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What is feminism? How does it manifest in your life?

 

INTRODUCTION: We all learn the meaning of feminism from a young age.  At first it is a simple and substance-less definition but after years of experience one can truly cultivate a meaningful definition.  As a young girl feminism for me was “girl power.” But as I grew it meant something much more complicated, contradictory, complex, and inspiring.

WHAT IS FEMINISM? Merriam-Webster defines feminism as the “theory of the political, economic and social equality of the sexes” and “organized activities on behalf of women’s rights and interests.” For more information on the types of feminism and how to figure out which type you fall under see Michelle Friedman’s article “What is Feminism? And What Kind of Feminist am I?” in the Agenda: Empowering Women for Gender Equity Journal 

MY PROJECT: The goal of my project is to create a portfolio of diverse definitions of feminism by asking my interviewees “What is feminism?” and “What does it mean to you?” By comparing and contrasting these responses I hope to see what feminism means to my community in a larger sense. I hope that the viewers gain a deeper sense of feminism and understand it on a more personal level rather than just based on a definition after seeing these peoples quotes and picture.  With this new knowledge I hope that people will engage in the current wave of feminism, whether that be listening to feminist voices, attending feminist events, or merely having an empathetic perspective.

 

Do you consider yourself a feminist?

Yes
No
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Do you know someone that is a feminist?

I have a close friend that is a feminist
I have a family member that is a feminist
I do not have a close relationship with someone who is a feminist
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FEMINISM IN MY COMMUNITY: Below are responses to the questions What is feminism? and How does it manifest in your life? These are all members of my school community (students unless labeled otherwise) who shared with me their unrehearsed opinions. While you may not agree with everything that they say I urge you to read through their responses and try to gain an understanding of the diversity that encompasses feminism.

DAVID QUEZADA – “I don’t identify as a feminist, although I do believe that men should be equal to women, because I believe that a lot people in the feminist movement are wrong about a lot of things.  A lot of times I think feminists misinterpret what true equality looks like. For example, I don’t think the wage gap is as big of a problem[…] because while men may make more money over a lifetime than women […] it just means that often women are choosing different jobs or because women want to become mothers.” 

RACHEL PERKINS – “I have been to a couple women’s marches and I have watched a lot of videos of empowering women and going to school here feminism is everywhere. I consider a lot of my classmates and teachers empowering women who know what they want and go after it, and they don’t let society’s ridiculous gender norms decide what they do.  They kind of go to the beat of their own drum, and that has empowered me to go my own way”

SILAS STEWART – “Feminism is the belief that women are equal to men in every facet of human life. I totally believe in gender equality but I think sometimes feminism, especially here, is taken out of context. I think it is hard to be a man at Menlo because there is such a great presence of feminism, which is good, there should be equality, but sometimes there a bias against white men. Everyone should be equal, there should be no bias”

ELECTA NARASIN – “Feminism is often seen as women thinking they are better than men, and I have a hard time telling people I am a feminist because of that negative viewpoint. But when I say I am a feminist I mean I want women to be equal to men in every way. I don’t think that is taken seriously because people see raging feminists in the media who may hate men or want women to be higher than men, and I don’t think that is the only form of feminism.”

RYAN THOMPSON – “From watching the news, feminism seems like a movement to support women in achieving positions and pay equal to men and also the same level of respect to men in society.”

ERIN BRIGHAM (7th grade history teacher): “Feminism to me is no obstacle to what I want to achieve because of my gender, it’s not being fearful, which I think can happen to women because your kind of taught to be fearful of certain endeavors because they are male dominated. So for me feminism is freedom from that fear.”

 

JULIA FRY – “I do consider myself a feminist. I personally have not been super active in marches or clubs on campus.  All of my friends would consider themselves feminists and my family too. But I definitely think it’s still possible to be a feminist and not be super active or outspoken about it.”

BEA HODAVDEKAR (counselor) – “Feminism is the idea that there are equal rights for both genders. I am really lucky to work in education because I think here it is easier to feel as though your contributions and work matter just as much as your male colleagues. Talking with friends who work in tech or business, they face a little bit more sexism.  I am not super expressive in my views because as a counselor I have to be mindful that I am working with so many different points of views, so I want to be neutral for the most part and try not to impart my views on them.”

 

Did you learn something new about feminism

Yes!
I have heard this all before

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PHOTO COLLAGE: After doing research and interviews in my community I gained inspiration on what it means to be a feminist in my society. I looked around my school for objects and people that represented feminism and took photos of it to capture how feminism shows up at my school.  In this photo collage you can see an original gold suffrage poster which hung in my 7th grade history room because my teacher admired the suffragettes and wanted to share their legacy with us at a young age. My teacher also marched for the ERA and her photo was taken and put in the local newspaper and the newspaper shot is included in the collection.  There is also a computer cover because many people my age express themselves with stickers on computers. One girl’s computer had lots of inspiring stickers on it that shared her feminist ideology. There are also clothes with feminist phrases on them that an expressive feminist at my school wears.  She buys these clothes but also makes her own clothes (the jeans were made by her).  In the collection there is also a photo collage of women writers which I found hanging in my library which represents how my school supports women’s success and reminds us of it in subtle but impactful ways.

POEM: After creating my photo collage and interviewing people across campus I wanted to represent feminism in a poem that reflected it impact on me. Below is my original poem.

You Can Do Anything

By Eva Herr

 

When I was a girl my dad would pull me close

and between cuddles and covers and kisses he would whisper

“You can do anything in the world”

And I giggled and nodded

 

As I grew, my idea of feminism did too

When I was young, feminism was bright pink

It was simple and beautiful

It was holding hands with my best friend on the playground

It was playing sports with the boys

It was wearing what I wanted without a thought

I never had to fight for anything

 

And then one day I saw a clenched fist sticker

Beaten and worn it was stamped in the center of a girls computer

Untouchable

 

So feminism morphed into a shape of diversity

Its angles more complex than the one dimension it was before

 

Feminism is the proud glimmer of gold that shines from suffrage posters

They hang as a reminder of all they fought for in my 7th grade history room

It is the stories my teacher tells of marching for the ERA

Tales documented with an aged photo of her in the newspaper

It is a cotton tampon to a girl in Tanzania

Her own body the one thing standing in her way of an education

It is Maybelle Blair, the former professional baseball player

Whose voice is hidden in history

But whose game inspired many young girls to gravitate towards a ball

It is the girl who holds her friend close and says “It’s not your fault”

Feminism is the crowd of pink hats who refuse to let their rights be ignored, who won’t be forgotten, who never get tired of standing up

 

Now when my dad says

“You can do anything in the world”

I believe every word.

CALL TO ACTION: I urge you to accept the multiple definitions of feminism and try to interact with the diverse group of feminists.  Especially now, there is a new wave of feminism, so it is our duty to understand the history of feminism and accept a fluid and ever-changing concept of feminism.  To many people feminism means something different, so let’s keep an open mind when learning about and interacting with feminists. I encourage everyone to pay attention to the news and the recent feminist movements such as the worldwide Women’s March and the #metoo movements.  Please leave a comment below detailing your definition of feminism!

 

SOURCES:

Criss, Doug. “Merriam-Webster’s word of the year for 2017 is ‘feminism.’” CNN, 12 Dec. 2017. CNN, www.cnn.com/2017/12/12/world/feminism-merriam-webster-year-trnd/index.html. Accessed 23 Mar. 2018.

“Feminism in the Renaissance.” Daily Life through History. ABC-Clio, dailylife-abc-clio-com.menloschool.idm.oclc.org/Search/Display/1541704?terms=what+is+feminism&sType=multi. Accessed 23 Mar. 2018.

Friedman, Michelle, et al. “What is Feminism? And What Kind of Feminist am I?” Agenda: Empowering Women for Gender Equity, vol. 1, 1987, pp. 3-24. JSTOR, www.jstor.org.menloschool.idm.oclc.org. Accessed 22 Mar. 2018.

“Plastic Surgery.” ABC- Clio. ABC-CLIO eBook Collection, dailylife-abc-clio-com.menloschool.idm.oclc.org/Search/Display/1442000?terms=what+is+feminism&sType=multi.
The Women’s March on Washington was one of hundreds of protests organized around the world on January 21, 2017 to stand for women’s rights. Vendini,

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COMMENTS: 11
  1. April 27, 2018 by Greer.Harnden Reply

    Amazing project, but especially beautiful poem Eva! Thank you for starting this conversation!

    • April 30, 2018 by Eva.Herr Reply

      Thank you Greer!

  2. April 27, 2018 by Jason.Haas Reply

    Good project, but why is this under the Head-Royce school category?

  3. April 27, 2018 by Sara.Hewitt Reply

    Hi, Eva! This project is absolutely amazing. Your poem is so inspiring (one of my all-time favorites!). I love how you incorporated history and global feminist issues, and the last stanza is incredibly powerful.

    My definition of feminism: The belief in, and the tireless fight for, equality between people of all genders (no matter their race, religion, sex, sexuality, class, or ability).

    • May 01, 2018 by Eva.Herr Reply

      Thank you for your definition! I think that your specific definition is interesting because some people believe that feminists have to actively preach or fight for women’s rights, rather than just believe it. Do you think that feminism means you must be active?

      • May 01, 2018 by Sara.Hewitt Reply

        I do believe that to be a feminist one must be active, but I absolutely believe that the definition of “active” is extremely variable for each person. One feminist’s activism could be entirely internal –– just focusing on changing their subconscious biases –– and for other feminists, it could be leading rally cries at marches. To me, being active really just means being conscious and adjusting your life (as much or as little as you want/can) to fit your new knowledge.

  4. April 27, 2018 by Isabella.Flerlage Reply

    This is a great project and definitely something that needs to be talked about more! I love that you brought it up, and really took the time to show that you are passionate about this subject! I have a close friend who identifies as a strong activist for feminism and I look up to her every day! I think we should all embody this while also working on not having a bias because it is important that we treat everyone the same. Great poem too!!

  5. April 27, 2018 by Isabella.Flerlage Reply

    This is such a great project and your passion for feminism shines throughout. I think you did a great job exploring this idea, especially with different people at your school, as it was so great to see their perspectives and not just your own. I have a close friend who considers herself a feminist and an activist for feminism and she inspires me every day. I think moving forward we all need to work on embodying feminism along with working on not having biases. Great poem too!!

  6. April 29, 2018 by Andrew Riordan Reply

    My mother is engaged in organizations aimed at raising awareness of male-female discrepancies in the workplace and the government, so I have been lucky enough to take a small part in this movement a little bit already. This is a great project that is bringing a very pressing issue to the limelight, and I commend you for that.

  7. April 30, 2018 by leilani.ahina Reply

    I really like what you created here – a simple question interim of the number of words asked, but a complex question in terms of the multiple definitions people have. I really like the depth of exploration you created with the interviews and perspectives – and this made for a great visual element as well – what a wonderful, diverse group!

    • April 30, 2018 by Eva.Herr Reply

      Thank you! I wanted to make it simple and interesting so that everyone could understand and learn about the otherwise complicated topic.

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