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The Daily Tar Heel

Not all about bra-burning: Feminism a broad movement about eliminating barriers

When Phyllis Schlafly spoke on campus last Monday, I expected an interesting and relevant critique of modern feminism. As a proud Republican myself, I was interested in the point of view of a fellow female conservative.

I should have known better. Instead, I was disappointed that yet another member of my political party just doesn’t get it.

The word “feminism” is scary to many. Young women these days are often hesitant to self-identify as feminists. The stereotype of bra-burning, baby-killing man-eaters comes to mind.

Viewing feminism that way is simply perpetuating a vicious, offensive and incorrect stereotype.

So, what is modern feminism about? No nutshell summary could do it justice. In part, feminism is about changing norms that present barriers to women’s achievement.

As one example, while women account for nearly half of managerial and professional positions, they make up only about 12 percent of corporate officers and less than 5 percent of top corporate earners.

So despite what appears to be a guarantee of equality in U.S. legislation, in practice, something else is getting in the way.

Equal access is often confused with equal opportunity. While the ability to secure a job is the same, societal pressures, status privileges and social norms are quite different and favor men.

Enforcing quotas is not the answer. But perhaps the answer is in increasing the flexibility of the workday — for both sexes. Or acting to change the norm that a woman should be the primary caregiver for the children, even if that means she must become a super-mother.

This is just a small frame through which to view a larger movement. Both young women — and men too — should not be scared to self-identify as feminists. It’s a mistake to believe that we all can’t benefit from this movement.

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