By Lis Arévalo
Is Feminism Still A Bad Word? BCC Teachers Speak
Feminism has allowed the development of a voice against oppression and sexism. It has been fundamental for achieving equality and freedom, but have we really achieved it? Is feminism still necessary for society? Feminism has been equated with “the F word” because it has a strong meaning, but also negative connotations. Feminists are perceived by many people as “man haters” or a group of ugly women who want to dominate men. It is difficult to avoid these misconceptions because, in general, adverse messages against feminism are frequently portrayed in the media. Unfortunately, the public has more contact with TV ads and web pages than with information in which all the advantages of feminism are discussed and explained.
In the Women’s Studies classes at BCC, there are many students interested in feminism, but in society in general, the subject is far from being considered “cool” or fun.
The BCC Voice interviewed Dr. Shawn Doubiago and Dr. Cora Leighton, two professors among BCC faculty who teach subjects related to Feminism and Women’s Studies, and asked them to share their recommendations for people who are interested in debunking the myth of feminism as “the F word.”
Doubiago, who is in charge of the Feminist Philosophy course, is convinced that feminism is a loaded term, and that perception will be difficult to change in the minds of this generation. “Even women who believe in equality don’t want to be labelled as feminists. They react to it emotionally, in a negative way. It is not a logical reaction. Equality and feminism should be at the same level. But many people react without even understanding it.”
So says Leighton, who teaches Introduction to Women Studies: “Negative reactions are based on stereotypes, [such as] all feminists don’t care about the appearance, they never wear makeup, and they are all lesbians. Lots of my students say ‘I believe in equality, I believe in rights for women and equal pay, but I am not a feminist.’” Some students in our institution have not even thought about an answer for their position about being a feminist or not.
Is there a way to overcome stereotypes about feminism and people who support its ideals? As bell hooks writes in her book, “Feminism is for Everybody,” many people may trust in prejudices because “Everything they know about feminism has come into their lives thirdhand.” So, the best way of inviting people to get closer to feminism and its ideas is to be informed.
We asked our teachers what recommendations they would give to someone who is interested in knowing more about the subject, but doesn’t know where to start. Doubiago recommends to read some fundamental authors: Simone de Beauvoir, Helene Cixous, Audre Lorde, and Judith Butler. Furthermore, she says: “Start with what you are interested in: if you are studying Business, Science or International
Relations, just start with feminist thinkers within those fields, so that you can engage more strongly with the ideas they are articulating. If you start from your own interests and you expand from there, it is a lot easier to grasp their theories and to think about them, be critical, and grow your vocabulary and academic understanding of feminism.”
On the other hand, Leighton recommends a book, “Promiscuities,” written by Naomi Wolf, in which her memoirs are mixed with some feminist theory. This could be very good for beginners. She also says Netflix is an excellent source of information because it offers good documentaries exploring women’s issues from a feminist approach, such as “Killing Us Softly: Advertising’s Image of Women.”
For getting more accurate information and meeting more people with an interest in feminism, there are some student groups at BCC in which feminist and Gender Studies topics are discussed in an open and friendly way: Women Involved in Student Empowerment (WISE), Sociology Club, Global Studies Club, and Psychology Club. Any students interested in feminist topics are invited to attend club meetings and share new meanings for the F word in our community.