This is a full version of my letter from the editor originally published and cut down due to spacing issues in the March 2017 issue of The Beacon. This is a response to a letter to the editor from a student who did not agree with our feminism in-depth spread.
As a Beacon editor and fellow student, thank you for your lively reply to our in-depth opinion article on feminism. However, there are a few errors in your response I need to point out.
You claimed the article should have remained unbiased in the face of such a controversial issue. However, the article was an “in-depth opinion,” and we labeled it so on the top-middle section of the page and in the table of contents. An opinion piece, by definition, carries a slant. Opinion articles should at least bring up the opposing side’s viewpoint, then follow it with a counterargument, which is how our writers conducted the structure of the piece. All information included in the article was true, albeit filtered with a clear stance on the issue which was appropriate for opinion writing style.
Your statement claiming we are a school-funded—and therefore government-funded—publication to argue why The Beacon should remain unbiased is also incorrect. The Beacon is in fact funded by the small businesses and organizations who buy advertisements from us, as well as the issues we sell monthly. We do not receive funding in any form from the school. This is also mentioned in our policy statement.
While the freedom of speech protects The Beacon’s writers as well as your opinion, it also protects mine. While the Latin definition of the word “fem” is, as you said, “feminine,” the term’s history, and therefore full meaning, carries a more complex connotation. Since this page doesn’t have enough space for me to describe the three waves of feminism and the changing goals of the feminist movement,* I will again repeat a variation of the official definition from reputable dictionaries: feminism recognizes the political, social and economic status of the sexes has yet to become equal. While women in the past made great strides in civil rights, we still have a long way to go to eliminate institutionalized sexism.
I don’t have to tell you women make up about half of the population. This is one thing we have equal ground on. However, you might not be aware of the state of political inequality of women, looking at representation in the United States. Out of 535 members of Congress, 104 are female, according to the Center for American Women and Politics. Only the most qualified individuals should hold office, of course. But when men and women legally have equal opportunities to be elected into office, we have to look to social factors to understand why women’s representation in Congress is half of what it should be.
Gender defines how parents should raise their children the moment they are born, and not just by choosing pink or blue paint for their bedroom wall. Girls are traditionally praised for being quiet, demure, pretty; boys are exalted for strength. They are expected to roughhouse and experiment but above all exhibit dominance, often in the form of aggression. While nothing seems inherently wrong with this parenting style, it assigns both genders respective advantages and disadvantages to navigate into adulthood. While some of these double standards do benefit women, most of them support men in a way which creates disproportionate demographics in the workforce—in particular the political, math and science fields, which encourages traditionally male traits and are still comprised of mostly men. Women with aspirations in these fields have a different set of obstacles to contend with than men, often with no clear outline available on how to combat them. While it is still possible for women to succeed in these fields, it puts them at a direct disadvantage.
The point of “feminism” is for women to obtain the same social privileges men receive the moment they are born—not to be dominant over men, but to reach the same standards and expectations men are automatically granted. Bridging this gap also includes defying negative male stereotypes. “Equalism” debases the platform and meaning already built around feminism, and counteracts the focus on the need for women specifically to achieve equality.
In a perfect world, we would all be “equalists” as you say—but from what I can gather from your letter, you believe men and women are perfectly equal already and do not realize how this term debases the women and men who worked toward gender equality for over a century. The point of the article was to create a dialogue around a topic which is a major point of contention, and you opened up this conversation. The Beacon welcomes people of action like you to join in on discussions on a public platform.
Thank you again for your response, and I hope you and readers like you are further encouraged to create a dialogue about issues of contention like gender. Only then will injustices and evidence of progress be brought to light.
*A rundown of the changing goals of the feminist movement in the United States: the right to vote with the 19th Amendment, discrimination in the workplace, Equal Rights Amendment, Roe v. Wade, to the present: intersectional feminism, which incorporates all factors of inequality like race, socioeconomic status, sexual identity, etc. into the present inequality of the sexes; fighting female genital mutilation at home and abroad; addressing rape culture (which also applies to men but is often overlooked) and general violence against women; LGBTQ+ rights; challenges of people of color who identify as women; women’s health issues; unrealistic expectations for both men and women in society…
Feminism is too complex to summarize in one blog post. Not all feminists or even all women agree on all issues (linked here (Gloria Steinem) and here (Beyonce and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s somewhat conflicting viewpoints on feminism) are women of influence who seem to identify with the traditionally left-leaning feminist movement, linked here (Miss USA 2017 preferring to call herself an equalist), here (Phyllis Schlafly), here (Tomi Lahren) are examples of women of influence who distanced themselves from the word feminism, and linked here is the late Frida Kahlo, a Mexican artist also revered as an unapologetic feminist icon, although an unorthodox one). Educate yourself to see where you stand, whether or not you intend to join the conversation.