POINT – COUNTERPOINT: Feminism – M.R.S. Degree

“I hate women!” one student exclaims with a smile. “We’re reading about feminism again,” another says, rolling her eyes. All of my friends love to talk about how much they hate feminists, particularly the sections in their U.S. history textbooks devoted to women. Feminism? Women’s rights? How repulsive. Even my girlfriends joke about how their place is “in the kitchen,” or how their performance at PA isn’t important because they’ll just “marry rich.” We laugh at feminist’s failures, such as the lack of impact Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s Seneca Falls conference had on women’s position, or on politics as a whole. Though I joke along with them, I cannot help wondering why there has been such a backlash against female independence, from both sexes. Perhaps students recoil from feminism because of the term’s modern connotations; the word “feminist” conjures up images of manly women with unshaven legs and armpits, burning their bras. Thus, any association with feminism repels girls because feminists are considered unattractive, bossy, and downright unfeminine. Yet this alone cannot account for my peers’ reaction to history readings, since feminists used to be a different than the modern stereotype. Nor can it account for their general aversion to the entire female sex. Thanks to courageous females such as Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, women in the twenty-first century have more opportunities than ever before, but only a minority takes advantage of them. On September 20, 2005 a New York Times article entitled “Many Women at Elite Colleges Set Career Path to Motherhood,” spoke about women’s responses to a survey in which a shocking 60 percent said they planned to stop working when they had children. But I do not need an article to inform me of the appalling number of girls nowadays who still do not feel the need to work. Some of my best friends – all very intelligent girls – speak about their future careers merely as speed bumps on the path to marriage and “domestic bliss.” They assume their only job will be to care of the house and family. Their ambitions (or lack thereof) only force me to wonder – why are they attending Phillips Academy, the oldest and most prestigious boarding school in the country? Why do they consistently sleep only four hours a night at the risk of a shortened life span, insomnia, and death by breast cancer, when their main goal in life is marriage? Perhaps our society is too deeply entrenched in the “Cult of Domesticity” philosophy, which has prevailed over women’s lives since the late nineteenth century, to ever fully accept that women are capable of the same lifestyle as men. And perhaps we women are simply too far removed from a repressive society to understand the significance of our own rights. Or maybe it rests upon the fact that most women – myself included – do not think ourselves capable of the same authority or intelligence as men, and openly acknowledge our alleged inferiority. Perhaps we do not consider ourselves the lesser sex, but we withhold our intelligence because it intimidates men, most of whom would never wish to be bested by a women, much less their significant other. Even if we as a society are unable to move past these gender-based prejudices, I think it’s time we began to recognize those “disgusting” feminists for the discrimination they have overcome and rights they have given us. Without them, we would have no rights to ridicule.