Thursday, March 6, 2008

Surfing the Waves of Feminism

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Surfing the Waves of Feminism

On March 2, 2008, the writer had the privilege of interviewing Mrs. Corinthia Hayes. The interview was both a surprising, and entertaining experience. Mrs. Hayes is a 57 year old African American woman, born and raised in Louisa, Kentucky. She currently lives in Atlanta, Georgia where she teaches History, and Politics & Government at Booker T. Washington High school, which is also in Atlanta, Georgia. The very first question for Mrs. Hayes was to define feminism in her own words based on any prior knowledge. She responded saying, “Feminism is a much needed movement for women to gain equal status with men.” Mrs. Hayes was absolutely correct, the definition of feminism is the ability to define yourself as who you want to be freely, and valuing people as equals and highlighting women (Lecture).

When asked if she considered herself a feminist, Mrs. Hayes replied, “I would say no. I agree with only specific views, but I’m not die hard. I believe in the views of equality, but I consider myself conservative.” However, after continuing the interview with Mrs. Hayes, it was possible to see that she could be considered a liberal feminist. Liberal feminism emphasizes equality of men and women through legal and practical reform. It is an individual form of feminism which stresses the importance of equality for women through their own actions and choices (Lecture). Despite her current conservative views, Ms. Hayes previously was somewhat of a radical. While she was in her twenties, Mrs. Hayes said, “I was one of those women who took action when denied equality. I was one of those women that stressed being free, to never be tied down. Believe it or not, I was one of those burn your bra women!” Though she feels she is not definite feminist, Mrs. Hayes feels that she plays her part in “being a role model through mentoring and highlighting the importance of education and pursuing a career.”

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Mrs. Hayes was later asked if she had experienced any hardships or unfairness from being a woman. She immediately answered “yes,” and gave numerous experiences. One of the most outrageous situations she mentioned occurred right after she graduated college. She explained “I had recently got married and started teaching, and I was trying to get a credit card. When I went to get the card they wouldn’t let me have the card in my name, just because I was a woman. They put it in my husband’s name and he didn’t even have a job! It was unbelievable.”

Ms. Hayes believes that as a woman, one of her advantages was that she is more sensitive to information. When bringing up disadvantages, she stated that, “Women are the poorest people in the world, may be not entirely in the US, but it is definitely more visible in other countries.” She continues on saying, “A lot of countries won’t let women have the opportunity for education or a career. Because of this, some women don’t have any support other than their husband.” Mrs. Hayes feels that gender is a factor in regards to rights and privileges even today. She expressed that, “The world has always been more sexist than racist. There has also always been the double standard in regards to reputation.” Sexism is the issue of treating people in a certain way or differently based on their sex. It is the belief in superiority of one sex over the other. Sexism has been an issue worldwide as early as the mid 1800’s. The heart of women’s oppression is the sexual double bind (Lecture).

When asked if feminist movements are still necessary for today Ms. Hayes replied, “Yes, definitely still with the issue of equality. I have noticed just from teaching some inequalities relating to intellectual ability. For example, many young girls who are extremely smart try to dumb themselves down to appeal to boys. Most young women are mentally oppressed because of this stereotype.” She feels that feminist movements should still be implemented to help reduce the sexual double bind and eliminate the oppression of women. Although feminism was a significant part of her past life, she feels that her career goals were predominantly influenced by her mother. “My aspirations were basically influenced by my mother emphasized education and pursuing a respectable career.”

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One of the key ideas of feminism is the freedom to make your own choices. With abortion being an extremely controversial issue of choice, Mrs. Hayes was asked to share her views on abortion. She responded saying “I am without a doubt pro-choice. I feel that it is the woman’s decision, it is her right because it is her body.” By being a firm believer in pro-choice, Mrs. Hayes supports the ethical view that a woman should have control over her fertility and pregnancy. This particular view supports the woman as an individual and her right to make her own choice (Lecture).

The last part of the interview was used to find out Mrs. Hayes’ current knowledge of important feminist leaders. When asked if she had any prior knowledge of feminist leaders, she said that she was well aware of feminist Gloria Steinem and Betty Friedan, having read both Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique and Steinem’s The Thousand Indias. Hayes states, “I felt required to read these books, and to have access to this information. Their books really called attention to the fact that women must stand up for themselves, because no one else will.” Mrs. Hayes was later asked what female political or social figures she admired, in which she replied saying, “Shirley Chism, the first black woman to run for president of the United States. I also admire Marion Rice Edelman, Barbara Jordan, and my mother.”

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Because of her enthusiasm and vast knowledge of history and feminism, interviewing Mrs. Hayes was a great pleasure. She shared lots of useful information and provided a great sense of consciousness raising. I really appreciated her cooperation and willingness for the interview. Mrs. Hayes is definitely a positive role model, not just for feminists, but for all people.

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