Monday, April 9, 2012

What it means to be a feminist

Growing up in liberal, hippie Portland you find your fair share of hippies. And liberals. And feminists. When I thought of feminists, I had this image of a woman in a tie-die dress burning her bras down by the waterfront park in Portland. (probably because that kind of thing still happens in Portland)

But coming to BYU, I had a bit of culture shock. No one was a hippie liberal feminist. In fact, no one even voted for obama! (gasp)

So I kind of sunk into the crowd and closeted some of my ideas. I wasn't sure really even what my political or social beliefs were, so I took the classes and waited to find out what I believed in.

When I had signed up for Psychology of Gender and Women's Studies, I kind of rolled my eyes. After all, women are equal to men and there's just no reason for all of these crazy feminists to shove their bra-burning agendas down my throat, right?

Let me throw some stats your way:
 (all of these stats were taken from my psychology of Gender textbook):
- Women are still paid less than men for doing the exact same job. (on average, they're paid 79 cents on the dollar that men are paid) Even in women-domineered careers like nursing, men are still paid more. And the census shows that this hasn't gotten better since past years! (see image right)
- 26% of all women will be raped at some point in their life. and 56% of women are sexually assaulted in some way.
- In classrooms, boys receive more encouragement for speaking up and voicing their opinions than girls do.

The list goes on and on... and on.

Then I thought to myself, "well, yeah, but I mean, things are better compared to everywhere else." And you would think our own country would be better, right? Being such a great industrialized nation? wrong. The US falls way behind the rest of the world in several areas.
- The US provides the least amount of maternity time. (European countries give 6 months paid off, canada gives a year paid off!)
- The US has very few women in parliament in comparison to other countries in the UN. (see image to left)

So I came to a conclusion - there is still so much more that needs to be done before women are equal. And since Feminists seek for equality, I guess that made me a feminist.

But there's such a negative stigma associated with the word "feminist". I even asked Jeff one day:
A: "You'd consider yourself a feminist, right?"
J: "No."
A: "But you agree with me on pretty much everything! And you agree that there's a lot that needs to be done before women and men are equal, right?"
J: "Well... yeah."
A: "So that makes you a feminist, too."
J: "Yeah, I guess so. It's just that I don't like the word. I don't want to be associated with the stereotypical feminist."

I didn't really understand what Jeff meant. After all, I didn't really consider myself a bra-burning hippie. It's just that after learning everything I had learned, I couldn't ignore the facts.
But this past week I finally understood what Jeff meant. I've had a few people bully me for my beliefs. I'll quote what they had to say here:

"I just feel bad for you--that something happy... still gets tainted by feminist arguments. Finding the bad in everything isn't a very healthy practice."
"When you take such a strong stance like this on a matter post so frequently on it, despite how good and legitimate your arguments might be, anyone outside the bubble who doesn't care as much, starts invisioning you as a zealot." 
"Amber is a bit of a feminist like Hitler was a bit of a meaner."

I never meant to offend anyone, but apparently labeling myself as a feminist meant that other people could freely attack me. I never wanted to come off as a "zealot" or be compared to Hitler in any way. And I'll admit it, I cried. I thought about deleting my blog. I thought about never posting anything about women's rights or never posting anything about my opinions ever again. But what good would that do?

This is what I believe:
I'm a feminist... not because I think women should be exactly like men, but because women should have the same opportunities as men.
I'm a feminist because I think I should be able to have a career without being judged for not staying at home, just as much as other women should be able to be stay-at-home moms without being judged.
I'm a feminist for Madison, because by the time she turns 8, studies show that she'll likely already have a bad body image and have attempted dieting. she'll also have given up dreams of being president.
I'm a feminist for my future sons, because the media teaches that it's ok for men to be violent towards women, and that affects the men in my life.

Above all, I choose to focus on how the media affects all of society because studies show that this inequality isn't because of inherent sexism, but from learned portrayals of women in the media: 

I don't...
- burn bras.
- believe that the way to equality means that society should put men down.
- think that men and women are exactly alike. We are different, and we should celebrate those differences.

Lastly, if you disagree with me, that is fine. I don't know how you can argue with the facts, but you have the freedom to do so. Just don't leave a message or a post attacking me personally.

To quote my good friend Amanda, "misogynists gunna hate."
I thought this was funny.
And particularly appropriate considering the hitler comment. 

pssst... agree with me? there are others out there like me! 


  1. I love your blog! Thanks for always sharing your opinions!

  2. I love this amber! While I have a lot of "traditional" views I totally agree that there is a long way to go until women are treated more fairly. I also loved that you pointed out that in some respects men and women are different. I think it's sad how being a feminist gets a bad reputation, but maybe that's just the Seattle girl in me.

    Ps. WHYY are those people reading your blog if it bothers them so much..

  3. Love this! And I love that feminazi thing, hahaha. You are great! I'm so sorry you got your feelings hurt, but I'm glad to see that you're not going to let it get you down :)

  4. Amber. I LOVE this post! I wrote this research paper in my philosophy class last semester that was like exactly everything you just talked about. So I guess I'm a feminist too :) and I love it. You are an INCREDIBLE woman! and I love reading your blog. love Cara

  5. From the images you posted (I assume they were your textbook.), the stats they're pulling from are 4 years outdated. I've already discounted your stats before (not sure how you argue with stats...wait...yeah I do, cause you can make them say whatever you want).

    The majority of women ask for less money when getting a job.

    They ask for raises less, etc.

    Violence against women has less to do with women equality, and more to do with the fact that men are naturally more violent. Not saying it's good, just that it's genetics, not politics.

    And boys receiving more encouragement? That's because boys are less likely to ask for help in general. Yet again, genetics, not politics.

    I guess this is why I discredit feminism in general: because the majority of arguments I've seen made by them isn't the world of men being cruel and oppressing women--It's society as a whole (men and women included), going down through thousands of years of changing and not a lot has changed. Women still make fun of "less beautiful women" to make themselves feel better. Women still do horrible things to themselves to make themselves feel pretty (breaking ribs, elongating their necks, anorexia).

    So much of what you post about calling it feminism is just complaining about the way women are. Not about their equality alongside men, just the stereotype they've made for themselves.

    I agree with your first statement on what you believe. That the opportunities presented to men and women should be relatively the same. This will never happen because of genetics (I can never be pregnant, and feel the joy/pain of my child kicking inside me. And you don't pee standing up.), but it needs to be close.

    The second one, meh. Society is used to women being in the home. And being LDS, you know the Prophet pleads with women to be in the house with their family. So yeah, by strict LDS people who don't understand how to NOT judge, you're going to get judged. But since when do you care?

    Third one, no matter what you do, your girl is going to get made fun of in school (most likely by girls). This isn't a matter of feminism, this is a problem for girls and boys. This is a matter of being okay with who they are. Teaching them that it's okay to strive to be a certain way, or to look a certain way, as long as they are okay with who they are to begin with. Are you going to shun your daughter away from wanting a good workout schedule to look nice and feel better? Or your son (whenever you have one) from working out to be better at football?

    Fourth: Please show me where in normal television it teaches young men that it's okay to slap a female? Because last I checked, in public, if a guy hits a girl, he's generally the next one knocked out.

    Lastly, the media is ridiculous. Seriously, all the shows I watched as a child starred a huge guy with gargantuan muscles, did I get image issues from that? Nope. I got image issues from girls making fun of me and turning me down for dates in school. This video is someone blaming someone other then them-self for their problems with them-self. Like I said, teach your children to respect themselves for who they are, and they will respect others for who they are. Blaming the media is bogus.

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  7. Amber I thought you'd find this article about how women make the same amount of money as men interesting. It's from 2011 and much more recent than your textbook scans. Fox news you say? Nope. It's CBS.

  8. I think the biggest problem is that a lot of people hear "feminist" and think of a raving, mad woman who hates men. They don't understand/know that feminism has a much more nuanced meaning and that even within people who define themselves as feminists, they can take radically different stances on the same issue. I know several people like this, and I really wish there were different words to describe these nuanced stances because "feminist" can mean so many different things, and ultimately, it means nothing at all.

    As for people who argue that inequality and other social problems exist because "that's the way society is", does this mean we have to accept those problems? Feminism, at least in my beliefs and definition, means that I'm trying to improve the world and work from within society to create change and improvement. I'm not going to take a defeatist attitude and just accept things the way they are, because I know they don't have to be that way, and my life and others, would be much better from a positive social change.

    I echo other's sentiments that your blog is great and you are great for being so willing to share your opinion. I wish we would have had more time to hang out before we moved. We could have had lots of fun discussions! Maybe we can rectify that in the near future.

  9. Wonderful, wonderful post. Haters gonna hate. I wish I could say something more profound, but I have a massive headache. Just know there are others who are with you (me)! And I love you and you're awesome!!!

  10. I think I agree with you on pretty much everything. Feminists do get a bad rap, like a lot of groups(mormons, muslims, etc.), because of a few extremists. Your brand of feminism is just fine.

    I am a little confused with your comment about how the media teaches that it's ok for men to be violent towards women. If this is happening then it is very important to stop, but as far as I'm aware the media is very negative towards this. If you can show me an example I'll believe you, but I can't think of one.

  11. TK - your comment is super funny. Mainly because it shows your utter ignorance on the subject.

    Show me one peer-reviewed article that shows that the things you mentioned are GENETIC, and not a result of cultural pressure, and I'll take back everything I say.

    I mean, seriously? Women ASK to be paid less? No they don't. They may not dare ask for more. Of course, they don't, because over centuries they've been raised to shut up, and not speak their mind (because it's not proper for a lady to speak her mind).

    Anyway, everything you said was purely opinion, and I doubt you can back your statements with anything that'll remotely pass as scientific. If you could, what you said would look quite differently.

    In the meantime, I'll just try and laugh at your ignorance. Because if I don't it's too sad to think that someone who's apparently intelligent to use the internet, and type without major spelling mistakes cannot see the pressures put on women to see themselves as sexual objects for men, and to define their worth solely along those lines, so much so that they'll do the horrible things you've mentioned.

    It'd be too sad to think someone can be so ignorant to see those things, to see violence against women and just shrug it off as genetics. Nope...testosterone doesn't automatically make you violent. Sorry.

    Really. You should get off your high horse, and get your hands on a quality book on the issues, and learn a bit.

  12. TK, none of that is genetics, it's all socialization. How else could you explain aberrations in a mostly patriarchal world culture like matriarchal societies. Women are socially conditioned from birth to ask for less money at work because women are punished for being aggressive (mannish, dyke, etc.) while men are considered opportunity seekers and go-getters for the exact same behavior.

    Similarly, working conditions in the United States make it MUCH more difficult for a woman with children to attain the same position as a man. Women with children are highly undesirable to employers because of a culture that does not respect women or their inherent differences. The modern American workplace is designed for men to be successful and women are punished when they do not act that way.

    And violence against women is genetic? Let me guess, you think that if a woman dresses a certain way, she's asking to be raped?

    You are clearly ignorant on what's really going on and I'm actually curious as to why you are so eager to dismiss feminism when such clear evidence is out there. For example, teams or workers (engineering for example) are actually smarter when there are women working on them and yet, women are systematically excluded from areas of work like that because of social systems in place.

    What do you get from denying feminism? Feminism is better for everyone, even you.

  13. P.S. I think this link might shed some light on the media and violence against women link.

    If you want something totally current look into Miss Representation to learn more on the matter.

  14. Give us some time Amber. It wasn't that long ago that we practically owned you women like slaves (with benefits of course). If you want to look at the real perpetuator of misogyny look to the public school system. The same "boys are better than girls" attitude (and vice versa) is passed on from year-to-year unbroken. Somehow, someone, somegroup has to come up with a solution in the public education system. You can change you and yours, problem is everyone else and theirs. Keep up the good fight. ~One Concerned Dude

  15. JO,

    Honest question, and you're right, the media does not usually condone outright physical violence toward women.

    However, here's one example of how the media teaches men violence against women is okay. Think of all the movies/TV shows/music videos and ads where women are portrayed as playthings and sex objects, or assigned value solely based on looks. This mentality of seeing women as 'things' contributes to the rape culture in North America, where we conflate what a woman wears and her culpability in sexual violence.

    The media has a double standard - outright violence, bad. Subtle, send you mixed messages and purport women as objects not people? Not so bad.

  16. I think it's interesting that when we talk about the way women are feminist are so sure that it's all socialization and not genetics but when we talk about the way that gays are they're so sure that it's all genetics.

  17. Men and women are completely equally represented in society in every way. I don't get why you think otherwise. That's why there are as many women in the US House and Senate as men and as many women have been the President of the United States as men, and why as many women are CEO's of corporations as men, and why women own 50% of the land in the world and how come you hear about the women in the history of the country and the world as much as the men...

    Wait a minute... maybe there IS a reason for feminists after all?

    -Amber P

  18. I think the resistance that people feel when they're confronted with the notion that they believe in feminist ideas and might actually be a feminist is a result of, well, patriarchy to be blunt.

    Specifically though, the main problem is a lack of a current definition of what it means socially and politically to be a feminist. The stereotype that most people have in the US is a relic from the second wave feminist movement that advocated bra burning and the like. That simply isn't an accurate guide to perceiving feminism today (I know, I know, its shocking to think stereotypes aren't good guides but humor me. After all its much easier to just accept stereotype than critically think about something).

    The second major reason people feel an aversion to identifying as a feminist is because patriarchal society is quick to impose social sanctions on you if you do. People who ignorantly believe that men are naturally violent and rapey and women are timid and afraid about asking for raises because of their chromosomal content will show up almost instantly to belittle you and put you back in your "proper place". Not oddly enough, the vast majority of these kind of people tend to be, wait for it, male! When you say something about society is unfair, you will have the people that benefit from that disadvantage showing up to defend it. They won't even acknowledge their privilege for the most part. They'll say how terrible it is that you go looking for all this negative stuff to complain about without realizing that you don't have to go looking for it; its always slapping you in the face. They don't see that not everyone in the world gets to skip gayly through life.

    But on the other hand, there is a degree of worth in having people out themselves as misogynists voluntarily.

  19. TK, your comments show that you could do with researching the subject a little more.

    Anorexia is not just a "horrible thing women do to make themselves look better." It's a symptom of a larger psychological problem, and is classified by doctors as a disease.

    Society is not "used to women being at home." Not in the way we think of it now. For the vast majority of history, women have participated in labor and family business out of necessity. They worked in the fields and did many physical jobs. With the Industrial revolution, they went to factories. For a brief window in the 50's and 60's, the cultural and economic climate allowed many women to stay home and take care of the house all day without doing other stuff to earn money. Many of them were also on tranquilizers, uppers, or antidepressants to allow them to function under the pressure of constant housework and childcare and keeping up social appearances. I have the research and the actual medication ads to back that up.The truth is, that most families in the world can't afford to have the women stay home with their children, and never have. With the hard work of women and men who were willing to stick their necks out, women are no longer confined to teaching, factory, and secretarial positions. But they have always worked, rather than watching their kids and cleaning the house like people assume is the norm today.

    As for the idea that rape and domestic violence are purely the result of genetics, studying Anthropology (even at my conservative religious university) has taught me that we teach our children from birth how their gender is "naturally" supposed to behave. There is no gene that tells men that they have to rape women. There is no gene that makes them less able to control their sexual urges, or more likely to take their desire for control out on someone weaker. They are taught these things from birth. If someone believes something is natural, they are more inclined to do it. Also, e teach our boys that expressing emotion is inappropriate for a man. The only emotion that is culturally acceptable for a man to express is anger. But surely men have emotions, the same as women do. So we wonder why some turn out violent, when we give them few resources to cope healthily. There are a dozen reasons for violence from men other than genetics. Recent success with anti-rape campaigns targeted towards simply telling men that it's not okay to rape shows that. In one city, a simple poster hung at bars, with a woman in a short dress passed out face-down on a sofa, and the caption "don't be that guy", cut the city's rape rates by nearly 10% in just one year. It is mostly a cultural problem, not a genetic one.

  20. 1.Women ask for less money at hiring and ask for less raises. When single women start out in a job, they are paid at about 91% of a man’s rate. Other studies say there is little pay difference at all among these groups. But when she becomes a mother, she may not even get hired in the first place, and when she does, she’ll be offered less money. Negotiation doesn’t do much good when you can’t even land the job.
    2.Men are naturally more violent than women. I agree with you that men commit more crimes than women, but most experts attribute this to socialization. Girls are encouraged to share their emotions; boys to act out on theirs.
    3.Boys receive more encouragement at school and ask for it less. Actually, teachers tend to reinforce gender stereotypes about boys being better at math at girls, even though multiple studies have shown this to be completely untrue.
    4.Women make fun of other women and do horrible things to themselves. And why is that? Because girls are told from the day they are born that the way to happiness is finding a man and having babies. And how do they attract a man? By looking beautiful. And being beautiful is competitive. This idea is in just about every commercial, TV show, magazine ad, etc. The media create insecurity in women by insinuating that they’re not good enough—that they need to be skinnier or prettier and then the boys will like them. Boys themselves do not help this idea when they compare or rate girls based on their looks. Some girls and women buy the diet pill or the eye cream, and when it doesn’t work, they blame themselves.
    5.Both girls and boys get made fun of in school. Yes, they do. I won’t say that it’s easy to be a boy, either. But much of the teasing and bullying happens along gender lines—what the girl looks like, how many times the boy scored, if the girl is too nerdy, if the boy walks a little femmy. If we erased some of our preconceived gender-based stereotypes, maybe it would be easier to be a boy and to be a girl.
    6.“Normal” television shows don’t endorse violence against women. Not outright, maybe. It’s true, the sitcom guy who slaps the girl doesn’t get much respect on TV these days. But it isn’t just slapping that feminists are worried about. And it isn’t just happening on sitcoms, either. What about crime shows? News coverage? In most crime shows, the offender gets punished, but isn’t it at least possible that exposure to women getting raped and knifed and beaten desensitizes some men? Most aren’t going to watch CSI and then go out and murder their wives. But a small percentage might. Plus there are video games where women get raped and killed regularly. How about internet pornography? But no men ever watch that stuff, right? What about pornographic movies and magazines? Pornography teaches that women are objects, and that their job is to measure up to a man’s fantasy, no matter how perverse or violent.
    Also, I have an issue with the words “in public, if a guy hits a girl, he’s generally the next one knocked out.” First, in public, this behavior might be frowned on, but a lot of the violence against women, both in the media and in real life, happens behind closed doors. Most women who are raped know their rapists prior to the attack. Most violent crimes against women are domestic. It doesn’t really matter what happens in public when most of the violence occurs in private. And does getting knocked out mean that he’s punished for his violent actions? In a video game, a man gets extra points for taking out the women in his way. In real life, 54 percent of rapes are not reported to the police. 97 percent of rapists will never spend a day in jail. And you think that women are treated fairly?
    7.Men who see macho images of muscle-bound guys don’t develop body image issues. Actually, some do. But the problem is likely not as prevalent among men because there isn’t as much emphasis on looking good in our culture for men. They’re supposed to be men by hiding emotions and making lots of money.

  21. @Henry,

    After laughing at your pointless post, which brought nothing to the debate at all, I went and found some stuff for you to read. Which you could have done yourself, if you hadn't been so eager to try and sound smart, instead of showing who the ignorant one really was. Yay for ad hominems.

    I quote: "Researchers have found higher levels of testosterone in violent offenders (compared with non-violent criminals). This explains why male gender is one of the most important risk factors for violence."

    Not to discredit socialization as an aspect of it, but to bring to light that it STILL has something to do with the fact that they are men.

    And right you are, women don't literally ask for less money--"Hey can I get paid less?". But when asked for starting salary, they ask for less then most males do.

    Also, I disagree that you'll take back everything you say. You'll just discredit my information for some reason, and stick with acting like you know what you're talking about, and I don't. Because that's what trolls do.


    See above for your first couple or statements. As for your assumption: I believe the way anyone dresses says a lot about a person. I don't believe a girl ever dresses, "asking" to be raped. I believe girls who dress provocatively do it because they are either very proud of their body, asking for attention, or both.

    If I'm so clearly ignorant to what is going on, please tell me what I'm not seeing instead of just telling me evidence exists. Because last I checked, when you look up Men Engineering groups, you'll find 1 gag group on Facebook. On the other hand, when you look up Women Engineering Groups, you'll find numerous websites dedicated to them.

    What I get from denying feminism is legitimate arguments for feminism. By debating it, it weeds out non-issues, and highlights the ones that do matter.

    @Amber P (anonymous)
    So we should bend over and offer up government positions, job positions, and everything else, to make sure it's a perfect 50/50 split? We should probably go beat a ton of guys and rape them to even out those numbers too!

    Instead of posting pointless sarcasm, why don't give helpful suggestions?


    Please tell me where I benefit from male's tendency towards violence, or from women asking for less raises. As a married man with children, I wish the world was safer, and scared to death for any daughter I have. But I'll be teaching them how to use a handgun and pepper spray instead of pointing out statistics that say she has a 1/4 chance of getting raped. So I say again, tell me what privilege or advantage I gain!

    I find it interesting the assumptions that are made about people who disagree with feminist issues. By automatically assuming anyone who says something negative about feminism makes them some sort of misogynist, who doesn't have a care in the world, and believes a wife should be in the kitchen, you show arrogance. You want a slap in the face? How about getting turned down a job because they hadn't filled their female or minority quota.


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