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Just about everyone knows someone who has been bullied, in ways big and small. Understandably, though, many victims are reluctant to speak about their experiences. We found some who aren't.
BY OLIVIA SMITH, St. Petersburg High
Feminism is a choice. Like being a vegan or a Christian, not like being gay or deaf. If you’re a feminist, it doesn’t mean that you are a man-hating, hairy-legged, bra-burning lesbian, or a gay man. Some feminists are these things, and that is okay. Which is the point: Anyone can be a feminist.
Many people these days are, without knowing it or wanting to claim the title. The qualifications for being a legit feminist are excruciatingly simple. A feminist is an advocate or supporter of the rights and equality of women. Basically, that is a fancy way of saying that if you actively believe that women should have same rights, privileges, social acceptance and universal respect as men, then you are a feminist. Ideally, everyone would think that way.
That is why it is amazing when hugely popular or influential women such as Taylor Swift and even Katy Perry feel the need to publicly clarify that they are NOT feminists. When teen idols such as they desecrate feminism, it only adds more of a stigma to feminism, making it another F-word. If you’re in high school, you may or may not have decided to hop on the feminist train, but tb-two* hopes this guide to feminism — both serious and humorous — will help you make up your mind.
Friends and Foes
There are literally hundreds of examples of influential feminists, as well as their opponents. It’s good to know them. The following are four with great impact, for better or for worse. Two are pretty famous, while the other two may be a surprise.
Gloria Steinem (duh)
Steinem, right, is known as the mother of modern feminism. Throughout her long career she has fought hard for reproductive rights (she had her first abortion in 1957), gay rights and, most of all, respect. She went undercover as one of the first Playboy bunnies and did a revealing expose on the customers, bizarre demerit system and even shady business deals. (See story link below.) Other interesting fact: She is Christian Bale’s stepmother.
Honig is a remarkable young artist. When she was barely in her 20s, one of her first works of art was purchased by the famous Whitney Museum; most artists don’t accomplish that in a lifetime. She is known for her takeoffs and parodies of fashion icons and pop culture. Her main themes are the artificial ideals of beauty and the sexual repression of women. She was a finalist on the Bravo reality show Work of Art.
Opinions will vary about whether the former presidential candidate deserves to be on the “foe” list, but this justification comes from public record: Romney pushed to overturn of Roe vs. Wade, the U.S. Supreme Court case that legalized abortion. He also lobbied for health insurance providers not to provide birth control to workers. He would have eliminated public funding for Planned Parenthood, a major provider of health care services to women, 97 percent of which are things such as mammograms, pap smears, STD testing and parenting classes.
When a police officer talks to college women about safety, no one would expect them to leave feeling more angry than safe. Toronto cop Sanguinetti spoke at a safety assembly at Osgoode Hall Law School in 2011, stating, “You know, I think we’re beating around the bush here. I’ve been told I’m not supposed to say this, however, women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized.” The incident prompted worldwide protests, including the Slut Walk movement, and sensitivity training for law enforcement.
Pay attention: Political issues
Feminist values have been an issue in politics for hundreds of years. Although obviously there has been progress (yes, we can vote now, thanks to the suffragists who risked their lives to gain us that right), there is still a lot of territory to be covered. Here are some key issues in current political discourse that affect women:
• Reproductive rights. Remember the phrase “legitimate rape” from last year’s campaign trail? Not just one politician was caught making ignorant comments about rape. Google Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock.
• Same-sex marriage, health insurance. Federal, state and local lawmakers are constantly taking up measures that help provide equality or restrict it. Keep your eyes open.
• Workplace equalitY. A man gets $1. A woman still gets 82 cents. Efforts to reach pay equity for women doing the same jobs as men continue.
• Media portrayal. Sexism permeates movies, advertising and TV. And we wonder why boys grow up to be chauvinists and girls grow up to hate themselves.
• Safety. The federal Violence Against Women Act, signed by President Bill Clinton in 1994 to ensure money for the investigation and prosecution of violent crimes against women, has met with resistance each time it has come up for reauthorization, and Congress let the bill expire last year. Last week the bill’s original author, Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.) called for the House to reintroduce the bill.
The opposite of feminist
Even though it is 2013, there is no dearth of examples in today’s news of why a greater understanding of feminism is imperative:
• The gang rape and murder of a young woman on a bus in India. This case marks one of the first times the Indian government has addressed the need for female safety, though the coverup of rape is still not uncommon in this and many countries, stemming from long-held cultural beliefs that rape brings shame upon the victim and her family.
• A teenage woman in Steubenville, Ohio, was raped at a party in August. Viral video of the unconscious woman being carried around by her feet and hands, as well as video of students commenting about her condition, resulted in national outrage over whether the alleged perpetrators were treated leniently because they are athletes (charges for some high school football players have been dropped). Last week, students delivered a petition with 70,000 signatures to the Ohio attorney general’s office demanding justice for the victim.
• Last October members and pledges of Yale University’s Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity (former president George W. Bush was once president of this chapter) gathered at night near the women’s freshman dorms. They proceeded to chant “No means yes, and yes means (a specific form of sex).” A group of Yale students and alumni alleged in a confidential report to the United States Department of Education that such incidents and the university’s failure to address complaints about sexual violence on campus constituted a hostile sexual environment. The investigation is ongoing.
Promise, this list won’t include dusty textbooks or obnoxious sermons written by overly protective mothers. The following are some favorite articles and websites that promote feminist ideas. They are fun, admittedly bitchy, opinionated, hilarious and, above all, informative. Even better, most cater to teens and young women.
This site dishes on news and issues about women, with an edge. One of its classic takes is calling out Elle magazine for altering a photograph of Gabourey Sidibe to make her look whiter.
This is the ultimate update on feminist news that the mainstream news may not bring to you, partly because feministing.com points out just how unfair the mainstream media are to women.
(Absolute favorite!) The New York Times has called this snarky online teen magazine one of the sanest, most articulate voices in the media today. That is a particularly big deal considering the editor in chief was just 16 when it launched last year.
Taylor Swift Is a Feminist’s Nightmare
Taylor Swift has been described as a child prodigy, but her songs portray that only a perfect, prudish girl wearing white gets the guy. Her music videos have so much derogatory symbolism that this website compiled a whole chart.
I Was a Playboy Bunny
Gloria Steinem, pretty much the mother of feminist activists, tells her story of going undercover as a Playboy bunny, writing how she and the others were treated like pieces of meat instead of human beings.