By Ivette Barajas and Alena Tran
First and second wave feminist movements are largely characterized by the right to vote, the right to equal pay, and sexual liberation. This integral beginning provided the platform for third wave feminism, which tends to be associated with more intersectionality and a reclamation and redefining of concepts such as sexuality, gender, femininity, and masculinity. In the wake of the Women’s March on January 21, 2017 and the widespread of feminist theory via social media, the word feminism invites both support and criticism.
Interested by the controversy surrounding feminism, we decided to ask high school girls on their views on feminism and whether or not they felt it was significant to them. One of the main arguments against third wave feminism is that we are in a “postfeminist” society and have “no use for it.”
For instance, a girl we interviewed argued that “crying” about misogyny in America seems “pointless when a baby girl was left by a dumpster in China, a 13 year old girl was murdered in Saudi Arabia trying to leave her abusive husband, and in Africa somewhere a woman was raped and [has] HIV.” Apparently, this is a common argument made against feminism—the idea that “People have it harder in other places; we are lucky.”
To get the alternate perspective, we interviewed a self-proclaimed feminist who foresaw the prior commentary, stating that, “It’s pretty dismissive…I agree that we’re a lot more fortunate than most, but at the same time, women in America go through stuff too. You don’t go to the hospital with syphilis and get ignored because someone else is dying of cancer. There are different wards and places to go for each problem and I feel like, while concerning feminism, the world should function that way as well. It’s important to me that people should always [strive] for even more progression and gender equality; there’s always a next step to a better society. Just because we’re focusing on one problem at hand in one moment doesn’t mean that we don’t care about other existing problems…I also feel that the comments made about…women in countries outside of the West create this [messed] up stereotype—like, this generality makes it sound like they’re helpless and it ignores the fact that there are feminists and badass women also fighting for liberation in other places too, the same way we are in America…Equality isn’t just a Western idea.”
Next, we prompted each girl to consider why someone would support the view contrary to theirs. Our first interviewee offered, “It’s natural for people to focus on what they want. Women lean towards feminism because it focuses on their needs.”
The feminist we interview iterates, “Honestly, I don’t really get when people say they’re anti-feminist. I mean, [people will] say things like ‘I don’t believe in feminism, I believe in equality for all’ and I’m like, ‘Well, so you are a feminist, because that’s kinda the point of feminism.’ I think what people really have a problem with is the word ‘feminist.’ It’s kind of dirty…”
However, when questioning our friends and random people at school, most girls acknowledged that feminism was becoming widespread. “GRL PWR” pins and t-shirts and the general support from high school girls towards the Women’s March seemed to confirm this. In the end, whether you support it or not, it’s an especially relevant example of how it’s important to be open-minded and considerate toward the opinions of others.