Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Studying New Hope’s feminine mystique

Grace Wu
Claire Vandenberg

Throughout the past few centuries, feminism has evolved dramatically into an extremely delicate and controversial issue. Feminism began in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, emerging out of an environment of urban industrialism. Women during this period bravely fought for their fundamental rights to be equal to those of men, focusing primarily women’s suffrage. Second-wave feminism surfaced in the 1960’s, and strived parallely to the Civil Rights movement, retaining a more radical voice as oppression continued. Today, women are continuing the work of their female ancestors and persisting the fight to achieve utter gender equality and end oppression against women through third-wave feminism. Third- wave feminism hopes to expand the definitions of secaulity and reinforce the idea of bodily rights and consent. The two main political parties, republican and democrat, have truly polarized throughout this time span as well, supporting entirely different positions on pressing issues. With such passion behind both feminism and politics, the area of inquiry that we identified is in the relationship between one’s identification as a feminist and one’s political party. In our research project, we studied the relationship between political ideology and belief in feminism.
  Before conducting research of our own, we review previous literature about the correlation between political party and feminist ideologies. Although we did not find any research that matched our plan exactly, we discovered information that served as a strong foundation off which we would base our future results. Specifically ,according to feminist scholar and author Jo Freeman, for most of our country’s history, the Republican Party provided a much warmer reception to women and its women were much more active than those of the Democratic Party in working to promote women’s rights. Freeman continues, stating that “the Republican Party was, traditionally, the more feminist of the major political parties.” However, at some point between 1970 and 1973, the parties switched sides. In 1980, the Republican Party removed the ERA from its platform a second time, which actively oppose legalized abortion, allowing the democratic pro-choice stance to emerge. All of this background information allowed us to conduct our research has informed individuals, searching specific information in regards to our inquiry pertaining the correlation between political party and feminist stance.
  We sent 14 surveys, each of which had five questions to determine political ideology. Each question was paired with at least three response options, one corresponding to a liberal view, one corresponding to a moderate view, and one to corresponding to a conservative view. The liberal view was given 0 points, the moderate view was given 5 points, and the conservative view was given 10 points, and then all the scores from the five questions were averaged to give an overall score. The person’s average score was then used to determine political ideology. A score between 0 and 3 is liberal, 4 and 6 is moderate, and 7 and 10 is conservative. Towards the end of the survey, we also asked if the person supports gender equality, and then in a separate question, if they support feminism. After collecting the surveys, we found that five out of the eleven people that returned surveys identified as feminists. Of those five people here were liberals, two were moderates, and therefore, none were conservative; thus, all feminists were either moderate or liberal. These findings supported our hypothesis that democrats that those with more liberal political ideologies are more likely to be sympathetic towards feminist ideals.
  Aside from the main goal of our research, we found that most people are not feminists despite the fact that most people support gender equality. According to Merriam-Webster, feminism is “the belief that men and women should equal rights and opportunities.” Thus, very objectively, feminism is a movement for gender equality. We cannot firmly extrapolate why so many participants see those two entities as separate; however, we believe this perceived separation between gender equality and feminism is an issue. People are refusing to label themselves as feminists, but the label isn’t really the issue. People are refusing to label themselves as feminists, but the label isn’t really the issue, it’s about the implications of rejecting this label. By rejecting feminism, people are rejecting the idea that there is a dire need for action in order to resolve gender equality.From child brides, female genital mutilation, the wage gap, to a belief that women are less capable than men, gender issues are pervasive throughout the whole globe. And because of the gravity and ubiquity of this issue, gender inequality isn’t going to disappear overnight. However, the solution is simple-the solution is education. As long as those who are privileged are being informed about the inequalities that exist and those who are marginalized are being informed that they gain mobility, change will occur. With an increased awareness comes an increased need for change; thus, we believe the first step towards inciting a movement of change is education.

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