Feminists must meet challenges from past

ATHENS, Ohio (U-WIRE) — I hate the word “post-feminism.” Just what does it mean anyway? Apparently, someone forgot to send me the memo pronouncing feminism dead.
In the 1960s and 1970s, women were roaring. They were burning bras, crashing through glass ceilings and forging new paths for future generations. They were, in a word, revolutionary.
So what happened? Susan Faludi, in her ground-breaking work “Backlash,” is quick to point out that the ’80s were a period of reaction to the strides made by the second wave feminists of the ’60s and ’70s. But as we reach the end of this decade, one is left to wonder if indeed the third wave of feminism is upon us, and just what that translates as.
But before third wave feminism even can be considered, one must first have a basic understanding of feminism. Misconceptions abound, and I’ve grown weary of hearing the same preamble to the same basic statements. It usually goes something like this: “Well, I’m not a feminist or anything, but I think that women should have the right to ….”
What inevitably follows is a right that is fundamental to the basic tenets of feminism. I cannot, nor will I attempt to, summarize decades of feminist theory. I simply know that I am a feminist and I embrace a very simple definition of the movement.
Feminism is the basic belief that women are equal to men. Simple, no? Actually, my favorite maxim regarding feminism was written by Rebecca West in 1913. She wrote, “I myself have never been able to find out precisely what feminism is: I only know that people call me a feminist whenever I express sentiments that differentiate me from a doormat.”
Feminists are responsible for the basic rights that we now enjoy but take for granted. We are playing a dangerous game here. Revolutions never really die, only the soldiers change. But women are going AWOL, and to be brutally honest, it scares me. I refuse to rest comfortably with the knowledge that I am a student at the university of my choice and I am able to find gainful employment in my chosen profession.
I categorically refuse. The revolution is far from complete and I cannot tolerate messages, articles and statements reminding me of just how equal I really am.
I cannot abide persons of both genders informing me that affirmative action has assured me positions of which I am unworthy. And I certainly cannot endure the stereotypes of feminists as man-hating, ugly, frigid and domineering women.
Feminists are as diverse as the world in which we live. Some of us are bisexual, while some are straight, gay or transgender. We comprise different socioeconomic classes. We have different religious affiliations, and some of us have none. We are everywhere: the boardroom, bedroom, courtroom and classroom. We are members of different races, and our appearances are anything but heterogeneous.
But our ranks are diminishing. Complacency is a disease, and the infection is spreading. Perhaps we have grown too comfortable — perhaps we have forgotten that all that our foremothers fought for and achieved easily can be lost. Although we now have the freedom to work, attend institutions of higher learning, have children and remain in the workplace, and innumerable other rights, institutional sexism and misogyny have not been eliminated.
Take a look around, and then delve a little deeper. Women have yet to achieve equality in the workplace. We still do not receive equal wages for equal work. Child care demands often are ignored. Sexual harassment has yet to decrease, despite consciousness-raising efforts. Incidents of sexual assault and domestic violence continue to rise. Women are more visible in pop culture — we are making progress. But how many women hold positions of authority in their respective fields?
Very few. I am regularly outraged and disgusted by the representation of women in our culture. I am tired of hearing jokes about Monica Lewinsky’s appearance. The beauty myth, fueled by the mass media and the diet, fashion, and cosmetics industries, is abhorrent. Social conditioning starts early — we encourage our young girls to become Barbie. We tell them it is acceptable to be like the Little Mermaid or Julia Roberts in “Pretty Woman” — after all, women are dependent upon Kens and knights on white horses to rescue us.
It needs to cease. Silence, as we all know, is a dangerous sound. We have an obligation to take our knowledge — our power — and apply it to our respective fields and lives. Those of us in the journalism field need to ensure that women are not only represented in Women’s Pages. Those in advertising need to cast a male in a detergent ad. Women in every field need to make their voices heard. Roar, by all means, roar — the revolution forges ahead.

Angie Piscitelli’s column originally appeared in Monday’s Ohio University Post.