#2 Where’s the Story with Feminism?

My family is Jewish, and while I don’t want to perpetrate the reinforcement of a stereotype, I will say this: we talk. A lot. Discussions, arguments, and heated debates often fill the air in my house. I like to sit and synthesize the oddly coordinated chaos spitballing across my dining room table.

On the 21st of August, Billy Joel wore a yellow Star of David on his shirt during a concert at Madison Square Garden, eerily similar to the yellow star patches Jews were forced to wear in Nazi Germany. Conversation ensured at the next Friday night Shabbat. Some people in the room expressed their gratitude for his actions. My father, one of them, spoke about how he was scared about the treatment towards minority groups in this country. He was grateful somebody was pointing attention to the mistakes of humanity’s past, emphasizing that if we do not learn from the past, we are in danger of repeating our wrongdoings. I agreed, but something about wearing the star didn’t feel like a good enough solution to me.

My mom asked my neighbor, Barbara, about her opinion on the event, since Barbara’s mother was a Holocaust survivor. She said she understood where he was coming from, and that he wanted to show some solidarity with Jews, but something was off to her about his desire to align himself with a culture of victimization. That statement really got to me, and has been ringing around my head ever since.

For once, in these family debates, I spoke up. I said, I think education about our past oppressions and discrimination is incredibly important. I can’t stress how significant that is. But you don’t stand up to the bully by reiterating for them why how they treated you was wrong. You stand up to the bully by showing them why you are deserving of equality. Continually advocating for yourself and others on the sole basis of Human Rights. Showing the power, strength, intelligence, and respect within you.

The victimization of oppressed groups is not what defines them; the integral parts of that group’s culture that contribute positively towards the world do.

So now that What’s the Story is around, I’ve kind of gotten onto feminist kick again. I love feminism because the need for it transcends generations. And it just makes good sense. I’ve been playing with the idea of making a documentary about the pervasiveness of sexism in American culture. I’d like to focus the documentary on two pieces of the sexism story: one, on the victimization of women. This exists in the forms of:

  • neglect (poverty disproportionately affects women, and yet equal pay and universal child care aren’t being prioritized in legislature)
  • abuse (women are the victims of gender-based violence, harassment, and disrespect)
  • lesser rights (women aren’t given access to healthcare, not given ability to make decisions about their own reproductive rights often)

and two, the second part: how women are asserting their rights and asking for the equality they deserve. I’d love to use this documentary as a platform to exemplify the strength and power in women who are changing the state of sexism in America. Sometimes your rights won’t just be handed to you; its up to you to step up and say why you deserve it.

Now, I know that tackling sexism as a whole is WAY too big of a topic. Realistically, a documentary could be created about one part of the sexism story, and follow it full circle: from victimization to empowerment and change. I interviewed my two parents as to what topics they consider a priority.

My mother, Jennifer Prue, said, “Healthcare for women is up there with the most important issues among women. I think it’s a crucial issue.”

My father, Louis Prue, said, “Make sure girls know where equality is. Girls need to know what equal is and what that feels like.”

 

Prue, Jennifer. Interview. 26 Sept. 2017.

Prue, Louis. Interview. 26 Sept. 2017.

Hicken, Barbara. Interview. 26 Sept. 2017.

Zoe Prue

One Response to “#2 Where’s the Story with Feminism?

  • Zoe, this is a fascinating, articulate entry. You lay out your thought process in detail and make deft transitions between the big pieces (Billy Joel, feminism, your interviews). I agree with you that sexism in general is too broad a topic to tackle; a narrowing of your scope will serve you well going forward. I wonder if you’ve thought about framing the issue in a way that focuses, maybe, on just Vermont. I’m also curious about the state of the issues you bring up (neglect, abuse, rights) in Vermont compared to the rest of the nation. In any case, you’re off to a great start. I look forward to reading your next entry!

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