October WiSE Up Discussion Recap

Published: October 21st, 2014

Category: Past News

#HeForShe: A call for solidarity in the gender equality movement

Are YOU a feminist?

By Stephanie Zick

“Are you a feminist?” At the beginning of this month’s WiSE Up, we immediately surveyed the group in attendance at The Midnight. The results: only one or two women confidently raised their hands. Looking around the table, I sensed a nearly universal hesitance. We all looked around the table, and then a few additional hands rose.

Per Wikipedia, feminism is defined as “a collection of movements and ideologies aimed at defining, establishing, and defending equal political, economic, cultural, and social rights for women.” Among members of UF’s Women in Science and Engineering group, whose mission is to “foster the success of women and other members of under-represented groups at all stages of their careers,” it should be rather straightforward: the goals of WiSE and feminism are aligned—right? So, why is the word feminist so unpopular?

Emma Watson, in her UN speech, addresses society’s (negative) preconceptions about the word:

“I decided I was a feminist and this seemed uncomplicated to me. But my recent research has shown me that feminism has become an unpopular word. Apparently I am among the ranks of women whose expressions are seen as too strong, too aggressive, isolating, anti-men and, unattractive.”

–Emma Watson




 While we were unable to trace the root of the negative feelings associated with feminism, we all agreed that we supported the ideal of equal rights for all (in this case, focusing on gender). Since it’s really an issue of semantics, we proposed a REBRANDING. It seems that millenials, for whatever reason, are hesitant to identify with a variety of social movements, e.g. feminism and environmentalism.

In the words of Ferris Bueller,

“Ism’s, in my opinion, are not good. A person should not believe in an ‘ism,’ he should believe in [him/her]self.”

Interesting point! However, at present all people are not raised in supportive environments that engender that inner strength. This year, we are focusing on the importance of developing strong mentoring relationships and professional networks. As WISE members, we definitely believe in the rights of ALL individuals, though we primarily focus on gender, and we support local Gainesville programs that carry this message to the next generation of young scientists and engineers.

Since the word feminism is not likely to go away anytime soon, we encourage you all to LEAN INTO feminism! Let’s embrace the movement, however it’s being branded.

Leave a comment below to let us know why you support feminism/gender equality—and let us now how WiSE currently addresses this topic and/or how we can improve!

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