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Adjusting Contemporary Feminism

India Flinchum, Columnist

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If you’re a woman, Feminism isn’t about “taking back your body” by wearing revealing clothing and attempt to empower womankind by reclaiming your sexuality. It bothers me that woman of the 21st century are quick to conflate Feminism with sexual liberation, at times calling themselves “hoes” in front of friends and laughing it off. “It’s okay, I’m a Feminist!”, they’ll say. “I love myself and my body!”

Second-wave Feminists like Gloria Steinem and Simone de Beauvoir established that Feminism’s underlying goal is to restore humanity to women. This humanity, they claim, has been possessed by men because of biological components and socialized behavior.

A problem arises because Feminism is not, and has never been, an excuse to sexualize oneself through clothing and conduct, and to defend one’s choice to do so on the basis of Feminism.

I am concerned with how some women perceive contemporary Feminism, conflating Feminist power with an overt and often exaggerated expression of femininity. Women who express Feminism in this way are, ironically, perpetuating the idea that their power lies in their femininity, and not in their humanness.

Feminism is rooted in the idea that we must, as a society, see woman as capable, qualified, and competent on the basis of the mind, soul, and spirit; the body and the socially-constructed femininity attached to it are not part of this goal.

However, the media is not properly portraying this facet of Feminism. Powerful female figures like warrior Diana of Wonder Woman are still sexualized and objectified. In Wonder Woman, Diana’s body is a source of immense power and pride, but her strength, bravery, and athleticism are only secondary to her overtly visible femininity.

Contemporary Feminism needs to be re-evaluated and amended. While Feminism’s goal has always been equality of the sexes, we must reframe our methods of achieving this goal to more closely mirror the objectives of second-wave Feminists.

Second-wave feminists perceived femininity as a means of conflating women’s value to that of sex objects and domestic slaves and thus, they rejected femininity altogether. On the other hand, contemporary Feminists are straying from this facet of Feminism and are instead, are uplifting femininity, perpetuating stereotypes and contributing to the microaggressions that promote gender hierarchy.

Using words like “bitch” and “slut” casually, accepting female prostitution, and strutting around in six-inch stilettos is not promoting feminist ideals or posing a threat to patriarchal oppression. We must stop reclaiming sex symbols that have been historically used to oppress women as our fuel. I urge contemporary Feminists, specifically women, to first realize that their autonomy and humanity is separate from their femininity. Second, we must fight sexism by paying tribute to Feminism’s founding goals; namely, for women’s societal influence to be attributed to personal values that exist outside of the feminine cloak.

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2 Responses to “Adjusting Contemporary Feminism”

  1. a on October 12th, 2017 9:32 pm

    what’s usually called second -wave feminism was white and racist af. while you’re somewhat right that white feminism’s goal “has always been equality of the sexes” (though that is still super ambiguous and has meant a lot of different things), not all feminists are white feminists. some women have more of a “choice” to sexualize themselves than others: woc in this country have been seen as pathologically sexual, especially black and latina women.

    some feminists and womanists’ goals have actually been to stop having white women tell them how to dress or act in order to be respected (according to masculine and white ideals of respect). can a badass woman strutting in her heels not also be articulate, kind, powerful, spiritual, collaborative and self-determined? why focus on the first part instead of the second? people doing their thing does not “contribute to the microaggressions” against them. “stereotypes” and racist and sexist bull do not come from people doing what they do, but from how others perceive and weaponize that.

    on another note, who are you to say that sex workers, in doing what they need to feed themselves, selling their bodies like every other construction worker or catalogue model under capitalism does to survive, is not adequately resisting patriarchal oppression??

  2. Anonymous whittie on October 17th, 2017 11:41 am

    I agree with the commenter – there’s lots of racism in the 2nd wave feminist movement AND to be a feminist does not dictate how you dress yourself.

    Sexual liberation is inherently a feminist issue. At this very moment there are men in the government who are trying to control the bodies of women by limiting their access to birth control and abortion services and women’s health clinics.

    Also people can dress however they want – the opinion that they’re dressing for other men quite frankly recycles victim shaming, wherein a woman may dress a certain way because she wants to dress that way, but when a man gropes her or harasses her it’s suddenly her fault because she isn’t dressing feminist enough??? You don’t have to wear a pant suit or a knee length skirt to be a feminist. Feminism isn’t about necessary changing the way women are seen in relation to men, but instead radically establishing that women are autonomous human beings apart from cis white men.

    Moreover, when we use those words to each other it isn’t an attack (unless it is). Those words have different meanings to women who use it between each other. Yes, when it’s used as a weapon against women, it’s not okay, but there are ways of reclaiming language.

    Again feminism is not about controlling other people’s bodies. In fact, it is quite the opposite. These suppositions only serve to act as methods of control via shame.

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Adjusting Contemporary Feminism