Posted by: chrissypurcell | October 20, 2012

If you watched Tuesday’s presidential debate, you may remember Katherine Fenton, a young woman who posed a straightforward question to the candidates: “In what new ways do you intend to rectify the inequalities in the workplace? Specifically regarding females making only 72 percent of what their male counterparts earn.”

Well folks, big shocker: Katherine Fenton is already under attack from the conservative Washington Free Beacon for being a “feminazi” and a “party girl” (read: a slut and a drunk). Check out the full story as reported by the Huffington Post here.

When interviewed about her question and the backlash that has followed, Katherine has expressed that she is an undecided voter who is “absolutely not” a feminist (for that story, click here).

There are so many layers to this story that I hardly know where to begin.

I’m saddened that we’ve made such little progress in these postfeminist years that we’re still publicly shaming women for questioning the status quo. But what is perhaps more disappointing to me is the fact that the idea of feminism is still so divisive that a young woman who believes in gender equality is uncomfortable calling herself a feminist. Will the word “feminism” ever lose the negative connotation and be recognized for its potential as an ideology that promotes equal treatment for everyone? 

I love the Dale Spender quote in the introduction to Chapter 20 of our text: “If someone says, ‘Oh, I’m not a feminist’, I ask, ‘Why? What’s your problem?'” (O’Shaughnessy & Stadler, 2012, p. 349).

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Responses

  1. I’m with you; I’m fascinated (and disturbed) by the stigma attached to second-wave feminism. Perhaps we need a new term (equalism?) or learn from the queer community how to go about reclaiming a term.

  2. I am glad you brought this up. As this question came up during the presidential debate, I looked to my husband and said, ” watch, they will tippy toe around it, but it will never get answered” and sure enough President Obama spoke about it in general terms. Then came Romney talking about his “binders full of women”, but the question of how do we close the 28% disparity in wages never found an answer. Following this, Fox news’ Megyn Kelly came out saying that democrats are “pandering to women” to obtain their vote. Assuming that she is a woman (and she certainly appears to be), what prompts a woman to not be interested in issues that concern her social and political matters of equality? Answering this is beyond me, but I agree with you. It is beyond depressing to observe how little progress we have made in such a long time.
    As for the washing away the negative connotation of the word ‘feminism’, I can think of one viable solution–its called education. I have been advocating for years that schools and colleges should make Women’s Studies as a general requirement just like math and science. Why so? Here is a little first-hand experience. During my freshmen year in college, my Women’s Studies professor posed a question during the first day of class. She asked, “rais your hand if you consider yourself to be a feminist.” I was among few who hesitantly raised my hand. By the end of the term, everyone in the class, including the only two male students, raised their hands high and identified themselves to be feminists. 2.5 months were enough for everyone to understand that feminism means fairness and equality for all regardless of age, sex, gender and race. As an optional class, only those who are curious end up pursuing this subject but to properly educate our society, we need more individuals to understand such complex concept beyond its social connotation.


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