An Analysis of Feminism

By: Naomi Metoyer
OwlFeed Editor in Chief

The world I have grown up in is a much different beast than the one that existed when my mother, grandmother, and every other woman before me knew. Some would say my generation is the product of their triumphs and efforts, and that 2018 is the best time in history to be a woman. And while I don’t disagree, it has become increasingly true that this is the worst time to be a feminist.

Feminism has forever been a seed within the roots of womankind. In history, we see so many examples of women who redefined what it means to be a woman and a human. They challenged the patriarchy, pushing back against the male leaders who insisted on chaining them to one ideal.

I grew up devouring the stories of these women, revering their courage to be anything they wanted in a world dominated by men. It was as if, even in this great time for women, I was ravished with a hunger for stories of strong female leaders because it seemed they were so few and far between.

 

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And yet this was not so. It was only that these stories were never at the forefront of education or oral tradition. Before the 1920s when women got the vote in America, it was pitched to us women that there were no true feminists or victories for women at all.

 

Outside of school is where I first heard of the great women of history. Within, however, our stories are placed at the end of textbook chapters and labeled rare instances of strength in an agonizingly long history of feebleness.

Never did a single textbook tell me of one of the first nurses, the brilliant Florence Nightingale who recognized the effect of unsterile medical tools on spreading disease to troops. She who altered the role and significance of a whole group of professionals and in the process saved lives. She was a hero whose name would never be heard within the classroom.

Cleopatra was another great woman, a Pharaoh of ancient Egypt who is never portrayed for her strength but, like many women, her sexual reputation. For so long she has been ridiculed—in literature, film adaptations and everything in between—for her use of sexuality as a way to survive in a world that wished to conquer her. She played upon what men had deemed a woman’s most important attribute—their desirability—against the two most powerful men opposing her, to save her country from ruin.

She was a woman of many talents, not only that as a Pharaoh, but as a diplomat, naval commander, linguist, and medical author as well. Yet, all we ever hear of this “well-educated and clever” woman who “could speak various languages and served as the dominant ruler in all three of her co-regencies,” (according to the History Channel website), is of the relationships she fostered with men.

Nor did they tell the story of Elizabeth I, the woman who defied the patriarchy and monarchy by denying countless suitors out for her crown. Responsible for many of her country’s victories and its resulting golden age, Elizabeth I, Gloriana, The Virgin Queen, was the very definition of female rebellion in her time of such turmoil.

Though the sex to which I belong is considered weak,” she once said, and it resonated with women everywhere, “you will nevertheless find me a rock that bends to no wind.”

A personal favorite of mine is found in Khutulun, daughter of Kaidu, cousin to the great Kublai Khan. This Mongolian princess challenged every suitor that came her way to a wrestling match, and the bid? If they won, her heart and hand; if she won, she received a hundred horses. She was said to have acquired a herd numbering ten thousand.

She was also her father’s favorite for her unwavering skill as a fierce warrior and political strategist. A perfect human, I know.

Despite such significant material as this that we could be teaching to the youth regarding female strength, these role models still remain behind the men of history we hear recycled praises for. We, in growing from impressionable girls to unwavering women, have lacked the exposure to the revolutionaries that were our predecessors. This is why such a push toward feminist ideas and women empowerment has been so monumental in not only significance, but in scope as well.

In recent years a steadfast feminist agenda has been integrated into so many aspects of modern culture. The 21st century has proven the culmination of so many past attempts at progress. It seems as though we went from baby steps every once in awhile to a giant leap with the resulting splash into the equal future of a far off tomorrow.

So many things have been done right in the name of feminism.

With things such as the #MeToo movement, we have made the first steps needed in pushing back against a culture that has for too long silenced victims of rape and assault.

Toxic tendencies found within society such as female competition, slut shaming, and gender roles have become under fire with this new surge of feminism. These archaic constructs have begun to crumble with this new wave, and it is thoroughly refreshing.   

However by acknowledging these accomplishments we must also acknowledge the inverse effects of this redefining time. Actual feminist narratives depicting women with the willpower, emotional strength, and character to determine their own fate are discredited because so much anti-feminist media has been labeled feminist when it is far from accurate in its portrayal of female resilience and worth

We get characters in all types of media that are misrepresenting what it means to be powerful and feminine. They are calling themselves feminist by taking away everything it means to be a female. They are crafting the perfect woman by granting her all the characteristics of a man, then labeling her feminist because she can “do all a man can do.”

And in most instances this is not a case of trans representation because there is nothing of the sort. These people, mislabeled as feminist icons, are bashing traditionally feminine qualities and replacing them with masculine ones, almost as if to say that femininity is inherently less desirable or admirable than masculinity.

Brilliant YouTuber The Authentic Observer is responsible for solidifying my thoughts concerning this particular issue and is much more eloquent in her analysis of it. Watch her video here if you’re interested.

Female characters across all fictional medias began to be labeled “strong female characters” as a positive source of recognition, but as of recently the term has taken on a new connotation that is increasingly negative. Such characters may have started feminist in their design and presentation but have since morphed into unhealthy stereotypes.

Some of these characters can be described as “charming” when they are only cruel or quick to rudeness. They show a serious case of man-hate for no reason other than fanservice, emotional immaturity or isolation for no apparent reason, no particularly distinctive traits besides their “adorable” haughtiness, toxic girl hate, and so much more.

An example of this is Clary Fray from the Mortal Instruments book series (though I haven’t seen the television adaption). This character is hyped up on the basis that she isn’t like other girls, a misogynist idea that only perpetuates female competition. She also doesn’t know her overwhelming beauty, and is shown to be far superior through the contrast between her and the other female character who is degraded for her open flirtations and beauty.

These increasingly popular archetypes are anti-feminist in every way.

Feminism has, in its purest form, been about promoting women as equals to men, because for so long in so many aspects have we not been treated so. But we cannot reach equality if we stoop to the level of those we so wholeheartedly oppose.

How can we promote this type of behavior in media representation under the banner of feminism when all we are doing is telling young girls that to be a high functioning female you must then be as toxic and degrading to all men as some have been to us? How does this promote the equality we ask for?

These trends can be seen all throughout the book and film world. You’ll also notice it as women taking on men twice their size with little to no effort or injury. Or the girl who “doesn’t like other girls” and can only be friends with males. Or, and this is my favorite, the woman who doesn’t like makeup or nice clothes or other girly things and thus judges other girls for embracing that aspect of their feminine nature.

This, while not only very misleading in its portrayal of strong feminist women everywhere, is an unhealthy misrepresentation as it is telling us young women that if we aren’t physically dominating or if we choose to embrace our feminine sides, we are less worthy than the population of women who choose to live that way.

Ideas like this only perpetuate the ideas that have been force fed to women throughout all of history. It tells young girls that they cannot express themselves in the way they want because one type of woman is better than another type of woman. Isn’t it the goal of feminists to unify as women and bring each other up?

All throughout history, society has forced women to compete with one another and have thus created such a divide in sisterhood that has no equivalent in male relationships. We women have and are still defined by labels men put on us.

We were labeled whore or virgin, lady or tramp, beautiful or ugly. These were forever the legacies put upon us by those who wished to measure our worth based on things that had little matter to us and all the matter to them.

We have been measured for things such as beauty, meekness, and obedience that were seen as valuable in a feeble woman. These ideas are still present today, and yet with these new stereotypes we introduce yet more challenges and distinctions between women which only help society determine our worth against one another.

These new depictions of feminism are where the pushback has come from. Of course there are going to be men with traditional and outdated views on the role of women and also, sadly, women who do not act or even feel obligated to sympathize with the feminist movement or ideas. But there would be far more support of feminist action if people understood that it does not mean what so many make it out to be.

If people were to throw out their misconceptions of feminism that have originated from harmful portrayals in media and those who take the meaning of feminism to an extreme that completely contradicts its every ideal, I am positive there would be a universal shift in how female issues are approached and viewed in popular society.

Educating oneself to the truth behind a cause is when one can become a proponent for it and its change. I wholeheartedly believe this change can become reality if only we start representing feminism in the way it is meant to be. Only then will we truly be on track enroute to a free and equal future.