OPINION: Working toward Friedan’s America
By Andrew Kletzien
Friedan struggled to get her work published in her time period, so she decided to publish an independent book and incorporate a much broader span of studies and interviews.
Her work later became one of the staples in American feminist literature.
Friedan’s largest obstacle was overcoming the American perception of a successful woman: a stay-at-home mother with children and a husband who paid all of the bills. In the 60s and 70s, that was the extent of feminist theory: marriage life and child rearing.
No one doubts that women made impressive strides since Friedan. Today we are in the midst of the third major wave of feminism, which is largely focused on reproductive rights for women in the United States.
When I am asked to describe myself in three words (like on a social media site or by someone I just met), “feminist” tends to be one of those three descriptors.
Gay male feminists are not as uncommon as many would think, despite the community’s tendency to incessantly use the word “bitch” and praise overly-flattering outfits.
The women’s movement in this country has been closely associated with the gay rights movement. Both movements concern themselves with sexual freedom, freedom of expression, and cherishing an individual’s right to privacy.
But what place does feminist theory have in today’s world? We have the pro-choice movement to take care of reproductive rights. Women have been allowed to vote for decades. The Equal Rights Amendment, while not enacted as a whole, was basically established piece by piece.
In 2008 we saw Hillary Clinton run in the Democratic primary and Sarah for the Vice Presidential seat. Despite what each individual thinks of either women, the fact that they were so close to the White House is a remarkable achievement.
There are some reasons, however, that the feminist movement is still applicable today, specifically on college campuses. Females now outnumber males in college graduation rates and steadily outperform men in subjects such as the humanities and writing.
But while there may not be any need for significant legal changes to advance the stance of women in the world, there are definitely cultural aspects in the United States today that could be bettered with a feminist worldview.
Men and women alike in modern society have formed bad habits of judging individuals solely on physical appearance. Women tend to be put under much more scrutiny to look good, attractive, and yet appropriate.
So, guys, here’s a little advice. Next time you decide to call a girl a slut because she is showing too much cleavage or her skirt is too short, imagine strapping ten extra pounds to your hips and chest and finding affordable clothing that will be revealing enough to be attractive, but modest enough to not be considered trashy.
So many of these double standards and judgments cast by men onto women could be avoided and reworked by a simple exercise of putting yourself in someone else’s shoes for just a day.
Speaking of stepping into someone else’s shoes, Advocate, Loyola’s LGBTQA organization, recently put on its annual Drag Show as a part of its LGBTQA Heritage Month. As a participant, I can say that the experience gave me an enormous amount of respect for women, both in the workplace and at home.
Not only was a woman’s outfit almost twice as expensive as a man’s, but the incredible amount of time needed to simply get dressed and get my “face” on was almost unfathomable compared to a man’s simple pants and a button-up.
Not to mention having to walk in those five-inch platform heels for more than an hour, much less for an entire night of clubbing.
Loyola’s campus is anywhere from 60 to 70 percent female, and yet I see no real sign of a strong feminist population anywhere on campus. When a woman tells me she is not a feminist, I ask her, “Do you even know what feminism is?”
You do not have to be liberal or pro-choice to be a feminist. You do not even have to think that a successful woman is one who works outside of the home.
All you have to believe in is narrowing the gap of gender inequity in this country and around the world. You simply have to be concerned with the fact that women still make less than 70 cents to every man’s dollar for doing the same job.
You definitely do not need to be a woman or be gay to be a feminist, because equality is something we can all believe in, despite the anatomy between our legs.
We have come a long way since Betty Friedan, and she would be proud of the obstacles the women’s movement has overcome.
However, the gender gap in this country is far from closed.
Young girls are still out there looking at magazines of unhealthily skinny women and being told that one day they should look like them. Women who are sexually assaulted are still told that they were asking for it because of the way they were dressed.
So many women still choose to be put under the knife to surgically alter their bodies, not because of an innate desire to look a different way, but because of socially constructed, often exclusive images of beauty seen on television and in magazines.
So yes, progress has been made. Yes, inequities have been solved.
But until every woman in this world can proudly stand up and say that she feels equal to her male counterparts, the feminist movement is far from over.
Andrew Kletzien is a copy editor. He can be reached at email@example.com.