Feminism should be considered a force for equality, not a dirty word
Rich Robinson | Staff ColumnistBy Rich Robinson | 09/10/2014 12:54am
The United States was not founded as an equal nation. Spoiler alert: our land was not perfect at its founding despite the best efforts of historical revisionists who try to paint infant America and its fathers as being nearly perfect. It is truly lazy to believe as a historian, for example, that the United States was destined to have an African-American president, or that gay couples would eventually be treated as equals before the law. While the seeds of equality were sowed in the founding documents and spirit of the nation, they were watered and developed under countless generations of subsequent Americans. The truth is far more complicated and difficult to come to terms with than the spoon-fed idea of democratic expansion believed by many people. But the reality is also more human and in many ways, more up-lifting.
America at the founding was both the greatest hope for the forces of republicanism and democracy since antiquity and also a predictably racist and male-dominated society, the mean of its contemporaries. But over the course of nearly 240 years, the quiet growth of equality and of equal treatment before the law became a reoccurring trend in American history. So too was the reactionary push-back to all of it from the Know Nothing Party to the Ku Klux Klan and back again. Our history is not just about the ever-increasing struggle for human rights, it is a culmination of the battle between the forces for progress and the legions of stagnation. That fight is still going on today in every level of our lives.
For example, feminism has become a dirty word over the past 100 years after a great period of momentous change across the globe. So-called “militant” feminists in England helped usher in great reforms around the turn of the 20th century as the weight of industrialization crashed in the patriarchal structure codified by millennia of agrarian dominance. Some used aggressive tactics that sometimes bordered on terrorism, and a scared male society tried to paint all female rights activists as “radicals.” Similar language spread to the United States and began to taint the idea of feminism. Fast-forward some 100 years and much has changed. Women make up the majority of the American electorate, and the leading candidate for president in 2016 is a woman. At the local level, one of Tuscaloosa’s member of Congress is female as is the president of The University of Alabama. Yet women on average only make 77 cents for every dollar a man earns, sexual assault is at epidemic levels across college campuses in our nation and feminists are widely seen as a shrinking sect of hyper liberal lesbians. It is a strange era of cognitive dissidence to be sure.
At the University, females in the Greek system have been signaled out as being overtly racist. When this newspaper uncovered a national shame, the University and some female Greek leaders worked together to slowly change the runaway policies of segregation among their ranks. But the conversation never translated to the fraternity system. This is unfair and is a symbol of a double standard at play on many levels. It also shows how far feminism has fallen here on campus and across the United States. If feminism were strong on campus, the Machine would routinely choose a female SGA president from its ranks, the administration would fight for desegregation in the fraternity house just as hard as it has in the sororities and people would not openly scoff when someone identifies as a feminist.
Strong women helped build this country, state and campus. It’s time for strong women to step up again and demand their place at the table. And it’s time for strong men to help it happen. That’s the great power of knowing one’s history. You learn where you stand on the wider fight for equality. That’s the fight that we will all be remembered for.
Rich Robinson is a senior majoring in telecommunication and film. His columns runs Tuesdays.