Sunday, February 24, 2013

the feminism mystique

in 1963, Betty Friedan published The Feminine Mystique, which drew attention to the lives of mostly suburban women, many of whom were unhappy despite being financially secure, and married with children. the book most notably suggests that those women might have been unhappy because they were not fulfilled by being solely housewives and mothers.

The Feminine Mystique is widely credited for sparking the 2nd wave of feminism, which lasted through the 1980s. The second wave, while incredibly complex, can be boiled down to efforts to achieve gender parity in the work force, and in the home. up against insurmountable opposition, this movement spawned the Equal Rights Amendment, Title XI, and Roe v. Wade. in 1982 the ERA expired, today Title XI still comes under fire, and Roe v. Wade is anything but secure, 40 years later.

another unintended consequence of the movement, that still lingers, has been contempt for the concept of "feminism." certainly the 2nd wave focused on changing the status quo, primarily through legal channels; that status quo being that women could only contribute to the private sphere of home and family. yet a call for a change in the status quo was not to suggest that home and family were/are less fulfilling than the public sphere of work and politics, etc. merely, it was to enable women the same opportunities afforded to men, if they should choose to have a career.

confusion surrounding the idea feminism has been present, long before the second wave. in 1913, journalist Rebecca West said, "I myself have never been able to find out precisely what feminism is. I only know that people call me a feminist whenever I express sentiment that differentiates me from a doormat or a prostitute." i have also heard my own friends reject the idea of being a feminist, under the assumption that feminism is a synonym for man-hater, butch, or anti-feminine.

in fact, feminism is none of those things. feminism is instead a belief in equality, defined not as sameness, but rather as opposition to ranking one sex as superior or inferior to the other. thus, feminism is the recognition of differences in men and women, but the categorical rejection that those differences merit hierarchy. it does not reject gender differences, but instead it rejects the assumption of prescribed gender roles. thus, when you reject feminism off-hand, you accept the idea that what makes you different as a female also makes you inferior.

as i almost always eventually conclude, the media certainly deserve some of the blame not only for the misconceptions surrounding feminism, but also those surrounding society's narrow notions of what it means to be feminine. recently, my mentor, friend, and colleague, Dr. Caroline Heldman, along with Condoleezza Rice, Jane Fonda, Katie Couric, Cory Booker, and hosts of others, contributed to an important film entitled Miss Representation, which brings the criticism of the media's role center stage. this film highlights the media's limited portrayal of women, and details the psychological, social, physical and political consequences. the 2 minute trailer is below, and you should watch it. the trailer, and then the film (which you can rent on Amazon for 3.99).

the meaning of womanhood is diverse, and feminism does not reject more traditional notions, as many people believe. instead, it accepts the differences between men and women, and among different women, to suggest the differences do not limit us, or determine our value or contribution to society.

Friday, February 15, 2013


over Martin Luther King Jr weekend I went to Vegas with some friends from Newport Beach and Salt Lake CIty, UT. The birthday girl put together this cute video. True to form, I act pretty stupid in said video, but its too cute to not share.