Ladyrebecca's Musings and Ramblings

The Increasingly Political Thoughts of Rebecca (Becky) Walker

How Feminism Has Effected Me…so far. December 19, 2009

Rebecca Watson - Third Wave feminist

I love talking politics and government but I hate being ill-informed and ignorant (largely because I spent the first two decades of my life ignorant and opinionated before having a change of heart). My desire to not be ignorant is what led me to major in Political Science. I wanted to be able to speak with surety about the things that were going on in the political theaters of the U.S. and around the world. But my quest for knowledge was just that…a quest for nothing more than knowledge. I just wanted to be able to talk about politics. I didn’t want to do politics. One of the reasons for this was that I didn’t recognize a need for change. I, as a white female, was adequately represented by my elected leaders and feminism was done. I believed in, as what Deborah Seigel called, “the trendy notion that we are living in a ‘post-feminist’ era” (The Movement That Has No Name, 2007, p. 34). Seigel’s essay and Patricia Hill Collins’s Toward a New Vision were instrumental in changing that misconception.

In my studies of politics, I’ve learned that representation is key to achieving a group’s goals. Upon reading The Movement That Has No Name, I realized that feminism was not done and there was still much work to be done before the goals of feminism (equality for all and an end to sexism) could be said to be realized. Siegel writes, “Polls proclaimed that 22 million unmarried women did not vote in the 2000 presidential election” (p. 33). Seigel writes that

Sarah Margaret Fuller - First Wave feminist

younger women are highly involved volunteers, grassroots organizers, and activists. These women are not voting, not because they don’t care, but because they “disillusioned” (p. 36). This disillusionment exists because in a world where the cost of running for office is in the millions of dollars–$3 million for a seat in the House and over $21 million for a Senatorial seat (projected costs for 2010), and over $300 million spent on President Obama’s campaign (as reported by Thomas E. Patterson in American Democracy, 2008)–women only own “1 percent of the world’s assets” (Siegel, p. 35). Is it any wonder, then, that women only make up about 16.4% of American Congressmen? Only “20 percent of full professors” are women as are only “17 percent of partners in law firms…Only 10 Fortune 500 CEOs are women” (p. 34).

“The low turnout among young female voters during the 2004 election doesn’t mean that all women under 35 are apathetic but rather, perhaps, that many are turned off and disillusioned by politicians who fail to take on their issues” (Siegel, p. 36), for without the resources that men have, getting one of their own in a position of power has proven extremely difficult.

As I finished reading Siegel’s work, I began thinking of ways to organize my peers, give them a movement they can stand behind and can support them. Siegel believes a principle cause of women thinking their “personal” problem is not political is the lack of just such a movement to support them (2007). I was left with the question, “How does one go about doing such a thing?”

Catherine MacKinnon - Second Wave feminist

Patricia Hill Collins’s Toward a New Vision gave me some of the answers I was looking for. She writes, “[C]hange starts with self, and relationships that we have with those around us must always be the primary site for social change (1993, p. 76). It is easy for me to forget how central personal relationships are. Before I met my good friend Alex, I gave little thought to the unique struggles of the partially disabled. Until my atheist husband joined the Air Force, I had given no thought to how oppressively Christian the military can be. Until I begin to share what I have learned and experienced, many around me may remain ignorant of the issues facing women today.

Collins also urges us away from “additive analyses of oppression,” (p. 76) as such is based on either/or thinking. Collins points out some of the “dichotomous” thinking with, “Black/white, man/woman, thought/feeling…” (p. 77). I add to that list other dichotomies that plague, not just the study of oppression, but the study of politics and government as well: good/evil, right/wrong, Left/Right, pro-life/pro-choice, pro-gun-rights/pro-gun-control, against war/patriotic. The list of divisions goes on and one. Dichotomies such as these tear people apart and create divides where none needs to be because dichotomous thinking means that only one side can be right and that side is 100% right. Therefore the other side (any side that isn’t right) is 100% wrong. The pro-life side does not see the pro-choice side as supporting choice. They see them as anti-life. The pro-choice side does not see

Becky Walker - feminist

the pro-life side as pro-life; they see them as anti-choice and pro-oppression. The pro-gun control does not see the pro-gun-rights side as pro-Constitution or pro-self-defense. They see them as pro-murder and mayhem. The pro-gun-rights side does not see the pro-gun-control side as pro-safety and anti-violent-crime. They see them as anti-Constitution and anti-family. Each side vilifies the other while elevating themselves to sainthood. Such thinking will ultimately destroy much more than it builds.

While my passion remains government and politics, feminism has “lit a fire” under me, so to say. Previously, my goal had simply been to understand politics, to be able to intelligently discuss government systems without embarrassing myself, and perhaps, to write the odd free-lance article. Now, armed with the knowledge that, 1. my voice, as a woman, is less heard than men’s voices; 2. There is great need for a cohesive feminist movement that young women can stand behind and be supported by; 3. Such an organizations will come about through personal relationships; 4. My fight to end dichotomous thinking in my own life is a good start but I must also spread it through those I’m in relationship with, I think perhaps I can and should do more with my education than just “have an education.” I must constantly challenge myself to remember these points and fight for the change I wish to see least I fall again into the ranks of the ill-informed, ignorant, and ultimately, powerless.

References

Collins, P. H. (1993). Toward a new vision. In S. Shaw, J. Lee (Eds.), Women’s voices, feminist visions.(2009). (pp. 76-84). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.

Patterson, T. E. (2009). The American democracy. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.

Siegel, D. (2007). The movement that had no name. In S. Shaw, J. Lee (Eds.), Women’s voices, feminist visions. (2009). (pp. 31-39). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.

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Women’s Studies Final and a good law December 18, 2009

YEAH! I am done with my Women’s Studies class! Hurray!

Don’t get me wrong. I enjoyed learning about feminism needed to learn about feminism. It was NOT especially enjoyable. I spent yesterday morning in tears as I read about some of the heartbreaking stories that lead Margaret Sanger to found Planned Parenthood. (A mother of three died following an illegal abortion…after she had BEGGED the doctor and Sanger, her nurse, to tell her how to keep from getting pregnant again. The doctor’s answer? “Tell Jake [the woman’s husband] to sleep on the roof.” Great answer, doc.) And yes, I am somewhat familiar with her racists views…that doesn’t change the fact that she was unable to help this woman because of a “gag” rule. I read about a woman in Ethiopia who lived for two years in a shack, isolated and alone, because of a obstetrical fissure (a tear between the vagina and bladder and/or rectum, causing the constant leakage of urine and feces). Because of higher quality of obstetrical services in the western world (simply better health as well), obstetrical fissure is almost unheard of and is insanely easy to fix if it does occur. This woman, abandoned by her husband, starving and dehydrated (as eating and drinking caused increased leaking), lived for two years curled into the fetal position, wishing she could die. Her parents finally sold all of their farm animals (I wonder how they will make a living now) to pay for her surgery. It was less than $500.

And as I read that, I couldn’t help but remember all the missionaries to Africa I had listened to. I remembered hearing of how they needed Jesus. Of how they needed to be freed from their barbaric religions. And I remembered the sometimes overflowing offering bowl and I couldn’t help but wonder how much more good it would have done to send doctors instead of missionaries? Even when I was a Christian, I could not make peace with the idea of preaching the gospel before taking care of people’s physical needs. *sigh*

Daily Mail photo of Twiggy and Twiggy

One of the problems I had during this class on feminism was the question of “so what?” So women (and many other sub-groups) are still being marginalized. What are we supposed to do about it? Make legislation that makes being a jerk illegal? That’s no better than legislating morality in the bedroom. Then today, just after returning from my final, I saw this article on Olay’s blatant false advertising. This is good legislation. Olay is LYING! They are showing a picture, quoting the woman in the picture as saying, “This product made me look like this” when in fact Photoshop made her look like that. That’s called a LIE and the British Parliament called them on it. Good for them. I wonder what the chances are of having a similar law passed in the U.S.?

There, Heidi, I said something positive about an article. 🙂