June 12, 2014
Jessica Altice is a native of Mobile, Alabama. She is currently serving as an AmeriCorps member with the Healthy Relationships program at the YWCA. She earned degrees in healthcare management and health education at the University of Alabama at Birmingham and is currently pursuing a doctorate in health education and health promotion.
Feminism: the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities
As an AmeriCorps member I have the unique opportunity to visit schools and view students in their school environments. Sometimes, I sit back and watch their interactions without them even noticing. Over the past seven months, I have taken a hard look at the attitudes, personalities and motivations of female students in our local schools. Which led me to the question: How are young girls affected by third-wave feminist culture?
Third-wave feminism is defined as the reappropriation of derogatory terms and objects related to male oppression. This definition is the polar opposite of first-wave feminism. Nigerian novelist Chimamanda Adichie said she was told that feminists were unmarried women who were not concerned about their appearance, hated men and did not want to have children. Being astonished by this comment, she started to think of herself as a happy, African feminist who does not hate men and wears lip gloss and high heels for herself and not for men. Adichie like many women are rewriting their definition of feminism. It appears that many women in pop culture are now praising and advocating for feminism but do these women always set good examples?
As we stand on the shoulders of the women and men before us that pushed for gender equality, do we think they would be proud of how feminism has evolved? We all want to raise strong, self sufficient and capable young women but it seems the new face of feminism is a far cry from what our forerunners envisioned. I am not sure if Susan B. Anthony, Sojourner Truth and Elizabeth Cady Stanton imagined that feminism in the 21st century would consist of women twerking on public television, singing sexually explicit lyrics and wearing clothing that barely covers their unmentionables all under the veil of “reclaiming their sexuality.” Is self-objectification better than being objectified by a man? When did feminism become focused on sexuality instead of gender equality?
As I write this post, I realize I have more questions than answers. I do not claim to be an expert on feminist studies but I do believe we have a chance to set the standard for the new feminist movement. I imagine that one day the third-wave feminist movement will have female advocates who are community leaders, CEO’s, mothers, wives, homemakers, writers, photographers, scientists and the list goes on and on. We live in a society where the possibilities are endless for our young girls but they will only be successful if we “plant the right seeds” when they are young. Therefore, I ask “What seeds are you planting into our children?”
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