Multifaceted Feminism


Jessa Glassman

The feminist movement is growing in relevance. Clothing brands are producing shirts that display witty catchphrases, and shows like “The Handmaid’s Tale” make social commentaries through female leads. Both the #MeToo and pro-choice movements are also gaining traction. Despite the growing spotlight on feminism, many people are choosing not to identify with it, including India Altschul ’20. “I do not consider myself to be a modern feminist, because I believe the current feminism agenda is not just about advocating for gender equality,” Altschul said.
Only 20 percent of Americans surveyed consider themselves feminists, despite 82 percent believing in equality for the sexes, according to HuffPost and YouGov. On campus, in a Chronicle poll of 184 upper school students, 65 percent self-identify as feminists compared to 87 percent who believe in gender equality.
While there are many different reasons people might choose not to be associated with the feminist movement, Altschul said she has a few of her own.
“I think that some current feminists hold a belief that all men are intentionally trying to put women down and are demonizing them for it,” Altschul said. “Although misogyny is still present today, I think that feminists are not helping themselves by radicalizing their agenda and targeting men.”
Leader of the Gender and Sexuality Awareness (GSA) club Alexandra Du Manoir ’21 said she attributes the decreasing numbers of feminists to the lack of understanding surrounding the movement.
“I think that feminism has become more inclusive and intersectional over the years, and although some people use this fact to weaponize feminism and say that it’s too radical, the truth is that they are uneducated about the core principles of feminism,” Du Manoir said.
According to an article by the Women’s and Gender Studies department at Berry College, there are many harmful stereotypes about feminists that pathologize those involved in the movement and lead others to distance themselves from it even if they believe in gender equality.
“One of the main stereotypes I’ve encountered around feminism is that we all think in an ‘I hate men’ mindset,” President of the Empower club Lilah Weisman ’20 said. “Although you could certainly find a few fringe groups that fit that attitude, most of us really just want gender equality. That stereotype is quite harmful to the feminist movement, because it comes from a place of historically shutting down women who speak up for a cause because they are ‘too aggressive’ while a man would be considered a ‘go-getter.’”
Sabina Yampolsky ’20 said she believes there are stereotypes about feminists that hold some truth.
“I think that a main negative stereotype of feminism is that feminists are not completely enlightened about the causes they support,” Yampolsky said. “While some feminists know of the history of the women’s rights movement, many associate themselves with less-worthy causes. For instance, the leaders of the Women’s March [allied] themselves with notoriously antisemitic forces such as Farrakhan.”
Regardless of whether one does or does not support all parts of feminism in its current state, Weisman said she believes that defining what it means to be a feminist should be simple and that those who do not consider themselves one are incorrectly defining the label.
“Being a feminist is simply wanting gender not to be a factor in the way any person is treated,” Weisman said. “Although the definition is clearly subjective today, seeing as there is so much debate over what it means to be a feminist, I think that it really shouldn’t be. I think all people should be feminists if their definition is similar to the one I described.”
Additionally, Weisman said she recognizes that a common critique of feminism comes from the idea that the term perpetuates more discrimination by excluding people of color, transgender and non-binary people. However, she said she credits this idea to conservative groups attempting to divide the movement to maintain their privilege. Empower club adviser and Assistant Director of Communications Shauna Altieri said she believes this criticism attacks the outdated version of feminism that she and the Empower club are actively working to combat.
“Because our understanding of gender identity has expanded from a two-choice system to a spectrum, we include everybody,” Altieri said. “We have changed the name of ‘La Femme’ to ‘Empower’ for this reason. We are purposely conscious of being more inclusive. It isn’t about men and women, it’s about individuals, however they self-identify, being equal.”