It was through Google that I found out that I was a feminist. At the outset of writing this piece, I had this grand plan of writing about how I wasn’t a feminist and how women tend to exaggerate the bias that exists in favor of men in our culture. I realized that before I could compose such a brilliant and convincing piece, I should probably know what I was talking about. So naturally, I Googled it. If only I could have seen my face when I read the definition of a feminist. It turns out that women who believe they are just as smart and competent as men are feminists. Based on the amount of “This is what a feminist looks like” T-shirts I’ve seen around campus lately, I think I may have been the only person who didn’t know this.
I always believed that there was a certain type of woman who was a feminist. This woman usually neglected to shave her legs and often burned her bras in public areas so that everyone could witness her defiance of the male-dominated culture that we live in. Turns out I was wrong. Two things showed me this. One was a guy wearing the feminist T-shirts around campus who didn’t shave his legs, didn’t own a bra to burn and thus didn’t fit my criteria of being a feminist. The second was an article entitled “What is a Modern Day Feminist?” posted by a user on the Associated Content Web site that said the following: “Most people when they hear the word feminist automatically envision a bra-burning, hairy-legged, man-hating lesbian on a singular mission to bash any idea that she should be remotely Ã¢â‚¬Ëœgirly’ simply because she is a woman. Do I really have to tell you how outdated and disproportioned this idea of what a feminist should look like really is?” Apparently she did have to tell me.
The fact is that the social context of Williams has changed dramatically over the past few decades. Women that lived in years not too long ago had to fight for the rights that seem to me so obvious for women to have today. Williams, for example, began as an all-males school in 1793, but today, after becoming co-educational in 1970, has 1,044 men and 1,093 women enrolled. Based on the fact that I wasn’t alive back when Williams was an all-males school, I can’t fathom not being allowed to apply here, simply because I lacked a few things that no amount of participation in high school could have given me.
Many people look at sports at Williams and claim that there are still vast inequalities that exist between male and female athletes. Personally, I don’t see it. As a female athlete I have yet to witness anyone, be it spectator or participant, look down on a person and honestly believe that she will always be sub par, simply because she is a woman.
Turning once more to the ever helpful Internet, I found a Web site that graded colleges and universities of all divisions based on the proportionality gap that exists between female athletes and non-athletes at an undergraduate institution. According to The Women’s Sports Foundation’s study “Who is Playing College Sports,” Williams earned a “B” with a score of 6.9, a figure measured by subtracting the percentage of female athletes from the percentage of female students at the College. A “B” is not an “A,” but it definitely speaks volumes about the progress that women at the College have made, particularly in sports, over the past few decades. Because a little less than half of the entire female student population at Williams plays sports, it seems almost silly for anyone to look down on a female athlete, simply because of her gender, when the quantity of others, who are like her and stand behind her, is so great in number.
Over the course of the 700 or so words I’ve written thus far, I’ve learned a lot about myself and the views that I apparently didn’t know I had. I believe that much of the world, and more specifically, Williams, has grown into a place where gender is an issue that while still of great importance, is not as pertinent as it used to be. I’d like to think of myself as a fairly aware person, and for me to live my life not knowing I was a feminist says a lot about the world that we live in. It’s a world where, if you can compete with a person, regardless of sex, then you are a contender. I guess it’s good that the past feminists knew that this was as true then as it is now because, who knows where we’d be if they waited around for Google to tell them.
Dominique Rodriguez ’12 is from Stockton, Calif. She lives in Armstrong.