Wednesday, January 11, 2006
Women Can Be Sexist Too . . . Who Knew?
We’ve spent some time bashing Yale and celebrating good old Harvard for its proactive stance against sexual assault and rape. But a recent editorial published by Virginia A. Fisher, a Harvard undergrad, entitled “Fie Feminism” may prove that we have one more nasty little thing in common with the crimsons: sexism.
In her article, Fisher argues that feminism has made “enough real gains that organizing women to struggle together as a special interest group is often counterproductive, as it encourages the development of a victimized group mentality, rather than encouraging women to develop as individual people.” She then goes on to defend President Larry Summer’s lovely comment that women were not as gifted in the sciences as men (“he may have had a point”).
While her article seems pretty shocking to the average intelligent and educated individual, especially considering that she is a woman and a math major, what is more disturbing is how much her attitude resonates with other women on college campuses. Many women do not think such blatant inequality exists and see feminism (and women’s centers and adequate sexual assault policies on college campuses) as unnecessary and even “counterproductive”.
The question we want to ask is why? Why are so many WOMEN (and men) so against feminism? Ms. Fisher has an intelligent point: identifying as a feminist means admitting that you are in a less powerful position in society, that you are oppressed, that you are a victim (to use her language) of sexism. Although feminism is meant to empower women to fight for equality and to fight against oppression, it also requires women to acknowledge that they live in a compromised world with compromised power and compromised agency.
For many people, being a feminist then is mutually exclusive with being a successful Ivy Leaguer. Being a student at an elite university where students are trained to become powerful people in powerful positions means that no one wants to admit to being powerless (or even less powerful) than their male counterparts. What people are missing is that to be less powerful does not mean you do not have the brainpower or even the physical strength to compete and to succeed, but rather that there are institutional and cultural impediments to women’s ability to be their best and greatest selves. Recognizing the ways in which our power in compromised is the first step to reclaiming our lives. Denying that sexism exists, allowing President Summers to get away with those kinds of comments, and even agreeing with him suggests that women would rather be silently victimized by men and by themselves than admit to being oppressed and actually doing something about it.
[Welcome back...stay tuned as our blogging gets underway again]
Posted by Maggie at Wednesday, January 11, 2006