Volume 95, Issue 23

Friday, October 12, 2001
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"F" word not so frightening


"F" word not so frightening

Nicole Nelson
Guest Columnist
Women's Issues Network Coordinator

Massive bra burnings. Butch dykes on bikes. Short haircuts and denim overalls. Militant women. These are just a few of the things you won't see if you pass through the University Community Centre's atrium this week.

You will hear a lot of offensive language, though, especially the fabled "F" word. You may be surprised at who's using it – the cute girl in your psychology class, the friends you share beers with every Wednesday, even your professors. For those readers with sensitive vocabularies, you'd better stop reading now because I'm about to use that "F" word.


It's a frightening word for some and just as distasteful as that other "F" word (although not as fun to shout in public). It's a word few people will own.

But feminism, taken at its simplest definition, is a principle many of us hold universally – it's about making sure everyone is valued equally and enjoys the same privileges, rights and opportunities in our society.

Yet, if feminism is about making sure everyone is treated equally, then why does it sound so female? Why do we talk about women's issues?

Simply put, men and women are different. Your kindergarten teacher told you this and it still holds true today. Last I checked, we weren't a society of hermaphrodites and most of us can concede and relish in the fact, there are unique and beautiful differences between men and women.

Differences between men and women mean they will face unique challenges throughout their stages of life. It means that the same policies, attitudes and situations applied to discrete genders will have dissimilar effects.

By recognizing the existence of women's issues, we accept that women, placed in our society, do not react the same way as men and, in many instances, come up with the short end of the stick.

Maybe that's why today, women's annual earnings are still only 63 per cent of men's, while Western's full-time faculty members are 84 per cent male.

If you're still not convinced that women's issues exist, ask your father how taking a pregnancy leave from work affected his career. Ask your mother about those power-chats with her co-workers between holes of golf.

Ask yourself, as you work towards a degree alongside your colleagues, whether the odds and obstacles are the same for each and every one of you.

Ask yourself if this has anything to do with gender.

There is hope, though, for those advocates of "human" issues because women's issues must be owned by both men and women. Groups of women talking to other women alone will not change the world, because it is societies that evolve, not just women's groups.

Both men and women must be touched by change before lasting societal change occurs.

So this week in the atrium, take a look around, no matter what your gender. You may not find what you were looking for and I'm sorry to disappoint if you were looking for some real, live stereotypes. (Even I own a couple of pink daisy razors and I use them on a semi-regular basis).

But if you look a little harder, you might very well find some real life feminists – in your classroom, in your family, in your faculty and maybe, if you look closely, in your mirror.

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Copyright The Gazette 2001