Campus organizations shed light on its broad nature
February 16, 2006 7:20 PM
The way women think about feminism has changed dramatically and it hardly resembles the message of women like Betty Friedan, author of the “Feminine Mystique,” which became a manifesto for the early women’s rights crusade.
Although Friedan’s message spoke to many women and inspired a great deal of change, she is sometimes criticized by modern feminists for the exclusion of lesbians, non-white women, and lower-class women, according to Deborah Cohler, assistant professor of women’s studies.
“At SF State we are thinking about women, but also about race, class, gender, sexuality, social justice, and politics,” Cohler said. “No student has one single identity and the days of thinking about only one issue at a time are long gone and never coming back.”
“Feminism is far larger than the concerns of domesticity of the middle class,” she added.
The shift in attitude toward feminism is appropriately represented by the SF State Associated Students Women’s Center. According to Araceli Centeno, the 22-year-old director of the Women’s Center, the center is concerned with all women’s issues but particularly focuses on women of color in this country and internationally.
“The center is a safe place for women to come in and educate themselves, or just to get away from patriarchy for a while,” Centeno said. “It is a space where women can come to be organized and creative and educate each other and talk about our own realities.”
Centeno also believes that focusing on women’s liberation is not looking at the whole picture.
“There has to be liberation of all levels of society,” Centeno said. “For a lot of us it is hard to just be a feminist because we are so many other things.”
According to Cohler, over the years the word “feminist” has picked up some negative stereotypes inciting images of angry, man-hating women.
“The word feminist has created this mystique of shadowy figures that are hostile,” Cohler said.
Laurie Robinson, a 21-year-old English literature major, agrees that feminist may not be the best way to describe strong, independent women.
“I live with two males, so the issue of feminism is a cornerstone of my daily life,” Robinson said. “But I prefer to call myself an ‘equalist,’ not a feminist.”
Even though she is going into teaching, which is a female-dominated field, she recognizes that white men still generally hold the highest positions in education.
“I just focus on being the strongest woman possible and appreciate my opportunities,” Robinson said.
Centeno believes that there is still work to be done in society, not only for women, but also for people of all races, ethnicities, genders, and sexual orientation.
“The two biggest myths are that racism is over and women are free,” Centeno said.
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