The bra-burning feminists of the 1960s have etched their image into the minds of many people.
But there never were any bra-burning feminists.
“It was an attempt by the media to make (feminism) more exciting,” said Deb Westcott, a licensed clinical social worker and psychotherapist who also teaches at CSU.
No evidence of the bra burning has ever been produced, even by the media that reported it, Wastcott said. However, the fact that this story is a myth does not prevent feminism stereotypes.
Angry male-bashers, feminazis, lesbians, hairy, anti-male and argumentative were all words mentioned at a Monday night women’s studies class. The class, taught by Westcott, was coming up with common stereotypical characteristics of feminists.
Many other students on campus share several of these opinions of feminists.
When Matt Kline, a sophomore business administration major, thinks of feminists, he thinks of “someone who really doesn’t like the male population.”
The true definition of a feminist is someone who follows the theory of equality of the sexes in politics, economics and social class, Walcott said.
“I don’t really know exactly about it (feminism),” Kline said. “I haven’t been around it a lot, I only know of the concept.”
Westcott believes education will aid in ending misconceptions about feminism.
“The office of women’s studies has had a huge influence on campus to educate both faculty and students,” Westcott said.
However, she noted that women’s issues such as sexual assault are still prominent in society.
Jody Jessup Anger, the interim director of the Office of Women’s Programs and Studies, coordinates the Victim’s Assistance Team. The VAT is on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week to help any student deal with the emotional and legal aftermath of a sexual assault.
One of the reasons for sexual assault is societal norms. Society creates the gender roles where men should be dominant and tough and women should be coy and flirtatious, Jessup Anger said.
“The reality that sexual assault exists is tied to sexism in culture. There are strict gender roles, and gender roles tell us what it is to be male and female and it is very restrictive,” Jessup Anger said.
Despite attempts by the women’s studies program to educate the campus about what it is to be a feminist, many students do not know.
Lee Ann Rutherford, a senior applied mathematics major, thinks a feminist is typically “hostile toward men, stuck in the ’70s, and someone who doesn’t realize that in most work situations women are equal and can compete in the workplace.”
However, women are often not created equal in the workplace. Women today, on average, are paid only 76 cents in wages for every $1 earned by men, according to the 2000 U.S. Census Bureau statistics.
Several students had not even heard of this wage difference.
“I was unaware of that … I don’t think it’s fair,” said Joe Koller, a senior accounting and finance major. “If they’re equal in education, they should be equal in pay.”
There are some students who are aware of the feminist pursuit of equality and sympathize with it.
David Erikkson, a senior finance major, grew up in Sweden where it was common practice for them to go to seminars about equal rights for the sexes.
“It was a big thing back in high school. Even though in Sweden things are very equal, they would still bring in executives to talk about differences in wages because there is still a small difference,” Erikkson said.
Having grown up learning about equality, Erikksson was knowledgeable about the feminist fight for equal opportunity in the workplace as well as in society.
Jessup Anger agrees with Erikkson that education is important to gaining equal rights for the sexes.
“Students need to educate themselves by taking classes in women’s studies and other areas where they can look at ‘isms. Also they should call out their friends when they make sexist jokes, racist jokes or homosexual jokes,” she said.
Students can contact the office of women’s programs and studies at (970)491-6384 or the Victim’s Assistance Team at (970)491-7111.