Friday, March 7, 2008

Farooqi: Interview; Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Equality

“Feminism just has a negative connation.” Pam Howell is a single parent, white female in her mid 40s. She did not want to tell me her real age so I did not intrude. She has conservative beliefs along with a blend of liberal views as well. She is in the upper-middle class in regards to her economic status, but she does not boast about it all. Feminist have come a long way in their journey for equality, and it has impacted people of all ethnicities and races differently. I believe Pam is the right candidate to interview because she is a white female in her mid 40s, and I felt I would get the best results if I interviewed someone completely different from me. While interviewing Pam I learned that not all things are as they seem. When listening to her personal accounts and discrimination I understand that true equality will never be achieved. The oppression of women has climaxed; however women will always be second to men due to the preconception of male dominance that has been accepted since the beginning of time.
The beginning of the interview consisted of simple questions where I tried to get to know Pam, her views, and beliefs. The first question I asked was what her definition of feminism was? She responded, “A woman trying to do all the things a man does. A woman thinks that they are equal to men in every way.” Evidently she feels that feminism is an activist group that further complicates things for women. When I mentioned the word “Feminism” she paused for a bit to figure out how she would respond to a question like that. I later asked about her experiences of discrimination. She stated she felt discrimination many times, but one time stood out more than any other. She was subjected by her boss at a convention to pose a model for a product, but she refused. She felt it was a sexist act, and that her boss wanted to put her on display for his own benefit. This is common in the workplace, but she assured me that discrimination towards her and other women have diminished over the years as the laws have gotten stricter. I later explained the concept of backlash to Pam and asked if she ever experienced it. She responded that most of the incidents I am asking about have occurred in the workplace. One particular incident she described to me displayed a true injustice. After getting better reviews than most males in her company, they were still getting paid more. After she brought this issue up with management they reduced her salary, and in response to this she “raised hell” until they fixed the issue. Because Pam is a woman, management felt it would be easier to slight her because she would not have any other recourse; however, Pam mustered enough courage to get what was rightfully hers.
After explaining her incident I asked Pam if feminism still exist. She said yes, and it always will because men and women are different. She then added men and women are not equal in all accounts. There are some things women can do that men cannot, and there are some things women can do that men cannot do. She emphasized physical activity as being the main reason for this. Pam felt she also lost a sense of identity when she started working and taking care of the kids. She stated that she had a husband who thought she could not live without him. Essentially, her husband thought she was dependent on him, which infuriated her because she was the breadwinner. Finally, she had incentive to breakaway on her own. In respect to the current political realm, I asked her about how or if this election will have a positive impact of feminism. She vehemently disagreed in that she said Hillary is a negative figure, and she will only hurt the feminists’ cause. Pam is going off the notion of Hillary’s personality that has been exposed in the media. Hillary is thought to be a selfish and conniving woman, thus it is apparent she will not stand for what feminists what to portray as their image. I then touched on a controversial topic, abortion.
I first asked if she was pro-choice or pro-life. She replied that she was pro-life but under certain circumstances such as rape. Then I asked if this stance determines if you are a feminist. She said it does not but if you choose to then do it early or not at all. The next topic we discussed was race and how it affects views about feminism. She implied that it depends on the individual. Some people may or may not feel pressured about race. She also stated that being a white female over 40 gives her less of an opportunity in corporate America, because a company could likely take a minority because of affirmative action. Race is only an obstacle if you let it impede your goals in life. Minorities have struggled to get their rights, but in the end their struggles have made it easier for future generations to enjoy more success than their predecessors. I explained Simone de Bevoir’s concept of “Second sex” and asked why is prevalent among women to feel this way. She replied that women are raised that way. There is a preconceived notion that women are the weaker sex. This is a universal thought, and she added that she cannot think of any culture that disagreed with this notion. However, education has narrowed the gap between men and women, and it will continue to. She implied that education is the key for women to pursue their aspirations and exemplify themselves the best they can. Education is the key to having a broader perspective of the world, and it helps to be astute as to what is going on. Consequently, she holds education in high esteem.
Feminism has been evolving throughout history. After discussing the three waves, she stated that more and more women are getting opportunities to pursue their goals and dreams. She augmented the fact that the discrimination she experienced in the 80s would not occur today because of the stringent rules that have been applied in favor or women. Equality is being achieved in small doses, but it is clear that more work needs to be done in this regard. We discussed about how her impediments have changed or shaped her as person. She seemed quite proud of herself at this point stating that she become stronger through each experience. Looking back on her earlier work experiences, she stated that she became a fighter and stronger because of the discrimination. Pam’s strength is accentuated in her independence. Her independence exudes qualities of the new “woman” because she is self-reliant and self-sufficient. We then conversed about privilege. I explained Peggy McIntosh’s concept of the “Invisible Knapsack.” She agreed with me stating that there is unacknowledged privilege because it is natural in the world. She then added that being a white female has made it easier to get opportunities, but she did not slight herself because she worked hard. She implied that there is not much we can do about unacknowledged privilege because it is so prevalent in society, and it always will be. In a sense you cannot worry about everyone who does not have everything you have. Finally, we discussed sexual double binding. She said it was prevalent growing up. Pam has two brothers, and the rules were completely different for three siblings. She also stated that her brothers could date earlier and, they had later curfews. She also could not wear makeup until she reached her later teenage years. This proved Jennifer Baumgardner’s and Amy Richard’s concept true. There is an unwritten rule that women are supposed to dress, talk, and ultimately act differently than men. Again, this is a preconceived notion that has been accepted and never will change because it has stood the test of time.
American is a changing nation. Every minority group, especially women will see that equality comes in small doses. The pursuit of equality entails that minority groups can strive for it, but it may or may not be achieved. All good things take time, but nothing lasts forever. The only way for women to achieve and maintain success is to keep fighting because maximum equality will never be reached, because of accepted believes that stem since the beginning of time; therefore, men and women will never truly be equal, but the false aura of equality makes the public believe that all men and women were “truly” created equally.

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