The “F Word”

The new "F Word" these days in "Feminist"

Image from Wikipedia edited by Lauren Piraro.

During a group discussion last school year in my History of Witch Hunt class (A.K.A the best class ever) one of my female peers stated outright: “I am not a feminist or anything.” The topic of discussion was where women’s history fit into history as documented by men and retold to classrooms all around the world. The thing that made me laugh (and become slightly annoyed) was that her contributions to the conversation afterwards most definitely pervaded support for women’s rights and, ultimately, feminism as a whole.

It was then I began asking myself why so many women strayed from declaring themselves feminists – the new “F Word” in our culture and society.

There’s this constant notion in our society held by many young women that feminism is irrelevant in this day and age. We’ve acquired the right to vote and we don’t have to stay home with our children all day as homemakers anymore. That should be enough to keep us quiet, right? To many young women, especially those graced with white privilege, these strides in women’s rights are sufficient enough to shrug off the relevancy of feminism in modern times.

“Feminism and the suppression of women is not really addressed in society,” said fourth year Parks and Recreation major at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. “Women have gotten too comfortable with the progress made so far. I’m thinking, why should we stop now?”

“I don’t feel disadvantaged at all as a woman and I think feminists create that divide,” said Carly Boerman, a fourth year Business major at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.

Are feminists really responsible for their own misfortune within society? Do we bring gender inequality upon ourselves?

My theory is that even though we aren’t directly affected by an issue, that does not mean it isn’t an issue that exists. I, a young college women lacking any dominating ethnicity, could easily call the current and past issues in racial inequality irrelevant because I never had to deal with racism in my life personally. Equating this example to feminism explains exactly why the term “Feminist” is so loaded with negative connotations of irrelevancy and radical politics.

A certain type of fearlessness is required for tackling such hush-hush topics.

“It’s just about having dialogue with people. You have to have conversations about it,” said Jenell Navarro, a women and gender studies professor at Cal Poly. “To deal with a taboo issue, we can’t be afraid.”

Although it might sound like a word that holds a lot of weight, do not be afraid to drop the “F Bomb.” Like I witnessed in my History of Witch Hunt class last year, not everyone uses labels, but as long as we all understand that equality is an important issue and an issue that is yet to reach realization, we mustn’t be weary of saying the unsayable.

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3 thoughts on “The “F Word”

  1. So happy you wrote about this! I too remember a woman/peer in a woman’s studies course beginning a comment with, “I’m not a feminist.” It’s sad, and definitely says something about our society and lack of feminist dialogue when women, who are feminists, go out of their way to say “I’m not a feminist.” What this shows me is that women and men have no idea what feminism is. Feminism, at it’s core strives for women to have the same equal opportunity as men, why would any woman or man say they are not for this? As you say, women can vote, choose their careers, etc. but feminism does not end at this, we must maintain a feminist dialogue, so as to not digress.

  2. I want to offer a possible reason why some women say they are not a feminist – they are but don’t want to be open about it. I fall into this category. I am strongly pro-feminist, but there has been such a harsh backlash against feminism in recent years that saying you’re one can make you vulnerable to some harsh anti-feminist rhetoric and opposition. In my experience, a lot of male classmates/acquaintances escalated sexist “jokes” around me after I mentioned the “F word.” I know I sound like a pansy, but this type of behavior is something I really don’t want to deal with on a daily basis so I keep my mouth shut. When women say “I’m not a feminist but…” it might be a way to make a case for women without losing listeners. Let’s still appreciate that they are on our side.

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