Feminism (Part 3): Full-length Interviews

Included below are four full-length interviews with two students and two faculty members about their definitions of feminism.  Each brings a unique perspective to the issue, and together they help us understand how nuanced the issue of feminism is.    Emily Cohen Lila: What would you say your definition of feminism is? Emily Cohen: My definition of feminism is equality between men and women. I think a lot of people are scared of the name because “feminism” sounds overtly female and a lot of people think it means like “oh it means that women should be higher than men are.” And that’s not what feminism is. Like Shailene Woodley. Lila: Do you have anything else to say about that? Emily: I think that if she [Shailene Woodley] wants to use her platform as leverage to talk about something she isn’t very educated on, I don’t really want to listen to her. Lila: Do you consider yourself a feminist? Emily: Yes, in the regard that men and women should be equal. Lila: How do you think feminism shows itself in the Latin community? Emily: Oh that’s a loaded question. Lila: Specifically, do you think that boys and girls are equal at Latin? Emily: Yeah, like especially in this kind of community where we have this many groups  [that support equality]. We’re equal in this community.   Bianca Stelian: Lila: What would you think your definition of feminism is? Bianca: I guess my definition of a feminist is really easy. It’s just someone who believes that men and women deserve equal rights. Lila: Equal rights like what? Bianca: Um, just in terms of wages, and in terms of opportunity. Lila: And how do you think feminism shows itself at the Latin School? Bianca: Oh well we have LAW, obviously, which is a place where girls come together to talk about you know common, female issues, I guess. And also I feel like a lot of times people at Latin are not afraid, but weary, I guess, to say that they’re feminist. It has this horrible connotation of being, like, a devout hater of men, someone who wants to bring men down—it has kind of a selfish vibe. Kind of like “I think I’m better than you,” but, in reality, if you look up the word feminism in the dictionary, it’s someone who believes in equal rights. The only reason the title is “feminist” and not “masculist” is because more often than not, the females are the ones who receive the bad treatment. So in a perfect world we would call it an “equalist.” It wouldn’t have a male or a female name in the title. So I honestly think that if it was called an “equalist,” more people would come out in favor of it.   Mr. Tempone:  Lila: What would you think your definition of feminism is? Mr. Tempone: My definition of feminism is believing in the power and importance of women. Lila: And do you think that shows itself at Latin? Mr. Tempone: For the most part. I think there’s work to be done everywhere, including me with myself. Lila: Would you consider yourself a feminist? Mr. Tempone: It depends on the definition of feminism. I think it meant something different back in the 60’s. Lila: What do you think the definition of feminism in the Latin School is? Mr. Tempone: Full equality and celebration of women and their accomplishments. I’m pretty sure the best sports teams we have at Latin are women’s teams. So we celebrate them a lot. I’m not sure that’s feminism though. I’m really not sure […] I think you would have to ask students of mine if the way I’m behaving is like a feminist. If students thought that I played favorites, male over female, then I wouldn’t be. But what I think that I’ve been striving for my entire career is to treat everyone the same. So I don’t really know what the definition is.   Mr. O’Toole Lila: So what would you say your definition of feminism is? Mr. O’Toole: I would say feminism is the belief that women and men should be equal in society and in equal-personal relationships, and in combination with that, understanding that in our current society they are not. I think that feminism if working to correct that; the inequality. Lila: So you consider yourself a feminist then? Mr. O’Toole: Absolutely. Lila: Where do you think the bad connotations with the word come from, and how do you think we can get rid of them? Mr. O’Toole: I think any “ism” kind of gets radical notions attached to it. So someone [who identifies as a feminist] does something that someone else finds offensive, or that some people find overly sexualized […] and the actions of that person gets attached to the entire movement. I mean we’ve had three major what they call “waves” of feminism in the United States, and they were centered around radical ideas like, women should be able to vote, or women should be able to participate in the workplace the same way that men could, or that women should be able to participate in society the same way that men can—and that’s really the essence of third-wave feminism I think. So I think some of the negative connotations just come from the fact that all of these efforts have been disturbing to the existing social order. And, you know, most people in society have a vested interest in maintaining the existing order, and anything that threatens that, threatens them. Lila: Do you think that everyone should be a feminist? Mr. O’Toole: I think there are lots of people who are feminists who don’t know it, and who don’t call themselves it because, again, the fear of being labeled that way, and the fear of being thought of as the most radical feminists. I don’t think that everyone should be, because I wouldn’t necessarily say that everyone’s belief system is actually compatible. There are people in the world who have very reasoned and very closely held beliefs that women and men are NOT equal, and I don’t want to tell them that they’re wrong because it may be rooted in religion, it may be rooted in science, I mean there’s certainly not an open-and-shut case in terms of the biology differences, or lack thereof, and there are people who say that women should be treated separately, or treated differently because of things like wanting to protect motherhood, wanting to protect their ability to have a baby, raise a baby […] Some think that there should be special protection for women or special treatment for women because of that. Lila: And then, switching tracks here, how do you think that feminism shows itself in the Latin community? Mr. O’Toole: Um, I mean I don’t know that it shows itself with the label feminism. I think if you asked, like, if you stood up on the stage during gathering and said “stand up if you’re a feminist”, I think you would have lots of girls and women and virtually no boys? Probably a number of male faculty members would stand up, but there would be virtually no boys. I think that’s because a lot of people don’t understand what feminism is, and what it isn’t and what it can be and what it can’t be.  I mean the principle ways I see it happen is obviously in Latin’s Alliance for Women. I haven’t been to a meeting of that group in probably two years, but, I mean that seems to be the principle vehicle through which feminist ideals could be portrayed. There are certainly individuals, both male and female at the school, both students and adults, who don’t participate in that group, but I would say take a lot of action to forward the idea that men and women should be treated equally at Latin, if not in society at large.  ]]>