Feminism 101:

On July 31st, 2015, posted in: Culture, Featured, FemSoc, News by

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This week, FemSoc took it back to basics to help better explain the label “feminist” and the importance of intersectionality. As quoted by Ellen Page: “I call myself a feminist when people ask me if I am. And of course I am, ‘cause it’s about equality, so I hope everyone is. You know you’re working in a patriarchal society when the word ‘feminist’ has a weird connotation.”

This “patriarchal society” can be defined as an ideology (or set of beliefs) in which men are considered superior to women and have the right to rule women. Throughout history, women have struggled to gain equality and respect, and enjoy the same freedoms and the same citizenship rights as men. Feminism is a broad-based movement that includes anyone (regardless of gender) who wishes to see a world where discrimination based on gender – and namely the idea that men are superior to women – is abolished. Feminism acknowledges that women have been, and continue to be, broadly oppressed by the patriarchy through marginalization, abuse, exploitation and ridicule.

Historically, the movement of feminism can be greatly simplified to be explained in three major waves, beginning with the suffragettes (1700s/1800s) fighting for voting and economic rights for women. The second wave (1900s/2000s) sees the challenging of stifling domestic/ traditional roles allocated to women. It also includes the struggle for sexual and reproductive rights, and marital, job and sexual harassment protection. The third wave is where we are now. Although there is a broad continual struggle (including the embracing of the gender continuum and feminine form, etc.) against the oppressive limitations that shackle women in today’s society, FemSoc used this week to focus on one specific element of this current “wave”: recognition of different racial experiences among women.

Using the current Nicki Minaj versus Taylor Swift debate as a very specific example, the opportunity was created to discuss the controversial idea of “white feminism”. This is defined as a set of beliefs that allows for the exclusion of issues that specifically affect women of colour. It is a “one-size-fits-all” feminism where middle class white women are the mould that others must fit. This practice of feminism does not account for the lens on one’s perspective created by western privilege or cultural context. It is the feminism that does not consider race as a factor in the struggle for equality.

The floor was open for discussion, and all points of view were considered seriously and respectfully. Such a platform for mature debate is undoubtedly a major step in our progression toward a more positive and equal society, and it is exciting to acknowledge the creation of these opportunities at Wynberg Girls’ High.