Some time ago, I took a class from the department of gender studies at my college. It turned out to be feminism for dummies, and that I was apparent, as I had no idea about the movement, its importance or its historical and cultural context.
Did you know that the female writers whose literature you’ve probably covered in high-school had to use pseudonyms? For example, the Bronte sisters did not sign their real names when publishing a piece but a male name. It was intended to battle the discrimination that, at the time, frowned upon women even making a living from something that was considered a man’s job.
What if I told you that Joanne Rowling, the author of Harry Potter, intended to conceal her real name too? She did this for the same reasons as she claimed that this area of expertise is still considered to “belong” to men. So, to conceal her gender, she used her initials because women are still largely discriminated, and their work is often underestimated.
All of the things I learned in the class and the materials I researched, got me thinking about the presence of women in the public sphere. The question is: How to encourage women to be more active in public discourse, in politics, in the arts, etc.? Is it positive discrimination? Setting the prescribed rate of women in, for example, local government offices? On the one hand, more women are engaged in the public life. However, some men, who are more suitable for the job may be rejected because of their gender. It’s tricky I must say. Nevertheless, let’s turn to another issue. Who are these women that we see on TV? Are those the women who are advocating change?
Recently, I happened to come across an interview with a chairwoman of the Skillman Foundation. The presenter talked with Tonya Allen, named one of five non-profit innovators in 2015. At that moment, I had just completed some readings for class, and I got interested in what she was talking about. To be honest, it is not only the activists that do the work, but also the women who are engaging in challenges that, at the surface, have nothing to do with feminism. Her foundation has undertaken the funding of projects that aim to enhance the environment of children, their neighborhoods, and the overall community. Moreover, they have set out to increase the rate of high-school graduates and college students in Michigan.
This is evidence of women having a greater say in the public sphere. Moreover, this is also evidence of change, and I firmly believe that women should be more engaged in the public sphere, especially in this manner. This is because, fighting for women’s rights is not only claiming you feel strongly about it, but also engaging in positive change and making the world a better place.