Over the past eight months, about a dozen female celebrities have leapt from the feminist bandwagon as if it were a burning building. I’m not a feminist; I’m a humanist has become the new catchphrase of Hollywood’s women. Insisting that we’re beyond all that gender stuff now anyway, they have further stigmatized a term that, really, should long ago have ceased to carry any stigma at all.
Merriam-Webster defines feminism as the belief in “the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes.” Nearly 95 years after women won the right to vote and 50 years after Weeks v. Southern Bell opened male-only positions to women, it is apparently still controversial for women to express the belief that they are the equals of men.
So controversial, in fact, that even highly successful, highly paid professionals like Demi Moore, Kelly Clarkson, Madonna, and Susan Sarandon don’t wish to be associated with the term.
Yet American women continue to face social penalties and internal barriers when they dare to aspire to lives worthy of their intellect.
In 1997, a U.S. daycare center closed its doors to the women who depended on its services, hoping to have both families and a fulfilling career. The letter that the center mailed to parents condemned these women who dared think they could be more than mothers: “God intended for the home to be the center of a mother’s world. In Titus 2:5, women are instructed to be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good and obedient to their own husbands.” (source)
Seventeen years later, remarkably little has changed in the cultural terrain of this country. As documented by the University of Connecticut, gifted girls and women face a great number of obstacles, including:
- Guilt over choosing to develop their talents
- Peer rejection
- Lower self-confidence
- Social pressure from parents and teachers to choose motherhood or traditionally female careers over male-dominated fields
- Intense fear of making mistakes
- Public criticism of personal choices
- Pressure to prioritize marriage over education and career
- Poor life planning due to low social expectations and the attendant lack of career guidance
Read the full article here.
In America, opportunity and equality have become a confidence game, in which we set our girls up for failure. Many girls enter high school expecting to sacrifice their dream school to keep their boyfriends and to follow their partner’s career, rather than forge their own. In a globalized world, we can no longer afford to discourage the intelligence, leadership, and abilities of half our population.
This is why we still need feminism.