Fourth Wave Feminism, getting comfortable with feeling uncomfortable

 

When my girlfriends and I contemplate feminism, usually we feel empowered.  We talk endlessly about figures such as Gloria Steinem, infiltrating Playboy and writing an exposé about the treatment of the Playboy Bunnies.  Most of the women I know loved Ruth Bader Ginsburg and idolized her.  I admire Shirley Chisolm, the first ever black woman and black person to run a presidential campaign in the 1970s.  She lost, but she eventually became a Representative and that grit and perseverance is huge to me.  In the face of white feminists and misogynists, she defied all odds and attended every press conference with a positive attitude, and unstoppable ambition. After watching Mrs. America with some friends, a Hulu show which profiles feminists, we learned so much about the strategic moves that had to be made in a fight to ratify the ERA.  This is the bright, shiny side of feminism; the battle cry, the fanfare, the #MeToo and TimesUp pins, millions of women blasting “Who Run the World? Girls” from car windows.  That is how Beyonce makes money, and how Etsy sellers profited off of commercial sisterly solidarity by selling pink knitted cat hats for the women’s march in DC.  Feminism feels, at times, similar to a sports team, where you are all fighting for that goal and want to see each other succeed as women.

 

When I ponder how some of the men in my life feel about feminism, sometimes, I feel discouraged.  One of my favorite texts about feminism is Women Don’t Owe You Pretty by Florence Given.  The first chapter in this colorful take on intersectional feminism is titled “Feminism is going to ruin your life (in the best way possible)”(Given, 22).  What Florence means by this, and what I have found true at several junctures in my personal life, is that you begin to question what your boundaries are, and how you seek validation as a woman.  Most of my male friends do not understand or sympathize with this struggle and that is hard to contend with. The straight cisgender men I went to high school with never had to ask themselves, have I dulled my own shine to make others more comfortable? Do I like the color pink and romantic comedies because society says I should?  How much of my femininity consists of what I feel compelled to be?  An article about Gender Neutral Barbies notes,  “Disney has not introduced a major gay character in any of its movies, let alone a gender nonconforming one”(Docketerman, 8).  Maybe I would have turned out differently, and felt more free if I had known I could break beyond the expectations of femininity as a child.  The questions that feminism raises are never ending and important.  Am I overly apologetic to men I do not owe apologies to? Why do I feel better when I receive external validation? It can be uncomfortable to unpack all these questions, and I believe this discomfort is highlighted in “The Problem When Sexism Sounds so Friendly.” Benevolent  sexism is the worst because you have to handle it with such care.  To quote Taylor Swift in her  documentary detailing life as a woman in the music industry,”A man does something, it's strategic.

 

 A woman does the same thing, it's calculated. A man is allowed to react. 

 

 

A woman can only overreact”(Miss Americana 2019).  Outright sexism is easier to condemn because

an angry reaction is justifiable, whereas the same reaction to benevolent sexism is considered more

of an overreaction since it has this sinister, positive charge.

     Women provide so much emotional labor to friends and family, and are notoriously considered more “empathetic” and “better communicators.” In reality I think that women being more emotionally attune is a patriarchal construct. Men could provide just as much emotional labor as women do, but they do not feel obliged by society to do so. “If a woman's accomplishments must be accompanied by a reassurance that she really was "a good Mom," but a man's accomplishments are allowed to stand on their own, that's a problem”(Tannenbaum 5).  The domestic qualities, and appearance of women are still so centric to reporting on women’s lives and women’s rights.  Women cannot even escape sexualization and slander when they are on trial for murder, considering that Amanda Knox (who turned out to be innocent) was dubbed “Foxy Knoxy” in the 90s in the Daily Mail headlines about her trial.  Women’s rights in the 80s revolved around the young professional woman who could “do it all,” work life, and home life.  But why should women “do it all” if men are not expected to? Even today, I have seen countless interviews of female actresses where they are asked about work-life balance, and if they miss their kids, whereas a man will actually be asked about their work, and no one questions their home life at all.  Most female celebrities “rumored baby bumps” make headlines before news of their important film work does. In considering the dreaded “Who are you wearing?” question when it comes to the Oscars, I get really angry because the question is only targeted at women really, and that is the first question they are asked when they hit the red carpet,”They can also cause a feeling of unease, particularly when one is in the position of trying to draw attention towards her work rather than personal qualities like her gender or appearance”(Tannenbaum 7).  Rather than asking about an actress’s thoughts on a screenplay or scene, the designer of her dress is what ends up taking priority.  Overall, feminism leads me to ask unnerving questions, embrace discomfort and turn frustration into ambition.  Most of all, feminism makes me hopeful for the future, and makes me feel willing to put in the work to achieve meaningful change.

 A woman does the same thing, it's calculated. A man is allowed to react. 

A woman can only overreact”(Miss Americana 2019).  Outright sexism is easier to condemn because

an angry reaction is justifiable, whereas the same reaction to benevolent sexism is considered more

of an overreaction since it has this sinister, positive charge.

 

an angry reaction is justifiable, whereas the same reaction to benevolent sexism is considered more

of an overreaction since it has this sinister, positive charge.

     Women provide so much emotional labor to friends and family, and are notoriously considered more “empathetic” and “better communicators.” In reality I think that women being more emotionally attune is a patriarchal construct. Men could provide just as much emotional labor as women do, but they do not feel obliged by society to do so. “If a woman's accomplishments must be accompanied by a reassurance that she really was "a good Mom," but a man's accomplishments are allowed to stand on their own, that's a problem”(Tannenbaum 5).  The domestic qualities, and appearance of women are still so centric to reporting on women’s lives and women’s rights.  Women cannot even escape sexualization and slander when they are on trial for murder, considering that Amanda Knox (who turned out to be innocent) was dubbed “Foxy Knoxy” in the 90s in the Daily Mail headlines about her trial.  Women’s rights in the 80s revolved around the young professional woman who could “do it all,” work life, and home life.  But why should women “do it all” if men are not expected to? Even today, I have seen countless interviews of female actresses where they are asked about work-life balance, and if they miss their kids, whereas a man will actually be asked about their work, and no one questions their home life at all.  Most female celebrities “rumored baby bumps” make headlines before news of their important film work does. In considering the dreaded “Who are you wearing?” question when it comes to the Oscars, I get really angry because the question is only targeted at women really, and that is the first question they are asked when they hit the red carpet,”They can also cause a feeling of unease, particularly when one is in the position of trying to draw attention towards her work rather than personal qualities like her gender or appearance”(Tannenbaum 7).  Rather than asking about an actress’s thoughts on a screenplay or scene, the designer of her dress is what ends up taking priority.  Overall, feminism leads me to ask unnerving questions, embrace discomfort and turn frustration into ambition.  Most of all, feminism makes me hopeful for the future, and makes me feel willing to put in the work to achieve meaningful change.