As my time ends in one of the fiercest feminism courses, either at the high-school or collegiate level, the moment is so bittersweet. I haven’t yet come to terms with the fact that we are approaching our last class and we haven’t done all I wanted to do. Though this is somewhat my fault because I set myself up with the preconceived and nonsensical notion that through this class we would be able to reach the heart of the issue of sexism and misogyny and then identify and implement a solution.
It would be just as nonsensical and preposterous to say that I learned nothing in this class. This class has taught me skills that transcend the classroom and that are applicable to real life. I’ve also been educated in feminism to an exceptional degree. I’ve learned the history of feminism in the U.S.; collaborated with a school half-way around the globe in India on International Day of the Girl; Skyped with Richa Nagar, the editor of the powerful book Playing with Fire: Feminist Thought and Activism Through Seven Lives In India; and much more. And that was all within the first month.
We then moved on to analyzing the sexualization of women and girls in the media; dove into the world of sex trafficking and read Rachel Lloyd‘s memoir; and were visited by staff members from her organization GEMS. Reflecting on all the progress my classmates and I have made since September is outstanding, though knowing that we are not close to done with solving the problems of the world through feminism is what is disheartening.
Though there is no need to be discouraged, this only means there is more work to do and this excites me, although it will no longer be in the classroom setting. I will not leave feminism alone and I will continue to be involved in it. At the start of the class, I was unsure about what the definition of feminism truly was, due to the mixed blend of stereotypes and ignorance that keeps others from understanding the true goals of the movement.
According to feminist activist Gloria Steinem, “A feminist is anyone who recognizes the equality and full humanity of women and men and chooses to act on it.”
This is the best definition of feminism I’ve heard thus far. It isn’t about what gender, race, or sexuality you are. A feminist can be “anyone” as long as this person recognizes that women and men should be equal without a doubt, and they must be active about being a feminist at the same time.
Silence is toxic, counterproductive, and it’s a catalyst that accelerates and perpetuates negative consequences. Apathy solves nothing. In contrast, feminists are proactive; they come in different shapes and sizes; male or female; and they have different roles in the movement. All feminists try to construct a world where binaries and stereotypes are non-existent.
The problem is that real feminists are the minority in our society.
An example of how destructive our society has come can be exemplified in the story of Amanda Todd. Todd’s suicide via bullying and cyberbullying is the epitome of what we are still struggling with today, that is, the struggle of being accepted and happy with ourselves in a society where sexualized beauty is the most valuable attribute a woman can have. For me to tell her story wouldn’t do it justice, I can only show you through this video.
It is heart-wrenching to watch this video. Todd was a young girl manipulated by seductive compliments and she succumbed to a guy’s demands. With social media being as accessible as it is, pictures of her body were shown to everyone that knew her. Eventually, she was bullied via social media as well as in person. She committed suicide as a result.
We hold girls to an impossible standard. Either you’re a virgin or a whore, but never somewhere in the middle and never somewhere in the middle with any dignity. The problem with being on the “whore” side is our society is a slut-shaming one, and words like “slut” or “whore” or “skank” brand and dehumanize a girl as something lower, someone who is just an object despite the fact that the girl is the victim, just like Amanda Todd was.
It the girl is the victim, she is immediately blamed for her actions. Therefore, when these pictures of Todd surfaced on the internet, everyone was blaming her for what she did and called her names like “slut” and “whore.” Now ostracized and marginalized, she felt as though she only had herself and that no one else cared for her, much like Hester Prynne in the novel the Scarlet Letter. Ultimately, Todd thought death was the only escape, so she took her own life.
What does that say about the chances to redeem yourself after being branded with degrading names like “slut”? Another problem was that even after her death, many people still haven’t heard her story, or the stories of other girls like her who figured it would be easier to take their own life.
I bring this story up because it is my job as a feminist. I believe there are various types of feminists who all serve different roles. The burning die-hard thing I wanted to figure out through this class is what kind of feminist I am and what my role is.
I shared through our talk with GEMS staff members as well as during the course of this class that my role as a feminist is to bring these issues to the forefront and expose them for what they really are.
I am the one who will raise awareness and spark the conversation between groups that will ignite the desire for change. My sister was the one who recommended this class to me and told me it had benefits that couldn’t be measured over the course of a trimester. These are benefits that she still talks about to this day, three years after she took the same class.
I feel as though our role together as a generation during this time is to be conversation starters. We are sparkers in the age of social media. Just as a terrible message can be spread rapidly, we will use it to spread the feminist word rapidly and build a trend with groundbreaking momentum.
I believe feminism is the only future for our society, and the only step in evolution we have left.
That’s why I believe our generation will be the fourth wave that pushes feminism even further and not backwards.