Several months have gone by and our high school feminism class has come to an end. Luckily for my classmates and me that is not going to be the end of feminism in our lives.
In fact, engaging in feminism has has really only just begun. Now that this course has brought new subjects and information to light, we can apply it to the real world and create a whole new understanding of what it means to be a feminist.
In the very first blog post I wrote in this course, I discussed what it means to have a certain perspective when examining feminist issues. I wrote that, “What I have found is that everything, EVERYTHING, is all a matter of perspective” and I still hold this to be very true. Life is entirely about perspective, and that perspective from which you view any particular issue greatly influences your opinions on said issue. So, here I am again saying that once again my perspective has changed and I want your perspective to change as well.
If you had asked me at the beginning of this course if I NEEDED feminism, I would probably have said yes, but I wouldn’t really have understood why. Now I know I need feminism because the next generation needs feminism and the generation after that needs feminism, and it continues on endlessly. I have realized that feminism starts not with adult men and women but with our children and our children’s children.
One of the most influential videos we watched this year was a TEDxEuston talk by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. In her video she speaks about how education about gender at a young age is important. Her words spoke to me because she is absolutely right about how our society raises young girls and boys. We raise girls in very paradoxical ways that make them believe their only path towards success is being what society dubs as pretty and that being married to a man means you are successful. We raise boys believing just the same; that their masculinity is the most important part of them and that showing any signs of emotion of femininity is wrong.
This is not something that we can solve overnight, as it requires an entire re-examination of how we raise our children. If we are to make a difference in how society sees and treats women, we have to change how children are raised and how they are influenced at a young age and, of course, change their perspectives.
Another very crucial film that helped me realize the danger of toxic gender roles was Jean Kilbourne’s Killing Us Softly 4: Advertising’s Image of Women. This film discusses the impact of media on how women are depicted in our society. Several times throughout the film, she addresses how advertisements influence young girls:
Women learn from a very early age that we must spend enormous amounts of time, energy and above all money, striving to achieve this look and feeling ashamed and guilty when we fail.”
Kilbourne change my perspective through some shocking yet important images and messages. What she made clear to me was the fact that the advertisement industry is not getting any better, and frankly, what they are doing is revolting. The way that ads objectify women is influencing our culture by setting the norm for violence against women, for eating disorders, and for misconceptions about beauty and health.
It is increasingly difficult to change a grown adult’s opinion on beauty as the influence of the media has become increasingly prominent. As a result, the change that must occur lies within the kinds of experiences we create for children. If the current generation of children were to be raised on a different understanding of what considered “beautiful,” then in 20-40 years, this generation would become the voice of the advertisement industry. They would create ads that do not objectify women or condone violence. This change would continue until eventually, hypersexualized images of women and girls, and indeed of boys and men, would be eradicated entirely.
So the question remains, what is the future of feminism? Gloria Steinem in Herstory : Women Who Changed The World said, “We need to remember across generations that there is as much to learn as there is to teach. ” What Steinem is saying is that our current understanding of the world, specifically on our views of women, is simply incorrect and it cannot continue. In order to change that, we have to change everything that we were raised on and adopt a new understanding.
We need to literally unlearn what we must reteach. I truly believe that this “unlearning” starts with children. Children are the future and if we want our future to be a world where women are treated equally, are not objectified, are not called bitch or slut, and have achieved true equality throughout the world, we must raise our children to believe those tenets as well.
We as a people must change how the world views women and create a new perspective where everyone is a feminist.