The "F Word"

Friday, 16 March 2012
We discussed Feminism with Dr. Erin Whiteside in our 615 class yesterday. She asked about our initial perceptions regarding Feminists before offering an academic definition of the concept.

From my cultural experiences, I've found Feminism to carry a very negative connotation. Women who support feminist ideas are known as "man-haters," "dykes" and "bitches." Why? Feminists challenge the status quo and support the idea of equality. Are there Feminists that act out of anger and hate? Absolutely (!!) but I'd argue that not everyone has a fierce agenda. Women who are educated in theory and history sometimes feel strongly that it is worth their time and research to study social construction of gender and power imbalances.

Dr. Whiteside explained that she is an "activist researcher" which means she tries to make a difference with her research. Standard academic research hopes to gather and contribute knowledge to the field. I've never heard of "activist researchers" so this is an interesting idea. As a journalist, it's okay to sometimes make a difference but for the most part you report the news and allow your viewers to do with it what they will. In academia, it's okay if you have an agenda and want to influence others.

What about the field of Women Studies? Obviously, my concentration area is television news with a focus on use of social media but I've long been interested in the highs and lows of the playing field for men and women. However, I'm hesitant to even approach that area of study. Why? I imagine some of my male friends and family members immediately looking at me with suspicion and internal sighs. Is that my own bias playing in?

The TV news industry rewards assertiveness, fast-paced decision making, being able to "play with the men," and ignore any hinderances in order to keep going. I've had blinders on but when I question why I got out of the news business it has to do with pay (men still make more for the same work and experience and do not hold as many leadership positions) and the inflexible schedules (men get ahead because they are seen as 24-7 journalists, children duties fall to the woman). I could easily operate as a 24-7 journo in this stage of life but I didn't want to forever.

I do miss TV news, though. All industries have problems. I just don't understand why the idea of a pursuit of equality for women (Feminism) has to be looked at through a negative lens. There are extremists in every movement but I try to avoid them and stay open to useful, informed perspectives.

Disclaimer: Yes, there are male feminists and men (heterosexual and homosexual) who support feminist ideas. I've met a few of them! My mother's father always treated my brother and I the same when we were children. If we were in his workshop, he'd set us both up with a hammer and nails rather than sending me back inside to help grandma with cooking. I wanted to learn how to drive? He sat beside me patiently in his truck, and encouraged me, never giving the attitude that women are bad drivers (common stereotype). I appreciate and remember gestures like that.


Teri's Blog said...

I guess feminism always had a bad name even in Susan B. Anthony's day.

Denae said...

Good point! I didn't think of this as a historical thing...