All Articles Tagged "womanism"
With so many women declaring that exposing their bodies and casual sex are acts of liberation, a battle cry of sorts for women who want to push back against the tyranny against the female body, I wonder what message we truly want to send to young women and girls? Somehow, in today’s culture, exposing ourselves physically has become synonymous with taking the control back of our bodies, redefining “sexy” and what agency entails. I can’t help but scratch my head in confusion. If feminism and womanism are about the fair treatment of women and recapturing the ability to be and define ourselves for ourselves, how has expressing control of our images and our bodies become so one-dimensional? Why isn’t the pointed choice to cover one’s body seen as equally empowering?
I modeled many years ago in college. I felt ugly and awkward back then, but I fought past all of that to don skimpy clothes and stand in front of a camera in a desperate attempt to feel beautiful. When I posted those photos to my social media accounts (back then it was Myspace and BlackPlanet), the attention I received from the opposite sex was intoxicating. It validated me. It made me feel anything but ugly or awkward.
I didn’t stick with modeling for long, so when I finally had an opportunity to pick the hobby back up this year, I was jazzed, but for brand new reasons. I could finally carve out time to work with an especially creative friend and come up with fun and creative concepts, angles, backgrounds and more, in order to create great photographs and great artwork. The difference between modeling for me then and now is that I shoot without baring much (if any) skin. It was a subconscious decision as I have become increasingly aware of the fact that I can feel attractive, s*xy and good about myself on my own terms. I’m not comfortable baring too much skin. I have never been. Instead of trying to fight that, I embraced it. The decision to dress to my own liking and not bare it all struck me as valuable in a brand new way.
My younger cousins, some of my students, and my mentees have seen the photographs. In a world that is pretty much completely driven by sex and money, simply seeing a photograph of a woman they know who is fully dressed but is still “attractive” has given them a new view of what it means to be s*xy and how they want to define it for themselves. Some of my students who’ve only ever thought of themselves as attractive when they were baring as much skin as possible are now rethinking and asking themselves what they like about who they are and how do they really want to dress? That was a revelation for me.
It’s not healthy to equate a woman’s control of her body with nudity and sexual suggestiveness, especially not for girls and young women who are still exploring themselves physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. What narrow trajectory does that line of thinking offer them? Instead, I would argue that the power is in having the option. The power, the control, and the appeal is in the ability to say, “This is what everyone else thinks and feels, but this over here is what I think, feel and believe and THIS is how I choose to define myself.” Whatever the decision chosen is, it is well-informed and it is your own. It’s easy to go along with popular trends because a favorite actress or singer has suddenly made this or that “cool.” We’re not taught to question the groupthink of pop culture. We’re taught to give in to societal demands and fall in line with ideology that does not serve our higher selves.
Are nudity and sex horrible things? Absolutely not, but they certainly aren’t the end-all, be-all of all things s*xy and attractive. And they certainly aren’t what girls and young women should be seeing exclusively as womanhood. Knowing that we have the right to step into our own beauty in whatever way we choose is where our power lies as women and as human beings. Fearing that we somehow score within the lowest beauty percentile if we choose not to expose our bodies is just as damaging as trying to force virtue through never discussing the body and sex. Our power, as 21st century women, is not in succumbing to sexist stereotypes and reclaiming them as our “liberation.” Our power is in realizing our intelligence to think outside of anyone’s boxes and choosing the option that best elevates us individually, and those who will come after us.
La Truly is a writer, higher education professional, and young women’s empowerment enthusiast. She mixes her interest in social and cultural issues with her life experiences to encourage thought, discussion and positive change among young Women of Color. Follow her on Twitter: @ashleylatruly and check out her site: www.ashleyjh.com.
Dear women nationwide,
The “F-word” and its effect on society is staggering. We live in a society where for the attention of patriarchal men, some women abandon or vehemently berate other women who claim to be feminists. We often shun even the more positive aspects of feminism, hoping that our adamant denouncements will keep us from being associated with those ‘bad seeds.’ Some of us trade our opportunities to champion one of the most oppressed groups on the planet for the prospect of a date.
To some men, we may win points for going along with the patriarchal program, but at the end of the day, is it worth it to turn our backs on or even mock and attack those who are tackling the very specific issues that affect us, our mothers, our sisters and our daughters?
I have found myself straddling the fence of feminism. I haven’t been a fan of everything happening within the movement, but I believe in the basis of its existence. I found myself at odds fairly often with male friends who just couldn’t understand how unequivocally ignorant, patriarchal and categorically untrue it is to tell a woman that her attire is the reason for her rape, and I have been called bitter when simply speaking in favor of women who choose to live for their own happiness and are not constantly vying for the attention of men. I knew two years ago when I decided to learn about and become part of the feminist movement, that I would be met with the same side eyes and eye rolls that I once gave to most talk of feminism before I was educated about the topic. I knew that I would have a lot of explaining to do, seeing as ‘feminist’ has such a wide spectrum of meanings in 2014. I knew that there would be men who would dismiss my concerns about rape and mindless subscription to gender roles and my issues with the word ‘submissive.’ I could prepare myself for those things, even if only slightly as I picked up the feminist/womanist banner. What I had no way of preparing for was the vehement and disappointing slap in the face I received from many women who, day after day, deal with oppression because of their gender – just like the rest of us. I had no way of preparing for women slandering other women in an attempt to seem more pleasing to men – the dominant party in this case.
Make no mistake, there is room to disagree. I disagree often with the approaches and practices of some feminists. What I don’t do is try to remove myself from the ‘F-word’ or bash those with whom I disagree.
Just as ‘proximity to whiteness’ is a poor lens through which to view the trajectory of people of color, so is ‘proximity to patriarchy’ for women. These two ways of thinking do more to divide and contribute to misunderstanding among us than they do to help us find common ground and progression. There is room to have our individual views of relationships, gender roles, marriage and more without tearing down one another. As women, we do not have to conform when it comes to our views to gain the ‘respect’ and attention of men. Why should we settle for dismissing our rights?
There is a marked difference between disagreeing with a point-of-view and pretending to disagree with said point-of-view for the attention of a third party. There is honor in disagreeing but choosing to engage in progressive discussion. Women could stand to learn this lesson well. There is nothing to be gained by vying for the attention of men who may or may not even want us once we’ve bloodied one another.
There is a deep need for us to look at ourselves, and the way we interact with one another. Are we kind? Do we engage to understand or do we simply close our ears and wait our turn to devour one another in argument?
We are not inherently catty and conniving. Many of us have succumbed to that behavior because of societal pressures surrounding relationships. The greatest thing we can do is to unite and to engage in dialogue with other women with whom we may not readily agree and attempt to learn from one another; to understand that to wholly love oneself as well as the fullness of womanhood and to believe in the fair treatment of our sex is not profane, nor should it be forbidden. It should be taught, discussed, embraced and endorsed. Let us be moved by what is going to uplift us as women. The men worth your attention will follow suit.
Follow La on Twitter: @ashleylatruly
A recent campaign on Facebook called, Who Needs Feminism? has sparked some controversy all over the web. Originally started by 16 women who attend Duke University, they created this campaign to combat the negative images that resonate with people when they hear the world feminism:
“Identify yourself as a feminist today and many people will immediately assume you are man-hating, bra-burning, whiny liberal. Perhaps a certain charming radio talk show host will label you as a “Feminazi” or “S**t.” Even among more moderate crowds, feminism is still seen as too radical, too uncomfortable, or simply unnecessary. Feminism is both misunderstood and denigrated regularly on a broad societal scale.”
Inspired by a Women in the Public Sphere course at Duke University, these 16 young women have decided to fight back and teach people what they believe it truly means to be a feminist. The idea that many people believe we don’t need feminism anymore is frightening. Women are still degraded and objectified in the media, women are still not given equal pay even though many exceed most men in education, women are still being told what they can and can’t do with their own bodies. Simply put, we’re still getting the short end of the stick.
What I really like about this campaign is that it allows women and men who are usually not the face of feminism to have a voice. Middle class white woman have always been the main vehicle for feminism, which has somewhat excluded women of color, queer identified people, and transgender people. I also like that men are entering into the conversation, because feminism isn’t about the equality of just women, but men too.
Even now, when you ask people what they think a feminist is, they will most likely think of some radical white woman who doesn’t shave and hates all men. When in actuality, people like me, a 21-year old black female in college, identifies as a feminist/womanist.
As great as feminism is, why do women of color have to create another movement to gain recognition? Why is it that in 2012, we still have to question this? As a young black feminist, I sometimes find myself outside of the conversation. I attend the meetings of my college’s feminism group and the lack of faces that look like mine is staggering. Many women of color either feel feminism isn’t for them and/or feel that the issues that pertain to them don’t get addressed, so they wonder why they need to get involved.
It’s nice to see college students take the initiative to tackle an important issue, I just hope in the future that more young black women will feel confident enough to call themselves feminists.
Do you believe we still need feminism? Does feminism play a part in your life?
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You could probably be married by now.
Or have a boyfriend.
Instead, you are complaining about no-good men, working your life away and nursing an affinity for self-pleasure.
Correction: misguided feminism.
Professionally, feminism has done wonders creating opportunities for women to flourish in the workplace. Many of us are entrepreneurs or climbing the ranks at a Fortune 500 company, inching closer to equal pay. Socially, we have gained complete control over our bodies. Thanks to birth control, sex doesn’t guarantee nine months standing barefoot and pregnant. We have the option of planning for motherhood and limiting family size.
Though it has been a source for economic trajectory and independence, feminism has also taken a toll on our love lives. A surge of scorned baby-mamas, bitter divorcées and those plagued by daddy-issues propagate singlism and wear their “mule” title as a badge of honor.
Much of the abrasiveness, attitude and other testosterone-driven antics that run good men away are products of feminism gone wrong. And, it is to blame for many of the single, black female’s woes. Here’s how:
The blogosphere has introduced many folks to self-proclaimed feminists, perhaps for the first time. However, to truly understand the concepts of feminism and womanism and why these passionate and outspoken men and women attach these titles to themselves, we advise that your hit your local library, bookstore (or e-book store) for some research. Here are five great books to get you started: