I was in college at the height of Rush Limbaugh - when the popular debate about gender equality involved words like the ridiculously imagined label "Feminazi". At a time when men cowered in fear of this seething creature of conservative fantasy, college gals were quick to dodge the feminist label, even while appearing to agree with principles of equality.
It seemed many perceived the word 'feminist' as the calling card of the bra-less, the hairy, the angry, the man-hating, the Birkenstock-clad. (Most of the time, depending on how many times I'd hit the snooze button that morning and whether non-committal musician boyfriend had been returning my calls, I only fit two of those categories at a time, so I felt conflicted about the appropriateness of adopting the title for myself.)
But it's been awhile since I was in college, and I assumed that the debate had progressed. I've been busy, though, wading through piles of laundry, coordinating calendars, balancing dinners, working toward making partner, dreaming of writing a book, trying to raise healthy children who are true to themselves and accepting of diversity, staying (getting) thin and wrinkle free, and imagining the end of world violence, all while keeping my partner turned on and my eyebrows waxed.
Still, I presumed, I hoped, that in the 15 years that passed since I started college the feminism conversation had progressed beyond what it looked like in my youth. I kind of figured we had advanced past discussing gender roles and equality with such an "us vs. them" mentality.
As usual, I may have been mistaken.
Friend and commenter Tara, sent me a link to the recent study from Rutgers proffering this edge-of-your-seat scientific data - the man-hating feminist persona isn't accurate. It's just a stereotype.
"Feminists" according to the study, are happy people, too. Many of them (gasp!) actually manage to find mates and get married. Unfortunately, those who did the study felt it was needed:
Both men and women are prone to holding negative views of feminists, the authors say. Along with the sexually unattractive stereotype, some women also view feminism as a movement for victims, or for women who aren't competent enough to achieve success on their own merit, according to the Rutgers University researchers.
In an effort to figure out if the researchers were right - if the popular feminist visual construct is still the smelly, hairy, sexless, radical, underachieving chick of my collegiate years, I did some clicking around the blogosphere. I'll share:
Even semifamous former Spice Girls tend to think of feminism in that package. Shameless Blog reports that Geri Halliwell doesn't like feminism's branding. "It's about labeling. For me feminism is bra-burning lesbianism. It's very unglamourous."
Halliwell's not alone, it appears, as the blogosphere is full of intelligent, articulate women still proclaiming that they are certainly not feminists, or that they don't "identify with modern feminism".
After hearing this proclamation from one too many young women, and to try to combat this issue, the bloggers at Leigh's Blitherings wisely suggest that maybe feminism needs a makeover:
Kate and I think that we need to re-brand feminism. And in a way that it can't be turned into something dark and ominous. So we'll need a new name. We need to get rid of hard consonant like IST and replace them with a word that has more "o"s in it.
That made me smile, and, of course, there are some people still plugging away at trying to define and simplify feminism like Feminism 101.
So, after my detailed review I decided this debate hadn't made much forward progress since the last time I looked. We're still spending an awful lot of time talking about what feminism looks like instead of what she believes. But, I thought, we haven't regressed, and at least we have moved the conversation to the Internet. That's something, right?
Then, I found this awesome clip from the Today Show on "The Rise of the Fembots."Apparently, a "Fembot" is an emotionally unavailable, confident, career-focused woman who doesn't want to have babies, and, frankly, doesn't even like them. (If you think I am exaggerating, watch the clip. I dare you.) But don't worry, if you think you might BE a Fembot, they have a checklist so you can make sure you're not!
Leave it to the Today Show to really advance gender stereotyping.