I was at work this morning, having a laid back conversation with a friend, when I stumbled upon the Facebook page for The Dean’s List calendar—a publication centered around, “12 beautiful and intelligent James Madison University women.” I was originally going to write about how this calendar is a STELLAR exemplification of society’s pervasive objectification of women, however, my feminist psyche was rudely interrupted when…
I asked my friend what he thought about “The Dean’s List” calendar. I already know MY thoughts about the publication: It’s a calendar that supposedly celebrates the “intelligence” of JMU’s female students, yet, depicts a “movement” (as they have dubbed it) solely centered on appearance. How does academic achievement have anything to do with beauty? Why do the two concepts have to be connected? I’ll tell you why. Because, we are talking about WOMEN. If you’re a smart man, no one gives a shit what you look like. You are perceived as being a smart human being. It stops there. No big deal. But if you are an intelligent woman, and you have a beautiful smile and a great body, woah. Call the mayor, schedule a parade and ring in the fucking marching band because GOD KNOWS that never happens. Attractive women can’t be smart, too…right? Apparently it is so rare to find an intelligent AND beautiful woman that a bunch of dudes decided to PRINT A PUBLICATION DEDICATED TO IT. Better yet, they are making a profit from it. Think about it: people have launched an entire a business venture based on the crazy, outlandish, unbelievable, too-good-to-be-true, mind-bending, societal norm-challenging idea that a woman can be attractive AND intelligent. I have been on the Dean’s List (3.5+ G.P.A) all 6 semesters of my academic career at JMU. I have even been on the President’s List (4.0+ G.P.A.) My level of intellect has nothing to do with the way I look. At all.
I asked my friend (who just so happens to be a guy) to gauge different perspectives about the issue. Unbeknownst to me, some of my co-workers were eavesdropping as we discussed. This is when things got interesting…
The talk quickly circled back to the root of the issue: feminism. One of my co-workers said, “I don’t like to call myself ‘feminist’ because it’s sexist.”
I stared at her for so long I’m pretty sure that my eyes fell out of their sockets. Either that, or I developed a pretty severe twitch. Initial (internal) reactions: anger, disbelief, indignation, bewilderment. I took three deep breaths. *In-out, hee-hoo, in-out, hee-hoo*
After what seemed like an eternity of silence, I calmly turned to this co-worker and asked, “Sexism is a very serious concept that insinuates a hatred, prejudice or discrimination against a specific biological sex. Are you suggesting that because a movement (feminism) aims to empower one gender (women), it also works to tear another down?”
Co-worker’s response: “I just don’t like how the word “feminism” is associated with one gender. “Fem-” is associated with females and femininity. It’s just too exclusive. It’s sexist.”
At that point I couldn’t respond without entering “blacking-out-with-rage-because-your-ignorance-has-angered-me-to-the-point-where-I-cannot-help-but-harshly-judge-you-because inherent-traits-of-human-nature-have-taken-over-my-conscience-and-self-control” mode. I wanted to refrain from thinking that this person ignorant. I wanted so badly to understand where this person was coming from. Nope. Too mad. (In hindsight, of course, I understand that it was wrong of me to judge my co-worker’s perspective so bitterly. To deem her ignorant, makes me ignorant. Everyone has lived experiences that contribute to their way of knowing. The way we view the world is always going to vary from human to human. It’s ok that my co-worker does not fully understand what feminism strives to do. That is the point of this beautiful blog—to spread awareness.)
If the conversation had continued, I would have rationally attempted to explain that feminism, while empowering women, does not cry for discrimination against any other gender. Being feminist does not mean you hate men. I REPEAT: We are not man-haters!
Feminism is an overwhelmingly inclusive movement. It simultaneously raises consciousness and challenges hegemonic ideals, socialization, queer-studies, essentialism, racial barriers, and socially constructed gender roles (for men AND women). It advocates on behalf of underserved demographics.
It supports. It educates. It empowers. It loves.