The Future of Feminism: Some Musings

Women’s History Month at CU/BC is having their first event, “The Future of Feminism,” https://www.facebook.com/events/626226557394763/ tomorrow. You should definitely go to hear some good conversation about an important subject.

The Speaking Fellows Program is working on a multitude of different sessions that cover different subjects for students, and one of them, which I happened to be writing last week, was about the art of negotiation. One of the most important elements of negotiation is framing: learning how to present an idea in an amicable way. Framing is essential for positive reception of solutions to problems by the parties involved. When I considered “The Future of Feminism,” I immediately questioned the framing of the ideas presented. A panel full of women, commenting on how women need to move forward, presenting their ideas to a room full of women: something seems very one-sided in this scenario.

Whenever I go to an event about women, I always wonder: where are all the men? Presumably, men raised in this generation are taught not to be explicitly sexist at the very least; a great many believe in choice and women’s rights. So, where are they when discussions like these happen, or when there’s a protest or march? And most infuriatingly, why are women still a small percentage of the top players in the game – any game (Congress, business, medicine, etc.)?

Everyone seems to be talking about women in the media and on campus, but no one is getting it right: not Sheryl Sandberg, not Anne-Marie Slaughter, not anyone. Many present different, sometimes opposing approaches to reaching gender equality, but one glaring factor runs through every narrative: women have to close the gap. Women have to fight. Women have to break the glass ceiling, for the betterment of womankind.

We need to re-frame this idea, this sentiment, this urge. We need to shift the dialogue from discussing how breaking the glass ceiling will benefit women, to discussing how breaking the glass ceiling will benefit everyone. Why aren’t men questioning traditional patriarchy and masculinity when it clearly leaves them sacrificing wants and needs for performance-based esteem? Men’s movements compete with or oppose feminism under the guise of ‘misandry,’ and that’s partially our fault. We’re creating a movement that has unintentionally dismissed male accountability and participation, and it’s high time we bring them back into the conversation.

President Spar wrote an article in September 2012 about how women can’t have it all, and it’s true, we can’t – and shouldn’t desire to – have it all. No one can achieve the impossible, and the ‘all’ is impossible; it’s something that I never considered before I came to Barnard. However, as a black Latina woman going into medicine, I am constantly told I can’t have it all. Successful minorities, especially black women, have to settle for marrying someone with lower income or date outside their race or get comfortable with being alone or even raising children alone. And with these messages constantly berating my conscious, I’m starting to worry about them, even though they were never a desire or consideration in the first place. And furthermore, I start to devalue myself because of it. As President Spar says, women are held up to a standard of perfection at all times, and when you hold yourself to such an unrealistic standard you are going to underrate yourself. How can I feel content with my achievements when I don’t possess enough valuable attributes to get ahead in life? The underlying problem in this is that the attributes we as a society have deemed valuable are male-oriented, and I’m a woman.

The mission of re-framing, then, must start with ascribing value to female characteristics. We live in a capitalist, patriarchal society that values male characteristics (the gendering of personality traits is something I’ve already written about on this site), and society thus far has attempted to even the numbers under this unbalanced system. We need to shift the onus from ‘fair’ to ‘valuable’; from a superficial equality in numbers to a true equality in which female attributes and qualities are viewed just as beneficial and useful as male ones.

I’m sick of having to prove that I am worth it, and I’m sick of being told to change my everything to fit the mold. We – women and men – need to reform and restructure both the professional and social system to value people, male and female. It’s time to take feminism a step further.

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