From exclusion to inclusion: A workshop on feminism

Event attendee writing her opinion on the significance of feminism.

To celebrate Women’s History Month, a workshop centered around feminism was presented to any Bellevue College students who wished to attend on Tuesday, March 1. In this workshop, organized  by Associate Director of the Center for Career Connections, Christina Sciabarra, as well as Tess Ames of the PALS Center, students freely expressed their opinions on whether or not feminism was necessary to society and why.

Arguments against this posed such statements as feminism campaigns for privilege instead of equality, feminism promotes hive mind opinions, and that feminism is not biblical. However, people who supported feminism put up such ideas as feminism confronts systemic sexist inequality in society, unrealistic standards of beauty propagated in our culture affects men and women, we need to break outdated roles and expectations, and that feminism exists to empower women who have historically been at a disadvantage in the working world. After these were addressed, students from programs such as the Black Student Union and the International Student Association gave a presentation describing what feminism is and what its history has been in the United States.

Event attendee writing her opinion on the significance of feminism.
Event attendee writing her opinion on the significance of feminism.

Jada Rodgers opened the presentation by explaining that feminism can be broken down into three waves. The first wave of feminism started between the 1830s and the 1900s and focused on increasing women’s power on political grounds, and culminated in them gaining the right to vote in 1920. The second wave lasted from the 1960s to the 1980s. World War II had recently ended, during which women were given jobs in the workforce due to vacancies left by the men who were off fighting the war. Other movements going on during this time included the Black Civil Rights movement, the Asian-American movement, as well as the Gay Liberation and LGBT Rights movements. The third wave, which is still occurring today, started in the 1990s. During this time, feminists moved to challenge cultural stereotypes placed on women.

The presentation was passed onto Jade Sherlock, a member of the International Student Association. After recounting history, the presenters talked about right feminism versus wrong feminism, the basis of the argument being that there is no way to define what feminism is to every person and that some people might think of it differently. They used this to defuse popular stereotypes associated with the word “feminism,” such as feminists not shaving or that they want to emasculate men and neglect their children.

Sasha Lee then talked about intersectionality, which is a word used to describe, in this scenario, women of color in “white” feminism. According to her, black scholars refer to this as the fourth wave of feminism because of the advancement in representation of other races in feminism, such as Ida B. Wells and Anna Julia Cooper. Lee stated that because of the Civil Rights Movement and feminist movement, people like Cooper had to participate in both because it was a way of equalizing black men and white women without much recognition for black women.

Sciabarra, when asked a question from the audience, brought to attention an example from Bhutan, where originally the standard for beauty lay in women who could work on the farm. However, the Bhutanese idea of beauty changed when they were introduced to the Chinese standard of beauty, which idealized skinnier women, which simply wasn’t how working Bhutanese women naturally were.

Shemshia Kassa went on to describe how feminism affected men, stating common stereotypes about how men can’t show their sensitive side, an example being that they can be frowned upon for crying. To finish the presentation, she went on to talk about how race still plays a factor by comparing two transgender women: Caitlyn Jenner and Laverne Cox. Cox was praised for her role in popular TV show Orange is the New Black, whereas Jenner was given her own television show, “lucrative makeup endorsements,” and was also the recipient of the Woman of the Year award in

2015, leading to the conclusion that race still plays a role in one’s respective journey.

The next Women’s History Month event is to occur on Wednesday, March 9 for a panel discussing the status of women’s education worldwide in room C130.