In March, we celebrate Women’s History Month and the many achievements that have been made to foster an environment where women have equal access and opportunity.
For young women today, we have hit the historical jackpot. We operate in a world that our mothers, and mothers’ mothers yearned for but did not have access to.
Though great strides have been made, and we all acknowledge there is much more work to do, I am starting to wonder just what is happening to the meaning of feminism in a world where 140 character tweets and Facebook posts dominate much of the conversation on gender equality.
Last month, Kim Kardashian posted two semi-nude photos that elicited responses from the likes of Bette Midler and Piers Morgan, but the most interesting responses to me where from other women defending the posts as examples of feminism, and Kardashian as a new-age feminist icon.
Call me old fashioned, but not everything is feminism.
Feminism is not easy. There seems to be this cultural push by young women who have grown up in the digital age to apply feminism to almost everything. As Ariel Levy puts it, “Why is this the ”˜new feminism’ and not what it looks like: old objectification?”
We are supposed to congratulate Kardashian because it was her choice to show those pictures, it is her brand, and she is an entrepreneur. Gloria Steinem was often criticized by others because of her traditional feminine appeal, but she didn’t launch a women’s right’s movement by taking off her shirt. She did it by advocating for the rights of others, through grassroots efforts, by tirelessly calling attention to the inequities she and her fellow female peers faced.
To me, Kardashian’s posts are as feminist as Girls Gone Wild ”“ not at all. At a time in history where women are leading the way in next generation industries we haven’t seen before, it is important to remember the original call to action. To be seen as more than a girl in dress, more than a pretty woman on a cover of a magazine, more than an object to be desired. Don’t get me wrong, I have no problem with the posts, I just object to the categorization of them as furthering a long fought battle for equality. Feminism is supposed to encourage us to think critically about the world around us ”“ it is supposed to serve as a lens through which we view the world. When we justify everything as a feminist action, we stop thinking critically about where these notions of feminism come from.
I am sure there are many people who will read this and see it as a ”˜feminist’ overreaction to a rather mundane ordeal. Something not worth the space it is taking up. They are probably wondering if I have anything else to say other than discussing feminism. The answer is I do. I have lots of other issues I would love to use this platform for, the thing is, this topic right here impacts my life chances and choices. It shapes how people, especially men, view women and it impacts how young girls view themselves. So for now, I am happy to use this platform to hopefully encourage people to question the images they see and think about the movement that started it all.
Jarin R. Eisenberg is the executive director of Melbourne Main Street.
Columnist series sponsored by weVENTURE, powered by the Florida Institute of Technology. weVENTURE has locations in Melbourne, Rockledge and Orlando. The Center is funded in part through a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration. For more information, visit weventure.org or call 321-674-7007.