Flagler and feminism

By Kristyn Pankiw | gargoyle@flagler.edu

Kristyn PankiwFlagler College is moving in a new direction. In recent years, many liberal arts colleges have introduced women’s studies programs into their curriculum, and Flagler is finally catching up. This spring, a group of students, faculty and staff organized a series of events for Women’s History Month and rumor has it the college may implement a women’s studies minor next year — an important step in the college’s history.

When I transferred to Flagler last year, I was surprised by the little recognition and attention women’s studies was getting. In the realm of academia, forward-thinking individuals have been pushing the relevance and importance of this study for nearly two decades.

Up until this point, Flagler has had a limited scope concerning these issues. However, the Women’s History Month project and the possible addition of the new minor in the future give hope to those students who desire social change and equality — whether on campus or off.

But many may ask, what exactly is women’s studies, and more importantly, why study it?

An interdisciplinary study, women’s studies explores history, social issues, politics and media from women’s and feminist perspectives — an important aspect of history that is frequently overlooked.

Think about it like this: When you open a history book, whose stories make up the majority? It’s the history of the wealthy white man. While we’ve begun to include ethnic and cultural studies, we often forget the importance of women’s history and perspective as unique, individual and often under-explored.

In addition, it is important to remember that gender inequality still exists today. According to the online political magazine Slate, in Florida alone, women make 76 cents for every dollar men earn. And it’s not just the workplace. There is still a stigma behind feminism, a word that simply means, “the movement aimed at equal rights for women.” Seems reasonable, I’d say. Then why are women who identify as feminists scorned, laughed at and ridiculed? There are those who believe this inequality no longer exists, and thus, feminism is unnecessary.

If it doesn’t exist, why do women still have the rational fear of being sexually assaulted every time they walk alone at night?

Why is it that most television commercials portray women as either good in the kitchen or good in bed?

If gender inequality has been eradicated, why is the phrase, “you throw like a woman,” insulting to men, implying that being a woman is shameful and inferior?

Why, then, are men more often promoted to manager positions when there are women equally or better qualified for the job?

We can’t continue to settle for the mediocre. By researching and critiquing these societal issues, we can begin to understand our community and prepare ourselves to be well-informed citizens, ready to create change. Knowledge is a catalyst in driving transformation, and isn’t that our purpose as members of academia?

This isn’t about hating on men. Both men and women reduce women’s value to their sexual abilities, classify them as having pre-determined traits and undermine the progress feminism has made by shrugging it off as a joke. How can we expect both men and women to have informed behaviors and opinions if we don’t openly study and converse about the issues society faces today?

This isn’t about turning all women into power hungry machines, either. Not everyone wants to be a CEO. Being a feminist doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy cooking, want to get married, or love children. Being a feminist simply means you believe all women have the freedom to be themselves, as equally and rightfully as everyone else.

Some may still think that women’s studies is absurd.

But as long as the media thinks sexist “jokes” are funny, I will call myself a feminist.

As long as gender roles are assigned at birth with blue or pink colors; as long as women around the world continue to be raped, forced into human trafficking, or are victims of domestic violence; as long as men are idolized for being “womanizers” while women are degraded to the title of “sluts,” I will call myself a feminist.

Let me be frank: Until society truly recognizes women as equal and independent, I will proudly call myself a feminist.

[Want more? Check out this Tumblr page: http://whoneedsfeminism.tumblr.com/]

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