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Opinion

Guest Column: Feminism discussion needs clearer definitions

Time to bring some clarity to the recent debates over women's rights movements

There’s a bit of a misrepresentation and misunderstanding surrounding the opinion of students at this University in regards to the topic of feminism. As the feminist that I am, I wish to enlighten not only the author of the editorial entitled “I Am Not a Feminist,” but also many other misinformed students.

As any typical college student doing web research would do, I’m going to quote my favorite free information-providing website: Wikipedia.

“Feminism is a collection of movements and ideologies aimed at defining, establishing, and defending equal political, economic, and social rights for women. This includes seeking to establish equal opportunities for women in education and employment. A feminist advocates or supports the rights and equality of women.”

Wait. That can’t be right. It didn’t say anything about bra-burning, man-hating or establishing dominance as the stronger sex!

Maybe that’s because … that’s not what feminism is. Or about. Maybe it’s encompassed those attitudes at times, but that’s neither the mindset of every feminist nor the ideals of the group as a whole, especially within a movement that is always changing. The reason why this belief in gender equality is called feminism is because, for the most part in our society, women are more downtrodden socially, politically and economically. The ideology takes the name of the group being oppressed, although does not, anywhere, claim that men have it entirely easy.

Maybe “oppressed” isn’t the right word either. Women can vote, we can drive, we are technically free to wear whatever we want and speak our mind. We are free to go to college and work hard to land the jobs that we have pursued. However, as of September 2013, white women, in America, the wealthiest demographic, only make about 76 cents for every dollar men make. This is for myriad reasons, one of which being that women don’t feel that they can land higher jobs that have historically been reserved for men, and therefore, might not try.

These numbers are based on income averages, and we must take into account that some women work less due to parenting. However, more fathers are taking time off to stay at home with their kids, but they are still made fun of and criticized for performing a job that isn’t “manly.” Men, in feminism, are being given more rights, too — the right to go grocery shopping, to participate in women’s studies classes and clubs and to not go to the gym. The right to express themselves in a way that they believe suits them — just as women do.

As of now, we still haven’t had a female president or vice president — maybe because she wasn’t the proper person for the job, or maybe because a large portion of the country thinks that a woman will decide to go to war once a month when she gets emotional. Feminism believes that a woman should land a job based on her qualifications.

To address the social aspect of feminism’s definition, we must look directly back at some claims and examples that were made in the recent article. Just because sexual assault and rape are not commonly reported occurrences in Binghamton does not mean that this country does not have a problem. 89,000 people reported rape in the U.S. this year, and on average, 60 percent of rapes go unreported. On the list of the countries with the highest amount of rape, the U.S. is listed, while India is not. In too many countries, being gang-raped and murdered happens repeatedly and constantly. Women are accused by safety professionals that their clothes or lack thereof are the reasons they were raped.

In the past, we have not been taught to feel good about our bodies. Dove and Aerie, as mentioned, have made their campaigns because of the increasing strength of the feminist movement. If women had always been praised for being whoever they were, in terms of clothing, body type and makeup, the unique progressiveness of these campaigns wouldn’t need to be acknowledged.

We’re getting there, and being able to state your mind is a great start — but first, it is important to understand the implications and definitions of your beliefs. You’re a feminist if you believe in equality for both men and women, and that’s why more of you are feminists than you think.

Naomi Barnett is a sophomore double-majoring in English and marketing.

 Editor’s Note:

Columnist Anita Raychawdhuri’s original piece is here.

Opinion Columnist Julianne Cuba’s response is here

Views expressed in the opinion pages represent the opinions of the columnists.