Feminism is a word that should be constantly reinventing itself, if for no other reason than the fact that resistance to the norm is at the very heart of the idea itself. Feminism came about because a portion of society decided that their values, their interests, their thoughts, ideas, talents and contributions were ignored, trivialized and undermined by the majority of the population. The ongoing oppression of women comes from all angles, including within feminism itself.
Feminist re-evaluation is necessary when women are told that their health is upheld with diets and regimented exercise, but are not told that the products they use around menstruation emit toxins into their bodies on a monthly basis. It is necessary when women fail to evaluate their “progressive curriculum of enlightened sisters,” who all happen to be white. It is necessary when a woman of colour speaks out against imperialism and is called a terrorist.
Inside this issue, in addition to the paper’s regular sections, readers will also find a three page women’s supplement. Usually these supplements are reserved for International Women’s Day or the anniversary of the Montreal Massacre, times when women’s accomplishments are celebrated or the lives of women lost are remembered.
Typically, supplements are regarded as a means of incorporating coverage of “women’s issues” or women’s voices into a paper. Quotes are placed around the words women’s issues since the term is misleading. Just what exactly is a women’s issue? Every issue can be and is a women’s issue hence the quotes. Coverage of women’s issues need not be relegated to clichéd proclamations of girl power, rants about why Barbie is bad or endless feminist critiques of Sex and the City.
Women’s supplement aside, all the issues covered in this paper are women’s issues, every issue affects women. Why are we reactive rather than proactive? For example, why do we only think about an issue like sexual assault when one happens on campus? Why is this the only time women’s safety becomes an issue? While these supplements can be challenging, informative and entertaining they can also be problematic. Why should we devote only three pages to women’s issues and why only once a year? When we say women’s supplement, just what women do we mean? Just who are we referring to? Most often than not we mean women similar to ourselves. It’s like using the homogenous term women’s movement. The term implies that there is just one “movement,” one struggle and that all women in this “movement” are the same, share similar experiences and face the same challenges. It is to paint all women with the same brush and implies, for example, that the oppression faced by women of colour is the same as that faced by white women. Definitely not so.
More often than not we talk only of sexism, at the expense of other forms of oppression, such as race, class, age, or sexual orientation. We single sexism out, failing to acknowledge or analyze the interlocking nature of these different forms of oppression.
It’s like saying all women define feminism and what it means to be a feminist in the same way.
There are as many different and ever evolving definitions of feminism as there feminists. More often than not the women we are referring to when we speak of women’s supplements or the women’s movement is white liberal feminists.
So now you’re thinking that if it’s so problematic why did the Varsity put together a women’s supplement and why should you bother reading it? Women’s supplements provide a space for the debate and discussion of issues and opinions that otherwise may not be voiced or considered.