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I Am Woman! Now What?

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I Am Woman! Now What?

Putting aside, for the moment, and for the sake of this introduction, the disturbing social signals emitted by Virginia Slims ads (the eternal tall, white woman glamorizing the use of a cancer-causing agent, "baby"), their slogan actually sparks worthwhile feminist discourse. How long of a way have we come and is it enough? This is a query that I struggle with as an individual and that the feminist movement contends with at each step, after each threshold of progress is crossed. For one thing, the word "feminist" has become a dirty word, the "F-word" of the '90s. The true difficulty resides not within the word itself, but within others' reaction to the word. Proudly, I call myself a feminist. But too many people are too quick to pass judgment; the word elicits a preconceived political map and people chart my beliefs in relation to that word, thinking that because they know I am a feminist, they know exactly what I am about. Wrong.

The tragedy is that these misconceptions have steered people away from issues of feminism. I have encountered many strong-willed, independent-minded young women who sympathize with the movement's goals but who refuse to call themselves feminists because they fear the assumptions that others will make about them. Society needs to stop assuming and start understanding.

To me, being a feminist constitutes one facet of an entire process of self-definition, specifically in relation to the wonders and dilemmas of sex and gender and the recognition that women have been treated unjustly and in many cases continue to be treated unjustly. Feminism is about more than laws and systemic changes. It is about attitudes and respect. The key term in what I have just explained is "sel...

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...here? While unable to speak for other women's specific experiences and goals, my take on the future of feminism is that the journey has not ended yet and I am unsure that it ever will. Equality is not only quantitative (the female population on coed college campuses, equal pay, etc.), but primarily, I would argue, qualitative. Equality has everything to do with attitudes--with how men view women, how women view men, and how each gender perceives its own status. As long as attitudes remain archaic, the push for change must continue. As I feel about all issues of activism and social justice, the price of liberty is eternal vigilance.

I am, however, able to speak for myself as a "sensitive" feminist and as a sensitive person. I have no grand strategy in mind, but merely the hope that I may have the strength as a woman, as a human being, to successfully self-define.
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