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Part 2: Feminism Revised

3 Jun

I’ve spend the past half a year doing a lot of reading, talking, and unfortunately not enough writing on Feminism. At the end of these six months there were three salient points of learning, for me.

  1. Feminism is narrowly about advancing social rights to women but broadly it is about addressing and fighting Privilege.
    1. Privilege is about power. The dis-empowered cannot be privileged.
    2. Privilege is the ability to be perceived as who you are as opposed to your stereotype or class.
    3. Privilege is the ability to feel like any possibility is an option, and accessible!
  2. Feminism has evolved through the years.
    1.  In the U.S., the first wave Feminist of the 1920s were trying to secure the right to vote.
    2. The second wave Feminists of the 1970s were securing access to education, industries and careers.
    3. And the third wave Feminists of today- us? We care about work life balance, access to adequate child care. We combat the dilemma of “opting out” vs “leaning in.” We’re more sensitive to issues affecting all women regardless of race, income level, employment status, profession, beauty or cultural upbringing. And ultimately we identify as women but as just one of many adjectives and titles that makes up the summation of our independent, individual selves.
  3. As a voting base and political force Feminism (capital F) is waning in power. BUT as a umbrella term for equal opportunity and fighting the glass ceiling of privilege, feminism (lower case f) has evolved, but is still just as relevant today as it was a hundred years ago when women lacked the ability to vote in the U.S.

In Part 1 of the blog series, the open ended question was if women still haven’t reach true equality, why is there a hesitation among women to identify as Feminists and lead the movement of the third wave?

My friend J (a man) had the following to say upon reading my original post an watching the Miss Representation documentary:

It’s depressing that your female friends were hesitant to identify as feminists. The fact that the right has so poisoned young girls into thinking that feminism is synonymous with being a pissed-off lesbian demonstrates their media power. The documentary was powerful and disheartening.

Previously I would have agreed with J but my readings suggest this is an oversimplification of the problem.

It’s not just the Right but it’s also a trend of our generation…we don’t like to be “labeled” period. Additionally, some of the alienation is actually due to the legacy of the 2nd Wave Feminist who in fact rejected stay-at-home moms and women who didn’t conform to their idea of “What it means to be a Feminist” including minorities.  Many of the women from this second wave are still leading figures and voices of the movement. So there is a strong argument that while women’s issues are still very relevant they are also different, and the Feminist movement has not been re-branded to embrace this new face. A big part of new feminism (lower case f) is that furthering women to be able to make true choices, have a level playing field, and be perceived as individuals and not an imposed stereotype involves furthering men, furthering minorities, and furthering LGBT as well. In my opinion, the new feminism transcends just females but Feminism (capital F) has not caught up yet.

This identity crisis might not be the only reason that women today, my peers, hesitate to identify as Feminists. In fact it might not even be the primary reason. BUT it is and will continue to be a significant deterrent in the ability of the Feminist movement to gain the membership and traction needed to have the right type of influence in the issues relevant to today’s women. To be revived, Feminism must first be revised.

Not the “New Normal”

13 May

My good friend The Farlang Lady recently shared an article by Claire Thompson on the Millennial generation. It was fascinating and extraordinarily educational. As a gainfully employed Millennial, the 180 character snapshot of a Millennial doesn’t always relate: underpaid, saddled with student debt, naively optimistic. (Okay maybe that last one does apply).

My self-educational clicking away led to this gem! Someone Bids $13,000 for Huffington Post Internship

The most salient quote to me is

The auction’s beneficiary, the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights, seems exceptionally worthy. But are unemployed media wannabes really this worthless?

I’ve been reading and discussing, lately, the stories of the unpaid, under-paid, over-qualified, or paid & overworked. All making me wonder what should the relationship between a company and employee be? Maybe this is the response. The cause could be worthwhile, the experience, even the company’s intentions, but even so (and especially when not s0) are today’s youth really that worthless that their time does not need to be paid for? Are people so worthless that federal minimum wage is only $7.25 an hour?

I suppose its emotionally manipulative and existentially questionable to equate income with self-worth. And as an individual  (the recipient of either a piss poor paycheck or bucket loads of money) I do not recommend equating the too. But from the perspective of an employer isn’t that exactly what a paycheck is? Stock prices are meant to be a representation of a company’s worth. It logical to suggest that an employee’s income, therefore, represents his or her worth to the employer.

So when a friend worked 65+ hours a week doing highly specialized work for $15/hour, only there was no overtime so really it amounted to $9.23 and hour. Then we subtract taxes, rent, and groceries and student loan interests…what does it suggest about how her employer values her time and effort? Simultaneously when another friend is told at the beginning of a new project as a strategic management consultant that they will try to get them out before midnight Mon-Wed, all of a sudden her otherwise healthy paycheck amounts to $18/hour.  That is more than enough for her to live off, especially when you consider that the company pays for a lot of food and transportation expenses. But what does it mean about how an employer values an employee? Is it actually a true reflection of what they’re worth as a resource? OR is it a reflection of the market doing what the market does best, which is not correctly evaluate assets but find opportunities to exploit the delta between the going price (these days not much for a college degree) and what its true or potential worth is.

My argument is that the un/under employed liberal arts major and the paid but overworked business or engineering major are different sides of the same coin. In both scenarios  individuals adjust and makes it work.

Can’t afford to fix my car? Fine, I’ll use my bike more.
Have to work 80+ hours a week for a few months? Fine, I’ll adjust. Thanks for giving me the heads up.

But does that make it okay? Personally I always thought, “I don’t want to work the 60+ hour work weeks. I value balance and the weekends. But hey, if you Mr. I-banker friend want to, well power to you.” At what point does a bunch of youth making individual trade-offs (art majors choosing to take the risky and possibly less lucrative career path of photography) become emblematic of societal shift that needs correcting?

When it’s no longer a real choice.

In the face of increasing cost of tuition and corresponding burden of student debt, unemployment in the double digits for Millenials, the ever expanding workday, and rising cost of living including cost of health care, the prevailing advice is to compromise. Get a degree in the STEM majors: science, technology, engineering or math or adjust your work-life balance expectations or (as I have been told on more than one occasion) leave. Just because we can make it work in the short-term doesn’t mean that this is an okay path to be headed down in the long-term.  This is NOT the “new normal.”

A Quick Duh…

1 Aug

Today I got an email with the subject line “Thank You Jeff” which went on to say “we were greatly moved by Jeff’s contribution towards marriage equality.” Being behind the times, I had to do a quick google search which brought me to this Daily New’s articled entitled “Amazon founder Jeff Bezos Donates $2.5 Million to Washington State Marriage-Equality Campaign.”

What?! Didn’t the state legislature pass same-sex marriage back in February? Clearly I’ve been a poor Washington Citizen. Turns out that same-sex marriage opponents got enough votes to get the bill up for a referendum vote this November. Referendum 74: vote yes if you’re pro marriage equality, vote no if…. well according to Preserve Marriage Equality you should vote no to Referendum 74 because

“if this law goes unchallenged, voters would have no say and marriage would be changed for every person in our state from being the union of one man and one woman to being a genderless institution.”

To which I say….

DUH!

Well duh to the second part. Voters have had a say because their democratically elected legislature passed the marriage-equality bill. And voters will again have a say this fall when they will pass Referendum 74. But at that point, members of Preserve Marriage Equality, you must be willing accept that voters actually– dare I say it?– WANT marriage to become a genderless institution! Hell we want the work environment, education, healthcare, life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness to ALL become gender-less, race-less, age-less, class-less institutions based on one single concept: we all have human dignity, no matter where we are in life.