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Sunday, March 8 • 10:05am - 11:20am
Why be a Feminist? Perspectives on Feminism and Activism by Female College Students

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In the U.S., negative stereotypes of feminism (e.g., as outdated) have been associated with a reluctance among many young women to identify as feminists (McRobbie, 2009). However, feminist identification has drawn increasing attention recently—particularly in the digital realm and among young audiences—with regular social media campaigns targeting feminist self-labeling and consistent online media coverage of newly self-identified celebrity feminists. This rising wave of interest in feminism—and the feminist label, specifically—raises questions about whether the tide is turning among young women today on feminism. The present study used open-ended questionnaire methods to explore identification with, and perspectives on feminism by 267 female college students (Mage = 18.9 years; 66% first-year undergraduate; 80.5% White/European American; 91.5% heterosexual). Thematic analysis (Braun & Clarke, 2006) was used to explore how these young women, (1) define feminism in their own words, (2) explain identifying as a feminist (or not), and, (3) reconcile points of agreement and disagreement with feminist perspectives. Findings encompass a wide range of views on feminism—from strong disavowal to unequivocal endorsement. On the one hand, stereotypes of feminism as both extreme and excluding men were discouraging of feminist self-labeling. On the other, for a significant portion of women in this study, simply being a woman was reason enough to label oneself a feminist. However, women often expressed a mixture of positive and negative evaluations of feminism. For example, women’s definitions commonly employed a rights-based discourse, which a majority of women supported. At the same time, for many, feminism was seen as synonymous with activism, which was frequently viewed as extreme. Interestingly, many women who supported collective action on feminist issues hesitated to label themselves feminist if not currently engaged in activism. Findings highlight the importance of the visibility of self-identified feminist role models for young people today.


Sunday March 8, 2015 10:05am - 11:20am PDT
Crystal