The new feminism

(U-WIRE) PROVIDENCE, R.I. – Jane is pro-choice. Jane loves chocolate. She backs candidates who strive to change the wages inequity that exists in this country. She likes boys who wear Abercrombie & Fitch. She wishes she looked a little more like Jennifer Lopez. She believes in human rights and equality for men and women.

Is she a feminist? Possibly. Is she a young woman in America? Without a doubt. At a time when the term feminism often suggests the impression of the radical, almost militantly liberal rival of the male-dominated status quo, many young women are hesitant, if not outright opposed, to associate themselves with this exclusive group.

After all, that is feminism, right? Feminism defines my mother’s generation. It represents at one extreme the assemblage of hairy-legged, men-hating conspirators to overthrow professional men’s sports; on the softer side, feminists gather together to hold hands and listen to Helen Reddy. Why on earth would a young woman today deny herself the title of feminist?

One of the greatest barriers opposing the feminist movement is the lack of interest of young women due to their misconceptions of the feminists’ aims. Feminism is a progressive movement that seeks to bring about change that will embed equality for men and women in all aspects of life. From the larger spheres of political, social and economic structure, to the ways in which men and women perceive each other throughout the course of common interaction, feminism is not an abstract, ideological construct. It represents not an exclusive body of individual motivations but a movement that reaches everyone who believes in human rights.

How can we bridge the gap between feminist rhetoric and everyday life? How can feminists illuminate the aspects of the movement that affect the ways in which we live our lives?

Feminism is a movement of action. The goal of feminism today is to stimulate men and women to transform the aims of equality into reality. This is not an ideological mission. The causes of feminism are about action; as students we can all become active participants. Choice, pay inequity, the recent passage of mifeprestone – the abortion drug – by the FDA and the legal battles over homosexual marriage are some of the issues pertinent to feminists today. Events both on campus and in the local community that promote change are the mechanisms by which young people can use their ideas and energies to fuel united action.

Feminism does not have a feminist checklist. Feminists embody the characteristics of free thought, openness to ideas and the desire to pool resources with all people willing to work for equality. Feminism represents an inclusive not exclusive assembly. The key to encompassing a wide range of interest is the resolution of the conflict many people sense between the abstract concepts of feminism and their personal emotions and ideas. A young woman who does not identify with her impression of the radical image of a feminist must not deny herself the opportunity to share her opinions and ideas with a group that is in fact more than willing to listen and learn. There is no dress code or behavior code for a feminist; the term feminist characterizes anyone who aspires to achieve equality and who believes in the power of the united fight for human rights.

What’s the solution for Jane and others seeking the balance between the persona of the radical feminist ideology and feminism’s role in the modern lifestyle? Get involved. Keep an eye out for campus and community events that pertain to important feminist issues and goals. If a group interests you, dive in and make yourself heard; but leave your preconceptions at the door. Be prepared to find a diverse group of people who may share nothing but the will to achieve equality. Move over Helen Reddy; a new group of activists is ready to roar.

-Kate Gubata
Brown Daily Herald (Brown U.)

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