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SMC panel discusses feminism

| Thursday, September 4, 2014

The controversial online campaign, #womenagainstfeminism, was discussed at the Women Against Feminism panel held Wednesday at Saint Mary’s. Sponsored by the Gender and Women’s Studies department, professors Marne Austin, Helen Ho and Bettina Spencer and senior Payton Moore engaged with students and faculty to talk about the campaign and its underlying motivations.

Austin, the first speaker, approached the dialogue from a communications perspective, Austin said.

“We have many competing discourses,” Austin said. “The misunderstanding is that there is one type of feminism. It marks feminism as a singular entity.”

Spencer said she was not surprised by the online campaign because the idea, however contentious, is not revolutionary.

“When I first saw this, it wasn’t new, this idea of ‘I’m a woman, and I reject feminism for reason x,'” Spencer said. “As a psychologist though, … I really wanted to understand the psyches behind that.”

Spencer said she examined how people are stereotyped in American society in order to understand why women reject feminism.

“As you can imagine, women who are considered feminists are considered selfish, and a lot of women who are in this position tend to face penalties for being successful,” Spencer said. “Different people are going to reject this idea of feminism.”

Moore, an English literature and history major, brought to the table the perspective of a young, college-age woman living and learning in a world immersed in social media, Moore said.

“I am 21 and a feminist, yet I know many women my age who do not identify as a feminist,” Moore said. “I want to delve into the reasons as to why women my age tend to stay away from the ‘f-word.’ I also want to illustrate how much the media impacts young women in relation to feminism.”

Moore said her initial reaction to the campaign was one of horror and frustration. She was especially dismayed by her peers’ presence on social media.

“All the time, I look at these posts online, and I cannot help but be very frustrated,” Moore said. “I look at these posts and see such wrong, misguided information circulating around the web. It makes me wonder how and why it has come to this. Have we forgotten in 2014 what feminism has done and stands for?”

For Moore, feminism is collective and highly personal.

“The definition of feminism has evolved and will continue to evolve,” Moore said. “The one thing that stays constant is that feminism strives for equality. In today’s day and age, that equality means between all sexes, all genders, all races and all sexualities.”

Moore said the Tumblr page likely was created in part by women who believe feminists are man-haters “who like to paint women as victims.”

“I think that this page serves as an outlet for these women to discuss their – wrong but right in their eyes – facts about feminism,” Moore said. “Secondly, I believe that this page was formed and/or fueled by the men’s rights activists and their female supporters who relentlessly try to find new ways to tear down feminism. Of course, I’m only speculating.”

Moore said feminism must continue as long as gender inequality persists.

“All you have to do is look at history to see why,” Moore said. “Yet even more than that, in today’s age, we need feminism. Yes, things have gotten ‘better,’ but without the push of feminism, we will not achieve true equality.”

Despite improvements, much remains to be done for women’s rights, as well as for related equality movements, Moore said. Feminism can help motivate those working for such causes.

“Feminism empowers and it inspires,” Moore said. “Some like to say that feminism isn’t important anymore since we can go to work and vote and so on, but to them I counter with, ‘What about violence against women? What about the wage gap? What about LGBTQ issues?’ I could go on and on with what is still wrong in this society. Until my list of what needs fixing has not one single item on it, to me, feminism is important and needed.”

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