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Osgerby: The function of feminism

BY PAUL OSGERBY | FEBRUARY 16, 2015 5:00 AM

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I saw a revolting guest opinion on the Press-Citizen website the other day: an author based in Iowa City chalking up (or perhaps I should say down) feminism to sexualized freedom of expressions from certain women and their “deliberate, aggressive flaunting of tastelessness.” Slut-shaming at its best.

“I’ll keep saying it and saying it: Feminism does not empower women. It infantilizes them. It turns potentially strong, capable women into petulant, pearl-clutching, entitled, potty-mouthed little girls,” Joseph Dobrian wrote.

That’s some fancy language in an attempt to dismantle an ideology based on equality.

To quickly sum up the argument of Dobrian, he focused on the cases of sexualized events and attire, such as “SlutWalks” and “I Had An Abortion” shirts, as evidence of the vulgarity of feminism. He also took it upon himself to address rape culture, particularly focusing on potential false accusations from women and the institutions put in place to protect them.

I would first like to point out that this is just whittling an entire ideology, composed of women and men, down to a sect of those people. At its very core, feminism is “the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes,” as defined by Merriam-Webster.

I fail to see where some sexualized instances of women expressing their opinions or identity justify demeaning feminism.

Do we instantly forget the notorious water-cooler conversations, in which two males discuss which woman has the best set of breasts in the office? Or what about the current hook-up culture that exalts men for sleeping with as many women as possible but degrades women as “sluts” when a man sees a women as sexually promiscuous?

So what if some women are expressing their sexuality publicly in ways that may be indecent? Men do it, too, in equally lewd and tasteless ways. The problem is that our society still deems it appropriate for men to devalue a woman down to an object.

This is evidenced by a stark statistic: 1 in 5 American women have been or will be the victims of an attempted or completed acts of rape in their lifetimes, according to the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey 2010. It’s another instance of men objectifying women and trying to exert sexual dominance.

Organizations that serve to protect a woman in cases of rape and the individuals willing to protest the trial, or lack thereof, mark the importance in aiding a potential victim, whether or not there is a chance of false accusation. Rape must always be taken seriously.

I’m glad there are institutions founded and built to be resources for women to attain political, economic, and social equality with men. In all reality, men don’t need it.

Women are still drastically underrepresented in the United States—the new 114th Congress set a new record with 104 female lawmakers to the 430 male counterparts. That’s a mere 24 percent. Progress, I guess.

The difference in sexual reproductive organs maintains the still-prevalent pay gap. Feminist Magazine reported that single women only make an average of 90 percent of men’s salary. That figure drops to 73 percent for a woman with children and 60 percent for single mothers. It sounds like the demographic that direly needs equal access to pay should have access to institutions that aid in women’s resources.

This isn’t “infantilizing” women, Mr. Dobrian. Women do need resources and voices to continue to progress toward equality in a world in which men dominate lawmaking and societal norms.


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