I was recently talking about feminism with this guy I met. He said the word “feminism” conjures up images of militant lesbians whose mission in life is to castrate men. He is not alone in these beliefs. Many women refuse to call themselves feminists because they don’t want to make men feel threatened.
During a recent interview in USA Weekend, Sarah Michelle Gellar, pert blond teen idol, said she wanted to distance herself from feminism. “(Feminism) makes you think of women that don’t shave their legs.” Apparently Gellar thinks she can’t use a razor and be a feminist at the same time — kind of like walking and chewing gum.
Am I alone in my beliefs that feminism means equal pay and equal opportunity? It is as simple as that. And if hairless babes and paranoid men think that women have already achieved that goal they couldn’t be more wrong.
When I was a little girl, I thought that by the time I became an adult there would be a female president in office. As it turns out, few women won seats in Congress during this election. Although there were no female candidates for the governor of Minnesota, many gubernatorial candidates chose to have female lieutenant governors, hoping to appeal to female voters. When are women going to get sick of playing second fiddle to men?
I voted for the first time this year. While the machine vacuumed up my ballot, I thought about all the powerful women who fought for the right to vote — my right to vote. Getting hung up on the meaning of a word like “feminism” seems to dishonor their accomplishments.
I’ll bet a lot suffragettes didn’t have gorilla legs.
About a year ago, I participated in the post-secondary program at the College of St. Catherine — a beehive of sisterly power. At the time, the college was in the process of hiring a new president. The Sisters of Carondelet and the student body had chosen a woman who was neither a practicing Catholic nor pro-life. They felt she would be a breath of fresh air on campus, but one swift call from the archbishop of St. Paul nixed everything. In a matter of minutes, the women’s choice for president was out of the running. That’s when I decided I didn’t want to attend St. Catherine’s.
So let’s tally it up — politics and religion — two major areas feminists have to work on. Is there anything else?
Katherine Lanpher, a former columnist for the St. Paul Pioneer Press, left the newspaper almost six months ago. Last spring, Lanpher took me out for a fancy lunch to discuss my future — one successful feminist to one apprentice feminist. I admit I didn’t follow much of her advice — I hate taking SATs, and I didn’t get my college application in on time — but she was very informative about the profession of journalism.
The point is that the Pioneer Press said they were going to fill Lanpher’s position as soon as possible. However, I’ve seen the same male columnists day after day. Don’t get me wrong; I like both Nick Coleman and Joe Soucheray, but I miss a feminine perspective. Each day the Pioneer Press ignores the female perspective, a woman’s opinions seem a little less valid.
Add journalism to the list. Anything else?
I watched the premier of the “X-Files” at my friend’s house on Sunday night. I was on one of my caffeine buzzes and I kept pointing at the screen and swearing at David Duchovny. My friend had to turn up the volume. I don’t know if the annoying self-righteousness of his character had finally gotten to me or if it was residual anger from the “X-Files” movie.
In the movie, Duchovny yells into a cell-phone and chit-chats with Martin Landau. In the meantime, Gillian Anderson had to be naked during filming. She sat for hours in a vat of frozen goo. Despite working a lot harder than Duchovny, Anderson still earned millions less for the movie and earns significantly less per episode.
Politics, religion, the media and television continue to be dominated by men. Come to think of it, so is the military, where harassing women has become an art form. In what other government-funded institution can a female pilot be discharged for adultery while her male peers get a slap on the wrist?
How about insurance companies? They are willing to pay to guarantee a man’s erection with Viagra, but they are not willing to pay for birth control. How about the arts? I can’t think of the last modern female artist that was featured at the Walker or the Minneapolis Institute of Arts.
Women have made a lot of progress in this century, but we can’t put aside feminism until all of our goals of equality have been met. We need a female president. The archbishop had no business overruling the Sisters of Carondelet. A female columnist should write for the Pioneer Press. And Gillian Anderson should make as much as David Duchovny.
There are powerful women working hard to break into and beyond all careers. However, if we want to triumph, it helps to have all the support we can get, whether it comes from hairy-legged women or from pert blond teen idols. The goal is not to take anything away from men; it is to stand on equal ground with them.
Before I have a daughter of my own, I want to see a woman in the Oval Office. I would like her to be sitting at the desk, signing bills and writing legislation, not zipping up the president’s pants.
I don’t think that’s asking for too much.
Shannon Scott’s column appears every Thursday. She accepts comments to [email protected]