1. What is feminism? What stereotypes surround the word feminist? What is patriarchy? How might someone internalize patriarchal or sexist thinking? How can everyone benefit from feminism? How can we break down the single story of feminism?
My definition of feminism always included that it is a fight for women’s rights and equality, but as Bell Hooks stated, a feminist should care about not only feminist theory, but how it relates to race, culture, and class as well (19). To me, feminism is misunderstood, and I am guilty of misrepresentation due to lack of information about what it means to fight for equality for not only women, but humanity in general so that there is no oppression of any single group of people.
The stereotypes that I have always recognized as being true about the word feminist are those that we commonly see in mainstream media. I think about the women that protest in their bras writing vulgar words on their chests, women ultimately hating men, and all feminist ideals are created equal.
There is backlash against feminism and the women’s movement because people are socialized to believe that if one specific group of people has power, the others need to have less power. There are many misrepresentations about what it means to fight for equal rights as a feminist and it makes people, or more specifically men, fear giving up power. This is essentially patriarchy. Men having more power than women in government, the workplace, and the home (Bromley, 31). People often internalize patriarchal and sexist thinking in many ways and as early as adolescence due to media, parents’ beliefs and values, and by being told stereotypical and detrimental ideas like men are the head of the household and women are homemakers.
Women are not the only ones that can benefit from feminist thinking as all people of society can have something to gain. According to Shira Tarrant, we as a society must start to view feminism as something that everyone can be involved with because it is more a political way of thinking than it is something that women do or believe (52). I also think that everyone can benefit from feminism because it helps people to recognize that there is more to the world than men and women and equality, or “Equal worth,” (Freedman, 49) and diversity is essential. We can break down the single story of feminism by including men even if they don’t always identify with the feminist label and squash the negative and exclusive ideals that the feminist movement is for women and only women while also lumping all women together as “equals.”
2. What is intersectionality? What is an example of intersectionality? What is stereotyping, and how does it work? How are stereotypes harmful, and how can they lead to prejudice, discriminatory practices, and racism? How has feminism failed to be intersectional in the past, and how has this failure led some individuals or groups to reject the feminist label? How can we work to make feminism more inclusive?
My understanding of what intersectionality is it that it’s a way of understanding, or rather being aware of, the many different inequalities that women face whether they are about race, gender, disability, sexual identity or class. Intersectionality is essentially when someone belongs to more than one oppressed group and therefore their experience in society is different than that of people who are considered privileged (Crenshaw, 58). Stereotyping is categorizing people based off specific, superficial qualities, habits, or staples and is perpetuated in society through mainstream media and people ultimately believe it. It is like Chimamanda Adichie and the Dangers of a Single Story, once someone believes something about another group of people, it takes experiences and becoming educated to work towards understanding and overcoming stereotypical ideations.
Stereotypes are harmful because it creates this idea that all people are equal and as we’ve learned about intersectionality, people don’t share the same experiences just because they share an identity which happens to be marginalized. Feminism has failed to be intersectional because there is this idea, as Mia McKenzie put it so beautifully, “A lot of people seem to think that being born with female parts bonds you in some significant way to other people who are born with female parts,” (62) and this idea totally excludes women that are oppressed in more than one way. Women who have disabilities or women of color or just any woman who is misrepresented as being “equal” to women who aren’t marginalized in more than one way. I believed that feminists can work towards a movement that doesn’t include stereotypes and be more inclusive by speaking out on the fact that not all women are the same and making women with disabilities and from different backgrounds, the face of the feminist movement will truly dismantle all the negativity surrounding the movement.
3. In what ways does our society construct gender roles? What gender is privileged, and what are examples of this privilege? How can gender roles or gender stereotypes be limiting or reinforce inequality? How can feminism help to address these inequalities and break down these limiting roles and stereotypes?
Before the world became industrialized and economically stable, women needed to rely on the physical capabilities of men to survive while they raised children and maintained domestic life. Gender roles are socially constructed to so that society can ultimately benefit. Men were thought to always be more capable of manual labor and so society created titles like policeman or fireman and paid them more for such hard work. Women birth children so society tells them that they should stay home and raise them or work in service jobs (Pearse, 83). Men are no doubt the more privileged gender. According to Pearse, most corporate wealth belongs to men, most science and technology is controlled by men, and men are considered the head of the household (87).
Gender stereotypes put people into a box and are extremely limiting for both men and women. If they don’t fit neatly into the ideals and ‘norms’ then that is when discrimination and ridicule will either correct the ‘wrong behavior’ or create insecurity within that person. Feminism can aid in putting the stereotypes and inequalities to rest by helping people understand that although some people fit into the gender boxes, not everyone does and that it okay. “A good account of how we acquire gender must recognize both the contradictions of development, and the fact that learners are active, not passive” (Connel and Pearse, 196). This excerpt from Pearse’s, Gender in Personal Life gives a glimpse at the way feminists think and can ultimately tackle these limiting ideas about gender. Gender is no longer cut and dry from birth.
4. What is biological sex? In what ways is biological sex socially constructed? How can the social construction of the male/female binary be harmful (in terms of unnecessary medical treatments, sex testing for athletes, and/or to individuals who are transgender or transitioning)? In what ways does biological sex differ from gender identity and gender expression? In what ways do sex and gender exist on a spectrum?
According to the Biological Sex PowerPoint, it is ‘the physical sex characteristics that categorize people as male, female, or intersex at birth, including genitalia, body shape, hormones, and chromosomes.’ I think that the perspective of Riley Dennis in her truly enlightening video about what it means to be transgender is one that will truly help people to understand that the socially constructed definitions really don’t mean anything when describing or interpreting people in general. Biological sex in fact does considers that there are many factors that makeup sex and gender just like what Dennis was talking about in her video.
The social construction of the male/female binary is harmful because it excludes people who are transgender, transitioning, or are intersex. Sex verification testing, like the kind that occurred over the course of 2011 and 2012 to the women that underwent clitoral mutilation for the purpose of sport, are a prime example of just how detrimental the social construction of the binary is hurting our society (Allen, 115). Gender identity is different than biological sex because it is all about how a person feels inside as far as if they are male, female, or non-binary and gender expression is how a person chooses to express their gender. Gender and sex exist on a spectrum in many ways because sex is what is assigned at birth, and then gender is how that child lives out their life. Gender is made up of three things; physical body, identity, and social gender which includes gender roles. All of these aspects of gender can vary and be interrelated which is why sex and gender exist on a spectrum.
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