carrie Chapman Catt, Margaret Fuller, William Lloyd Garrison, Sojourner Truth, Leonora O’Reily, Alice Paul, Margaret Sanger, Bella Abzug, Betty Friedan, Gloria Steinem, Susan Faludi, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Judy Chicago, and many others. Without these progressive foremothers, I may never have had the right to vote, or personal choice regarding birth control, or ability to divorce, or sole custody of my daughter, or access to my own money and wages, or even a blog titled “An Unapologetic Feminist.”
As a feminist, I would be remiss if I did not recognize that I feel men also face discrimination. Society places a heavy burden on males with the concept of machismo. They can be greatly prejudiced when their societal value is predicated upon their biceps, propensity to fight, earning capacity, financial prowess, or professional status. A lack in any of those aforementioned areas is thought to render them a less desirable mate. However, in totality, males have historically had greater access to political, economic, educational and social benefits that females often could only dream about, and then had to fight for in order to gain access. Worldwide, males continue to enjoy greater access while depriving females of the same benefits.
And exactly why am I “unapologetic?” Because a woman’s voice matters, and still needs to be heard in 2012. Luckily, by birth, I live in, arguably, the country with the freest speech in the world. Kudos to me. However, most women live without communicative freedom, and its imperative companion, economic independence. Therefore, I write these blog posts to acknowledge, celebrate and express gratitude for my own freedoms, while also hoping that one day my repressed global sisters will have what I cherish most. And for that, I can hardly apologize.
Copyright© 2012 by Brenda L. Hardy. All rights reserved. The material contained within these pages is the sole property of Brenda L. Hardy. All rights to copy, reproduce, publish or alter this material in any way are reserved. Reproduction of any kind is expressly prohibited without prior written consent.