Tag Archives: sexism

On the Definition of Feminism

Woman_suffrage_headquarters_ClevelandRecently a friend posed the following question on her  Facebook page: “What is your definition of ‘feminism’?”

I read several of the responses listed in her comments section and then added my own reply, which is my personal interpretation of the definition found in Webster’s Dictionary: “To me, it (feminism) means that women should have the same education and career opportunities as men. Period.”

While most of the respondents wrote similar definitions to mine, I must admit that I was a bit surprised that some women still find themselves hesitant to identify with the term, feminism, due to perceived negative connotations that continue to accompany a word that strives to promote gender equality.

In order to more thoroughly understand why feminism carries such a vast array of definitions, we must first look at the history of feminism as a doctrine and examine its political impact throughout history. Feminism, by its very definition, requires action. Those who work to create a society that protects gender equality must look at the current state of a government’s policies and address the fairness of any laws and practices that result from such guidelines.  Additionally, throughout history the politics surrounding gender equality have been closely related to religion in that many traditional patriarchal religious beliefs often dictated the distribution of power between the sexes. Thus, when women suffragists in the United States confronted the political status quo, not only were they criticized for disrupting the country’s existing customs and beliefs, but they were also viewed as challenging church doctrine. Keeping this in mind, as well as the fact that even among the suffragists there was often great dissension over the direction in which the movement should proceed, it is no wonder that modern feminism also carries mixed feelings when discussed.

The introduction of the birth control pill in the early 1960’s brought about a new wave of feminism, closely linking the movement to reproductive rights and sexuality as women more openly discussed the notion that the ability to plan for pregnancy (and the newfound freedom to plan against pregnancy) provided them the same opportunities for employment and economic advancement as men. And, as the Supreme Court delivered its opinion in the historic Roe v. Wade case, abortion rights also got added to the mix when discussing reproductive rights.

Suddenly feminism became a fight of “us against them”.

However, in my opinion, feminism is not a case of, “if you’re not for us, you’re against us.” Instead, feminism is simply the notion that women, as human beings, deserve the right to pursue whatever interests they desire. They should be allowed to follow their dreams, whatever those dreams may be. Just like not all men will study to be lawyers or doctors, not all women aspire to the traditionally female roles of wives or mothers or teachers or nurses. We should support one another no matter what our individual personal goals might be. Working mother, stay-at-home mom, corporate CEO, English teacher, politician, single, married, gay – these differences are not things to argue over. They are experiences that we can share with each other in an effort to educate one another on the variety of lifestyle choices that create a healthy, industrious, and enlightened civilization. All of us, male and female, possess various individual talents that enable us to contribute to society as a whole. Without the opportunity to study or work toward our goals we become unproductive citizens, unable to add value to the world around us.

And that, to me, would be a waste of humanity.

Just as the term, “love”, can be used in a variety of contexts, so, too can the term, “feminism”. And it is important to remember that we all reserve the right to use either term in the manner which we choose. All too often, in an attempt to maintain their own identity when discussing a term that has become a label, women apologize for their belief in gender equality.

It’s time we stop apologizing for our belief that women deserve the same rights as men.

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On Golf Digest and Paulina Gretzky

spring iphone 2012 076My boys love the game of golf. They love the lingo: “Hey, Mom, have you seen my balls?” “Dad, I need a stiffer shaft.” (Get your minds out of the gutter – that is legitimate golfing terminology. The boys use these terms when discussing their equipment. Their golf equipment. Geesh.) They love the Golf Channel and Holly Sonders. They love the 19th hole. And, of course, they love playing round after round with the other fine gentlemen who frequent our local golf course.

Like the good mom I am, I, too, have grown to appreciate the finer points of golf – such as enjoying a glass of wine along with appetizers while seated on the golf course veranda watching the boys practice nearby and offering up a silent prayer of gratitude over the fact that I never have to discuss their wardrobe choices whenever they head out to the course in their club-approved attire of golf slacks and polos.

I even attended a practice round at the 2012 Ryder Cup in Chicago.

My knowledge of all things golf increases daily. For instance, I have learned that one son’s favorite golfer is Tiger while the other son has had his tweets re-tweeted by golf pro Dustin Johnson.

Which leads me to today’s topic.

What the heck was Golf Digest thinking when they put Paulina Gretzky – Dustin Johnson’s fiancé – on this month’s cover?

Yes, she’s gorgeous and her dad is hockey legend Wayne Gretzky. Also, I’m sure she’s a great girl. But, people, she’s not a golfer. At least former college golf standout Holly Sonders actually works in the industry (the popular Golf Channel personality appeared on the cover of Golf Digest in May 2013). To make things worse, Golf Digest decided to use pictures of Gretzky in capri leggings and a sports bra for its May issue. Because every golf course accepts sports bras and capris as appropriate golfing attire.

No, actually, the bra top is there because sex sells, and Golf Digest – the country’s leading golf publication – has stooped to selling sex instead of information about the game of golf.

So, why all the controversy?

Because there are plenty of women golfers who actually play golf for a living and are much more deserving of gracing the cover of a magazine whose main objective is to disseminate information about the sport than some guy’s pretty girlfriend with cleavage in a halter top.

Over 450 women belong to the LPGA – the longest continuing women’s professional sports organization in the United States – and, to date, LPGA players have only appeared solo on the cover of Golf Digest eleven times since 1969. The most recent cover featuring an LPGA player was with Lorena Ochoa back in August 2008.

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See, here we are on Broadway.

I realize that the magazine wants to sell issues. I also know that magazines – Golf Digest included – often use models and celebrities to attract readers. But to feature a scantily clad woman whose only connection to the sport is the fact that she is engaged to a professional golfer is like putting me on the cover of Broadway magazine just because I saw Wicked last March. (Although, I WOULD make a great Elsa in Disney’s upcoming Broadway production of Frozen. I can really belt out those high notes in “Let it Go”. Watch out, Idina Menzel.)

Yes, featuring Paulina Gretzky on the cover of Golf Digest will bring recognition to the magazine. And I’m sure my boys will spend plenty of time examining Gretzky’s cleavage grip when their issue arrives in the mail. But that’s not what results in gaining subscribers for the long run. Because, the truth is, if men just want a magazine that shows women in bikinis there are plenty of others to choose from. Putting Gretzky on the cover and attempting to justify the decision as anything other than a gratuitous sales ploy is insulting to our intelligence. For the most part, Golf Digest subscribers actually want to read about golf. The boys who pick up the Gretzky issue at the newsstand will be “one and done” – not dedicated golf enthusiasts eager to learn how to fix their slice or break 80 on their next round out on the links.

And as for women golfers? Well, I doubt the magazine will enjoy an increase in female subscribers for quite some time after this blatant display of sexism. Which is really too bad because one of the great things about golf is that it is a game that both men and women, young and old, can play and compete in together.

So, I’ve had my rant. Now it’s your turn. What do you think? Have you heard about the Paulina Gretzky cover? Do you find Golf Digest’s decision to put her on its cover offensive? What do you think about the magazine industry’s penchant for employing underhanded techniques in an effort to sell more issues at the newsstand? Is there a problem – and, if so, is there a solution? Keep the discussion going in the comments section below!