Dunbar: A new look at the feminist movement


Blair Dunbar, Columnist

“I know, I know. We can drive, we can vote, we can work. What more do these broads want?” This was Phoebe’s response to Joey’s invitation to see the play “Why Don’t You Like Me? A Bitter Woman’s Journey Through Life” in the “Friends” episode “The One with the Soap Opera Party.” Fortunately, “Friends” has once again re-entered the American television spotlight with the recent news that Netflix is going to make all 236 episodes available online. The quote itself is also timely, given the recent stirrings of women’s rights across the country.

In late September, Northwestern received a grant of $300,000 from the U.S. Department of Justice to expand its sexual assault prevention efforts. On Sept. 22, I heard Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., speak about women in Washington, D.C., specifically about her book titled “Off the Sidelines.” During her speech, she discussed attempting to pass the Family and Medical Insurance Leave Act through Congress, an act that would provide a national paid-leave program for parents who must take time off for maternity, childcare or health reasons. Although the bill was introduced in the House of Representatives in May 2013, it has yet to progress. From Emma Watson’s highly publicized speech to the UN regarding gender relations to the U.S. Supreme Court temporarily reversing Texas legislation that would have closed all but eight of the state’s women’s health clinics, it seems women’s rights are making a comeback. Various politicians, most conspicuously Hillary Clinton, have placed women’s rights firmly on their political agendas. And with the ongoing debate about the Affordable Care Act come the inevitable discussions involving abortion and birth control coverage.

As a child, my father gave me a Susan B. Anthony coin and told me I should never let my gender stand in the way of what I wanted to do. A spry, young feminist of 8, I dreamt of becoming the first woman president and fighting for women’s rights. However, as I got older, I found myself thinking more along the lines of Phoebe. “What more do these broads want?” Now I’m beginning to think the 21st century has ushered in a new wave of feminism and more importantly, a new type of feminist.

For a long time, feminism has been synonymous with hairy legs, burning bras and a declaration of superiority of men. The new feminist can enjoy wearing a red dress and high heels. The new feminist doesn’t necessarily believe women are superior to men. She recognizes gender differences but believes these differences should be respected. The new feminism revolves around reproductive rights, equal pay, security for families with single mothers and, for those like Gillibrand, having women’s voices heard in the government. Maybe the reason I never noticed the flurry of women’s activism around me was because I didn’t recognize it as women’s activism. I recognized it as common sense. Shouldn’t companies provide paid maternity leave when the majority of other countries do? Shouldn’t people receive the same salary for the same work? And shouldn’t half the population have half the representation in the government?

For me, the new feminism isn’t about men versus women. It’s about people. Women aren’t a unique, separate entity. If the government safeguards the interest of its people, shouldn’t that include all people? Although an obvious statement, women are people too, but somehow it seems this was forgotten. Now it’s time to remember what Susan B. Anthony pointed out back in 1872: “It was we, the people; not we, the white male citizens; nor we, the male citizens; but we, the whole people, who formed the Union.”

Blair Dunbar is a Weinberg senior. She can be reached at [email protected]. If you would like to respond publicly to this column, email a Letter to the Editor to [email protected].