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The Next Wave: Feminism in the 21st Century, Part IV

By       Message Katherine Brengle     Permalink
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As Women's History Month draws to a close, here are some questions and facts it would do us all good to spend some time seriously considering:

Whether I am a woman or a man, how do I treat women? How do I treat them in reality, and how do I treat them in my mind?

Whether I am a woman or a man, do I use gender-specific language that is meant to marginalize women and their contribution to society? Do I feel the need to add the qualifiers "woman" or "female" to occupations such as doctor, executive, engineer, professional athlete? Do I use words like "slut" and "prostitute" to describe women, regardless of whether or not they are promiscuous or accept money in exchange for sex?

Whether I am a woman or a man, do I immediately question the credibility and sexual histories of female rape victims in the news? Do I allow myself to be swept up into "blaming the victim" unconsciously? Have I ever made a comment such as, "Well, what was she wearing?" "What was she doing out that late by herself?" or "Why should I take her word for it?"

Whether I am a woman or a man, do I feel the need to add into conversations about sex offender registration the following factoid: "You know, some of those "sex offenders" aren't even criminals--some of them are just like 19-year old guys who slept with their 17-year old girlfriends." Do I understand that this not only detracts from the seriousness of the issue, but also denigrates the victims of rape, female and male, adult and child?

Whether I am a woman or a man, do I assume that if one parent in a couple is going to stay at home with a child that that parent will automatically be the mother, and not the father? Do I understand that this idea has been taught to me, and is not innate to human rationality? Am I able to think about parenting outside these terms? Am I aware that this stereotype is not only harmful to mothers, but to fathers as well?

If I am a woman, do I consider my menstrual cycle something to be ashamed of and "discreet " about? Do I always feel the need to dab on makeup before leaving the house, for fear of not looking my "best " for other people? Do I wear clothing that is uncomfortable in order to look "hot " or "sexy " for other people? Do I restrict food consumption when I am eating in public, out of fear of looking "unladylike " or like a pig?

If I am a woman, do I constantly judge other women based on looks, weight, age, marital status, motherhood or lack thereof, and level of sexual activity? Do I like knowing that other women are judging me according to these criteria? Do I really want to be part of a system that accepts and promotes this kind of destructive behavior within the female community?
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If I am a man, have I ever used aggressive, violent language to describe my sexual experiences and feelings toward women? Do I use negative gender-specific language regularly when referring to women, regardless of whether my feelings about them are positive, negative, or indifferent?

If I am a man, do I ever cite a woman 's alleged "PMS " as the culprit when she is displeased with something I have said or done? Do I find it amusing to do so? Do I understand that this attitude is damaging to women and that actual physical and emotional symptoms related to menstruation are a healthy and natural part of human life?

If I am a man, have I ever referred to an evening at home taking care of my own children as "babysitting " rather than just parenting? Do I realize the problem with that kind of thinking?

If I am a man, do I find myself assuming that my female significant other will do the majority or all of the housework, regardless of whether or not both of us work outside the home or who works more hours?

In order to make any sense of the world we live in, we must learn to relate to one another openly and honestly. We need to stop the cycle of hate and discrimination and sexism and violence and assumption and start working together for a better tomorrow.
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We need to be conscious of where we fall within the spectrum of our social order some women and men are more or less sexist than others, some are more or less violent than others, some are more or less indoctrinated than others but we are all part of this society, and we all have a duty to protect it, and nurture it, and make it the best it can be for all of us.

In closing, here are some quick facts to help you figure out where you fall within the spectrum and how you honestly feel about these issues:

There are 14 women currently serving in the United States Senate. There are 86 men currently serving. Female Senators make up 14% of the Senate.

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Katherine Brengle is a freelance writer and activist.

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