Saturday, March 26, 2011

Oh, A Change is Gonna Come

Exploring the general public’s attitudes toward feminism and gender relations exposes opinions as diverse as the people themselves. This is the premise of Pamela Aronson’s (2009) research into how young women, specifically, “identify themselves with respect to feminism, and how [we can] make sense of their seemingly contradictory perspectives” (Aronson, 2009, p. 572). Looking back into my own Women’s Studies journey this semester, I recall my first critical response essay in regards to the questions posed by Aronson (2009). Ramsey (2010) shares, “white privilege is a concept I witness in black and white photos coming alive on my history book pages, not a matter of substantiating my success in life” (Ramsey, 2010, p. 2). Additionally, the sentiment of the essay is this:
Ignoring questions to our society of intent and motives, and looking only at failures as the proof of a problem, seems to fill-up the scorecard of the disadvantaged. But the application of an even greater principle of mankind, that of tolerance and understanding, would lighten the weight we all carry watching society eek its way to equality.
I would rather be a cheerleader for progressive changes in attitudes toward minorities in race, gender, and religion, while focusing on the vast accomplishments we, as a people, have made. I am not the feminist of the 1980’s. In fact, I do not know what I am – but I know how I feel. Perhaps my sentiment could be relayed best in the words of Stills (1969) “Remember what we've said and done and felt / About each other / Oh babe, have mercy / Don't let the past remind us of what we are not now / I am not dreaming.” (p.3)
I walked into the doors of Women’s Studies a member of the group Aronson (2009) defined as “’I’m Not a Feminist, but . . .” Her research reported “nineteen percent of the interviewees distanced themselves from feminism while endorsing many of the principles of feminist ideology” (Aronson, 2009, p. 578). And I can certainly relate.
Aronson (2009) also explores the possible explanations for such varied views by researching young women’s definitions of feminism. As the title of her work suggests, Feminists or “Postfeminists”? gathers definitive assumptions on feminism, postfeminism, third wave feminism as well as second wave feminism. The separation of beliefs and feminist groups is not a new occurrence.
This is evidenced as Jenny Coleman (2009) states:
From the time feminist theories began to be formalized in an academic context, tensions and contradictions emerged as a plurality of perspectives was developed. As their names denote, liberal feminism, Marxist feminism, socialist feminism, psychoanalytic feminism and the like were feminist adaptations of traditional accepted bodies of theory” (p. 4).
The author goes on to suggest “As in the case of first and second wave feminisms, third wave feminism is not a uniform perspective” (Coleman, 2009, p. 9). The point, I believe, is to focus our rallied efforts toward affecting those social issues which are most detrimental to us all. I believe Cathryn Bailey (2002) sums up the focus of today’s feminism precisely:
We cannot assess the meaning of younger women’s actions and attitudes without recognizing that the backdrop against which their actions are performed is, in many cases, significantly different. (Bailey, 2002, p. 145)
This is right on the money with a modern global feminist perspective, opinions and research in the field of women’s studies. We are now realizing the vast array of life experiences for women in today’s world, and adjusting our theories to encompass broader views. And I think this movement is just in time for a girl like me to finally catch a wave. Though I may not yet know where my feminist, or non-feminist, allegiances lay, I am here, I am learning, and I expect to experience social change. Aronson (2009) concludes with my thoughts exactly, “Most important, whether or not young women call themselves feminists, they support feminist goals. In fact, the young women I interviewed were more supportive of feminism than had been found in past research” (p. 580). Oh, a change is gonna come.
Aronson, P. (2009). Feminists or “Postfeminists”? Young Women’s Attitudes Toward Feminism and Gender Relations. In V. Taylor, N. Whittier & L. Rupp (Eds.) Feminist Frontiers (pp.389-399). New York, NY: McGraw Hill, p. 572-582.
Bailey, C. (2002). Unpacking the mother/daughter baggage. Women's Studies Quarterly, 30 (3/4): 138-154.
Coleman, J. (2009). An introduction to feminisms in a postfeminist age. Women’s Studies Journal, 23 (2): 3-13.
Ramsey, C. (2010). I am Not Dreaming. (Unpublished undergraduate essay). Florida State University, Tallahassee, Florida.

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