February 21, 2018

The Face of Feminism at Sanford

While schools must maintain objectivity in the face of controversial issues, there are certain topics that should be more openly discussed among the Sanford community. Feminism, for instance, is something many students think is commonly overlooked. Significant events, such as Emma Watson’s UN speech and the recent viral video on street harassment have been making enormous strides in the feminist movement, and there has been no commentary on these and our students’ opinions on them. As a member of the Sanford News Network, I want to change that.

When faced with the question “are you a feminist?” many people tend to feel uncomfortable. This is understandable, considering the amount of controversy surrounding the definition of “feminist.” The word has such a negative social stigma despite the relatively simple original meaning: someone who believes in equal rights for all genders. However, much like the Catholic Church, this basic idea has been broken down into many denominations in possession of different beliefs. That’s when it starts getting confusing. Radical feminists believe that women and men should be equal in every way, not only in law but also society. For example, they think that women should have the right to be topless in public as men are. The problem here is that this faction of feminism is most widely distributed over the media and ridiculed because of their views, when in reality they only make up a relatively small part of the feminist movement. They are simply more progressive than most feminists.

A huge misconception about feminism results from this media portrayal, and that is the myth that feminists hate all men. “Specifically,” states Matt Petronzio in a recent news article entitled “It’s Okay to be a (Straight Male) Feminist,” “radical feminism was an aspect of the feminist movement in Europe and North America during the sixties, but only a fraction of radical feminists exhibited male hostility—not enough to define the movement.” True, some can be openly hostile towards men because they believe that men are at the root of sexism. The majority of feminists, however, do not. The He for She movement, started by female speakers such as Emma Watson, is aimed specifically at increasing awareness and support of feminism among men.

The main focuses of the feminist movement are as follows: domestic violence, sexual harassment, and gender inequality. To erase any doubt of whether or not these are real and very serious issues, one only has to look at the media or the news. A common question asked in rape cases in which the victim is female is “What were you wearing?” This question implies that the girl invited the rapist to commit such a violative act with her alluring clothing choices. By placing blame on the female, patriarchal values are perpetuated and strengthened.

To acknowledge the whole spectrum of Sanford’s opinions on feminism, I went to someone who knows a lot about the nature of gender and injustice.

“I think that a lot of issues that the LGBT community is challenging right now at their root also pertain to feminism,” says senior Benson Cook, leader of the Gay-Straight Alliance.

Gender roles, for example, and the fluctuating definition of marriage both hold much significance in regard to both issues. Traditionalists will say that the only true marriage is one between a man and woman. The fact that some girls are attracted to girls and some guys are attracted to guys kind of rains on that parade. Some, like Merav Michaeli in her TED talk, may argue that marriage forces women and men to play certain confining roles.

The definition of gender is questioned more and more these days. Transgender awareness has grown from being virtually unrecognized to putting Laverne Cox on the cover of Time as the first transgender woman. Though this might make some people unhappy, I personally feel that this is a big step towards the acceptance of all people.

Sanford, being a safe place, should start these conversations and many more pertaining to more sensitive issues emerging in our world. All of us, especially seniors, are traveling closer and closer to entering the real world and must be prepared. In order to learn we must be willing to hear opinions and views different from ours.

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Caroline Fritz

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