Faces of feminism

feministBy Hilary Arsenault

When many people hear the word “feminist,” a rather unflattering image comes to mind. They think of militant, grungy-looking women or angry, man-hating lesbians with short hair.

Fitchburg state senior Angela Szymcik is none of those things, but she is a feminist.

“I can wear heels if I want to,” she says. It’s a matter of taking control of femininity. She says she is opposed to the idea that to be a feminist, you have to be grungy and tough. “Feminine is the root of the word feminist,” she notes.

That’s not to say that you have to be feminine to be a feminist. Junior Davis Bannister is a film/video major, director of the Falcon Players’ The Vagina Monologues for two years running, a man, and a feminist. The production will be returning to campus this weekend at 8 p.m. in Percival Auditorium. Tickets are $3 dollars per person or $5 per couple, proceeds will go to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network.

“A lot of people assume that men can’t be feminists,” he says. “I think that’s ridiculous. You don’t have to be gay to believe in gay marriage, you don’t have to be black to believe in civil rights, and you don’t have to be a woman to be a feminist.”

The Vagina Monologues are playing at Fitchburg State!

The Vagina Monologues are playing at Fitchburg State!

Szymcik and Bannister both give similar definitions of feminism. It is the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities in society, and the belief that the culture we live in is not yet equal. “That isn’t to say that men never have a difficult time,” Bannister says, “but that they do receive privilege because of their gender.”

Many people believe that feminism isn’t necessary anymore. Women can get any job they want to, they can dress how they like, they can vote and serve in the military. Both Szymcik and Bannister agree that we’ve come a long way, but we still have a quite a way to go. Women still make only 78 cents for every dollar a man makes doing the same job. Most of our elected officials, CEOs and the like, are  male. “Women are still oppressed, beaten and tortured all over the world. If this were happening to all people, we’d get pretty radical about human rights,” Szymcik says.

Still, feminism gets a bad reputation. Aside from the physical stereotypes, many believe that feminists are trying to take over men’s positions in society in order to make this a world that is dominated by women. They are called overbearing, radical, or even “bitches.”

Bannister recounts a story where singer Katy Perry was given a “Woman of the Year” award. In an interview about this, she was asked if she believes she is a feminist. Her response was that she believes in equal rights, but she didn’t like to call herself a feminist. Many others feel the same way. They don’t want to be associated with the negative image that the word has unfortunately come to represent.

Bannister is hopeful that society can move away from the stereotypes and the negativity. He wants to show people that being a feminist might not mean what they think.  “This is one thing I can do,” he says, “I can say ‘look, you’re wrong about this. I can prove it right now because I’m a feminist.’”

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