Discouraging myths about feminism

Erin Wethern and Erin Wethern

As a newly declared Women’s Studies major and a long time feminist, I’m frequently asked lots of questions about both the program and my future plans.

What exactly do you study? What are you going to do for a job? Do women still have issues? Wasn’t it all solved in the 1970s?

Well, I thought this would be a good opportunity to clear up some questions many of you probably have.

In the United States, women still make, on average, seventy-two cents for every dollar a man earns doing the same job. Don’t believe me? Ask some of your female professors.

Additionally, women and other minorities are still grossly under-represented in Congress and other public offices. Our voices are not being heard by our WASPy government.

Women are still fighting for our natural rights. As long as this gross inequality exists, we need Women’s Studies programs in our universities.

Women’s Studies classes teach students about the systematic inequality that is patriarchy. They teach us why patriarchy is unfair and how we can take steps to dismantle it.

One common myth is feminists want to replace patriarchy with matriarchy, or take men out of power and replace them with women. This isn’t true. While I’m sure there are a few women out there who wish for a women’s ruling class, the vast majority of us do not share this Valerie Solanas mentality.

Feminists strive for equal rights and equal opportunity among all races and sexes. That doesn’t sound so bad, does it?

While we are on the topic, labeling ones self as a feminist should not have the negative connotation it has been given in recent years. I am reminded of this every time I hear a someone say “I’m not a feminist, but…”

I’m not a feminist, but I believe women should go to school and be allowed to vote.

I’m not a feminist but I’m in favor of government subsidized childcare.

I’m not a feminist but I think women should receive equal pay for equal work.

Well, I’ve got news for you sister. That makes you a feminist! Feminism should be embraced, not feared. Calling yourself a feminist doesn’t mean you have to stop shaving your legs and give your guy friends the cold shoulder.

Feminism is about giving people the ability to make the choices which effect their lives.

Now back to the Women’s Studies program. Many people ask me what kinds of things I learn from the major.

Currently I’m in two Womens Studies classes: Ecofeminism, and Women and Interpersonal Violence. In Ecofem, we study the relationship between women and the environmental movement.

As Al Gore taught us over the summer, few things are of more immediate importance then helping the environment. In my opinion, everyone should be taking a class in order to learn what they can do to help stop global warming.

My other Womens Studies class is Interpersonal Violence. Here we learn about violence against women, particularly rape and domestic abuse and the tolls they take on society. As someone who hopes to work in victim’s services, it’s important to study these issues and the effects they have on our lives.

So there you have it. That, in a tiny little nut shell, is my collegiate life. I hope you are at least a little intrigued. If so, I recommend taking an intro class. I promise, it will be a rewarding, eye opening experience. If you don’t have time for that, Jennifer Baumgardner and Amy Richards, Bell Hooks and Eve Ensler all have fantastic books to give you an idea of what we Women’s Studies folks are all about.

Send comments to Erin Wethern at [email protected].