Your Source for Feminist Discourse

Kirsten Dunst, Gender Roles and Femininity: Part 2

When I ended that last post about Kirsten Dunst, I said it’s getting me hot and bothered. Well as it turns out I was so bothered I had to keep writing, so here’s the impromptu part two of my earlier post!

You see, I started realizing what gets me more upset about this whole situation is the way the media portrays feminists. Scanning the titles of some of the articles about Dunst, you get a basic understanding of what members of the public assume about feminists.

Feminists are painted to be radical, left-wing, hypercritical, hypocritical women who lash out against anything and everything remotely traditional. The sweeping generalizations are everywhere. This certainly isn’t new information; it seems like any topic that draws feminist’s interests also draws anti feminists to slur claims of “feminazis” and the like from all corners of the woodwork.

After a while though, it’s troubling. You don’t really understand discrepancy of the issue until a person supports feminist issues, yet denies being a feminist. Two recent personal stories come to mind that convey this contradiction.

I have one friend who has continuously supported my feminist advocacy. Just the other night she told me that she made an off-hand comment to her housemates (9 total) that all women are basically feminist. She said that immediately the uneasiness in the air was palpable. One of the girls finally spoke up and expressed anger that my friend shouldn’t make such a generalization. Shocked and desperate to find support she made the classic argument, if you believe in equal rights for women, then you’re basically a feminist. To which, the angry housemate replied that maybe she agrees with equality, but that doesn’t mean she’s a feminist.

I have another friend who’s a Justice Studies major and recently confided in me about a research topic he’s undertaking. We’re both involved in a Christian community here on campus and most members vocally affirm a traditional view to gender roles, much like Dunst. His study focuses on underlying feminist beliefs that may be overshadowed by traditionalist-Christian values. The fascinating part is that most of his preliminary work has sustained that while most of his participants agree with basic feminist rhetoric, they vehemently disassociate themselves from the label “feminist.”

As one writer put it, sometimes being a feminist is hard. It means fighting battles most of the public agrees need to be fought, but at the same time because of the socialized context of what it means to be a feminist, you are often prematurely dismissed or even ostracized. Feminists consistently get the bad rap. The dreaded “F-word” is wrongly synonymous with radicalism. In the two years I’ve been writing for this blog, my understanding and appreciation for feminism has grown. In reading an article from The Guardian about the comments of Penny Wong, I found the perfect summation of what to describe this discrepancy:

“Rejecting the term ‘feminist’ is a political decision. It diminishes one of the most important social movements of the modern era. It’s a maneuver many on the political right engage in to delegitimize the values of feminism, to undermine policies aimed at achieving gender equality and to turn back the gains of the past. Feminism is not an extreme term – it is a mainstream movement that has transformed modern Australia for the better. I say that if you are a supporter of gender equality you are a feminist – and that it is important to use and be proud of the term. For a start, it associates us with a tradition … We have the right to vote, we have access to education, to jobs and careers and the prospect of economic independence and sexual freedom only because the feminists of earlier generations fought on our behalf.”

 

What are your thoughts on the portrayal of Feminists and feminism in the media? Have a story similar to the ones above? Leave a comment below.

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