In a review of The Fire This Time: Young Activists and the New Feminism edited by Vivien Labaton and Dawn Lundy Martin, Jennifer L. Pozner discusses the misconception that feminism is dead and buried. Like Mark Twain and his quip that “reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated,” feminism has had to fight off the vultures for years who mistake it for roadkill. Estelle B. Freedman, in her book of essays, Feminism, Sexuality and Politics, declares the opposite: “…contrary to the views of contemporary pundits, feminism has never been more widespread or more politically influential than at this point in history.”
I sometimes wonder if people just wish feminism was dead, so they don’t have to deal with the issues it raises, both personal and political. What they don’t realize is that feminism has existed in some form for thousands of years. It is not a static belief system. It evolves with the societies it wishes to reform, because it responds to the things that need to be reformed. First Wave feminism is criticized for limiting its raison d’etre to suffrage, Second Wave feminists are considered to be hopelessly out-of-touch with modern women and Third Wave feminists just want to be taken seriously as they search for whatever it is they are fighting for. Just because the issues have changed doesn’t mean that feminism is dead.
I found an article from October, 2008, on the Muslim Media Network that states that “the hypocritical concern for Muslim women by Western media and organizations results in actions designed to destroy the patriarchal Asian culture in general and Muslim religious influence in particular.”
So what is it that Westerners are so concerned about? Honor killings and acid attacks. The author of this article argues that because there are so few of these incidents compared to the amount of violence against women in the West, it isn’t fair to judge them similarly. (The statistics he cites are that “America has 12,600 annual homicides [25% occur to women] for a rate of 4.2/100,000 compared to the 4,100 honor killings in four years which is 1,025 times per year in a nation of 165 million people. That is a rate of 0.6 per 100,000.”)
Violence against women is–or should be–a concern in whatever form or however often it occurs. I find it incredible that the author of this article doesn’t see how particularly heinous honor killings and acid attacks are. I do think it’s hypocritical of the West to decry these incidents as particularly egregious when we have so much violence against women in our own culture.On the other hand, just because honor killings and acid attacks occur infrequently doesn’t mean that they should be tolerated.
Honor killings are the worst example of a patriarchal society gone awry. The fact that the man in the equation goes unpunished is bad enough (the double standard), but putting a woman to death because of her sexual activity (even if it’s forced upon her) shows to what degree men will go to keep their women under control. No man should have that kind of power over a woman.
An episode of Bill Maher’s Politically Incorrect, topic: Feminism. Guests include Michael Moore, actress Yancy Butler, Sandra Bernhard and Christina Hoff Sommers. Entertaining…and makes you think a little.
There are at least seven states that do not protect a woman’s right to breastfeed in public and only 28 states have exempted breastfeeding mothers from public indecency laws. (See how your state stacks up here.) On the other hand, the Momformation blog on Baby Centerreports that Rhode Island’s recent legislation not only protects a woman’s right to breastfeed in public but permits a woman to allege a violation of her civil rights if she is prevented from doing so.
But all the laws in the world won’t protect women from society’s disapproval. Many, if not most, women are still made to feel that it is not proper to breastfeed in public unless it is done discreetly (meaning, absolutely no breast exposure). Some people get upset if they can hear the baby slurping under the covering. In 2005, Barbara Walters remarked on her talk show The View that she felt uncomfortable sitting next to a breastfeeding mother during a flight. In 2006, a young mother was kicked off a Freedom Airlines (irony, anyone?) flight for refusing a blanket to cover herself while she was breastfeeding. (Story here.) Another woman was asked to leave an Applebee’s restaurant because others complained about her breastfeeding. She actually handed the manager a copy of the Kentucky law which allows mothers to breastfeed in public, but he kicked her out anyway. (Read the mother’s account here.)
A study of 4,294 network television commercials revealed that 1 out of every 3.8 commercials send some sort of attractiveness message, telling viewers what is or is not attractive (as cited in Myers et al., 1992). These researchers estimate that the average adolescent sees over 5,260 attractiveness messages per year. Source
I like this advice for building a better body image: Kill your inner supermodel!
More from Our Bodies, Ourselves: For women. life can often seem like a beauty pageant…Being born female automatically makes us contestants, whether we like it our not.