I haven’t thought much about feminism for some time now, but something happened this past weekend that made me revisit the subject. I attended a local 4th of July celebration that offered live music, carnival rides, food and other entertainment. The “other entertainment” included a wrestling match, and I happened to notice, when walking by, that one of the wrestlers was a woman, competing against a man. Before I even had a chance to process this scenario, my attention was drawn to a group of middle-school boys, one of whom was yelling, “Hit her hard. Beat her up!” Really? Is this where feminism has taken us? I found the whole scene a bit disturbing.
Feminism was a major topic in the 1960’s and 70’s when I was emerging into adulthood. My cohorts and I were raised to believe we would secure “Mr. Right” and spend the rest of our joyful lives’ behind a white picket fence. But the game changed rapidly, and by the time I had completed junior college, women were proclaiming their right to not only participate in the workplace, but also demanded equal pay and opportunity. Unfortunately, most of us had grown up with full-time mothers at home, and we married men who had done the same, so we found ourselves in the workplace while at the same time maintaining almost exclusive responsible for the care of the home and the children. “You’re not trading up,” my mother would say, “You’re only adding on.” She was right, of course. Women were experiencing growing pains. Marriages were strained. Resentments grew.
My question is: What does feminism mean today? I will occasionally ask young women I meet if they consider themselves to be feminists, and I am surprised to hear many of them say, “No, not me”. The meaning must have changed somewhere along the line. Will somebody please help this old feminist understand?
Katherine Generaux, Community Inclusion Director