- ABOUT THE PROGRAM
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From the monthly archives: April 2012
It’s been two months since we started working with the ERA Education Project and it is still full of surprises and information that we never paid too much attention to. After interviewing younger people, and watching my classmates’ videos as well, what continuously stood out was the lack of knowledge on feminism and the ERA. But more important is that it appears to be strategically set up that way. In this day and age it is becoming more culturally and socially acceptable to not only be okay with sexual inequality, but to perpetuate it as well. From media to legislation, men and women are being taught that women are (for lack of a better word) worthless in comparison to men. In a culture that habitually objectifies and belittles women, we are being taught that it is okay to be disrespected – and in some cases it’s even encouraged.
Take the domestic abuse situation with Rihanna and Chris Brown for example; it was made publicly clear that her ex-boyfriend Chris Brown (who is also a celebrity people may look up to), beat her on numerous occasions, and for a while there was a huge deal in the media about it. What is truly horrifying is what happened when he performed at an award show a year later. Young women tweeted everywhere that they’d let him beat them anytime. Fast forward a few years later and what happened when Rihanna and Brown recorded another song together? It was no big deal, as if nothing had ever happened. Both of these celebrities are sending negative messages to our future generation: beat a woman and there will be no harsh punishment; or get beaten by a man and continue to have a relationship with him. How does this make any sense? What astounds me is that it’s actually gotten this far.
Again, This can be traced back to the lack of knowledge – as there are still people who think men and women are equal under the law! No one can do anything big enough to make a change because there aren’t enough people that know and recognize what is going on. It may sound cliché, but Knowledge is Power. If people (including my classmates and myself) become better informed on the subject, then we can make better choices when it comes to doing something about these issues- because it benefits us all.
There are already many feminists groups and organizations working towards equality for women, yet very little people who show support either because lack of interest, or fear of being patronized by society. The fact of the matter is we need to come together to make changes in order to move forward. After reading a couple of chapters from Grassroots on art and activism, I feel like that is the best way to do so.
Our generation is very visual when it comes to learning and maintaining interest (as seen with the Rihanna example). We would rather watch films and listen to interesting music than read about a subject. I’m not saying this is a good thing, but it can be beneficial when trying to reach out to a younger generation. In a very real way, it is a form of activism. When watching films and documentaries on social, political, and cultural issues, we usually feel a connection with the protagonist that can be used to transcend any differences towards common ground. That common ground can be the confidence to admit to being a feminist or an egalitarian. It can be to work towards passing the ERA and granting women the equal rights they deserve.
This is a huge part of the reason why we are enjoying being a part of this project so much. Even when interviewing people, I feel like I’ve helped in a small way by bringing up such important questions. I hope that at the end of each interview we conduct people leave with those thoughts and questions on their minds and maybe then they’ll bring it up to friends. Then a new cycle will begin- a more positive one!
The one thing the women’s movements all have in common is that they have risen out of political, social, and economic inequities and have taken root through the solidarity of women fighting for the same goals. Although it may seem disheartening that young women today, including us, don’t have a sense of their own history and are a part of a generation that is considered apathetic, learning about women’s stories and experiences gives us a sense of hope. With the backbone of our education in women’s studies, we significantly recognize that we can build on the activist work of our foremothers and not have to constantly “reinvent the wheel,” which can ultimately set us back as a movement.
One aspect of the 2nd Wave of feminism we find most inspiring, is the formation of consciousness-raising groups in the seventies. Despite the efforts of the women activists aiding the Civil Rights Movement, they constantly found themselves being separated from the movement, as it did not escape the patriarchal and hierarchal style of organizations. Thus, women activists began to develop new ways of thinking and new leadership styles that were nonhierarchical. There were no leadership positions in the consciousness-raising groups allowing for everyone’s voices to hold equal value, so the formation of consciousness-raising groups was truly revolutionary. Through the creation of these groups, women began to realize that their stories of oppression and dissatisfaction were not isolated cases. Listening to themselves and to each other’s stories, they began to realize that their lives had many commonalities. This gave rise to their understanding that the injustices in their lives were actually a structural and systemic problem that needed to be addressed. As the most famous and noteworthy words to come out of the 2ndwave: the personal is indeed political.
We are half-way through our sixteen week semester at Santa Monica College and things are starting to get even more demanding, challenging, and down-right insane. Being a student is hard in any situation, especially when, for example, one has to work and/or deal with burdening family issues. Some of us have really started to feel the pressure and have also begun to feel at times overwhelmed and discouraged. In the midst of all this, however, it is extremely important for us to remember that we are so fortunate to be given the opportunity at a higher education. Furthermore, we are even more blessed to have a Professor whose knowledge is being imparted to us in a way that is intelligent, yet relatable and whose work, both inside and outside of the classroom, gives us a prime example of how to put that knowledge to work and good use.
We then should feel absolutely honored to be working on a campaign like that of the ERA Education Project. Reminding ourselves of this honor should help ease the stress that we may feel as students, because at the end up the day, we are a part of something that is so much bigger than ourselves and that is so monumental. The beautiful thing about this amazing opportunity is that we are not only learning so much, but that we also get to share and pass on that knowledge to our family and peers. Most of us did know that the ERA had never been ratified prior to taking this leadership class; however none of us really knew the complete and full gravity of what that meant for women and women’s rights here in the United States. Now that we are continually learning more and more with regards to about equal rights, we feel it is our personal duty to share (through conversation and Facebook!) and to help further educate our family, friends, and fellow citizens, neighbors, and community members.
Currently as young women, we look forward to the future and believe and hope to be lifelong activists in any shape or form and in any capacity possible. Jennifer Baumgardner and Amy Richards say it best in Manifesta when they urge “…to see activism not as a choice between self and community, but as a link between them that creates balance.” We it owe it to ourselves and our community to impart the knowledge we have been so gratefully given to help make the world a better, and more equal place. As part of Baumgardner and Richards’ Thirteen Point Agenda for a Third Wave Manifesta, the last and final point can be considered the most significant, and in this case, the most indicative:
“13. TO PASS THE EQUAL RIGHTS AMENDMENT SO THAT WE CAN HAVE A CONSTITUTIONAL FOUNDATION OF RIGHTEOUSNESS AND EQUALITY UPON WHICH FUTURE WOMEN’S RIGHTS CONVENTIONS WILL STAND.”