On the evening of Thursday April 3rd, the University of Colorado at Boulder held their first $tart $mart Salary Negotiation Workshop. This workshop aims to empower women, specifically through closing the wage gap and teaching salary negotiation skills. Somewhere between 25 and 35 women were in attendance. Although the workshop teaches many positive skills, this whole situation highlights some serious problems. More than 30,000 students are enrolled at CU according to Colorado.edu, and around 13,800 of them are women. So although this first $tart $mart workshop is a tiny step in the right direction, they only reached 00.25% of CU’s female population. Therefore, in this sample piece, less than one percent of college educated women are even being introduced to techniques to work toward lowering the wage gap.
These days, hearing that the wage gap is 77 cents to the dollar is not an overwhelmingly infuriating statistic to those who claim to support equality. It’s interesting to examine what might be contributing to the lack of activism in this “post-feminist” generation. One possible explanation of this detachment is the rejection of feminism by celebrities and role models, such as Katy Perry, Lady Gaga and Kelly Clarkson. Perry’s statement, “I’m not a feminist, but I do believe in the strength of women,” Gaga’s “I’m not a feminist; I hail men, I love men, I celebrate American male culture – beer, bars, and muscle cars,” and Clarkson’s “No, I wouldn’t say feminist – that’s too strong. […] I love that I’m being taken care of and I have a man that’s a leader. I’m not a feminist in that sense,” greatly affect the views of their young fans.
“We think that feminism is a thing of the past and that we don’t really need it anymore, but the problem of that false sense of security is the normalization of inequality,” said Jenny Vermilya, a sociology PhD student and teacher in Sociology at the University of Colorado at Boulder, about celebrities distancing themselves from feminism. In addressing how individuals choose not to take part in events such as $tart $mart or other potential ways to increase equality in their own lives, Vermilya said “It seems so overwhelming to be part of social change as an individual that we just disengage. It makes people feel like there’s no way for them to individually make a difference. Social change is this collective process, so individuals aren’t really largely involved, but if you get enough together that it becomes a movement, that’s how social change happens. I think that’s one of the biggest barriers to getting started and trying to be a part of something; it feels like your voice doesn’t matter, your actions don’t matter, and nothing’s going to change. It’s not that they don’t care [enough to work toward equality], it’s overwhelming for them.”
Rebecca Searles of the Huffington Post made a simple flow chart to tell if you’re a feminist.
The definition of feminism is the advocacy of women’s rights on the grounds of political, social, and economic equality to men. This is commonly misunderstood today. This misunderstanding combined with the public rejection of feminism is leading up to consequences such as the complacency of the next generation of potential feminists, even to the degree of not participating in events promoting equality. Despite these tendencies, Pamela Aronson concludes in her paper Feminists or “Postfeminists”, “Although most researchers and the media have painted a pessimistic view of young women’s ambivalence, I believe that my results offer some promise for feminism. Many of these women may be passive supporters rather than agents of change, but they are supporters nonetheless. Their endorsement may represent the seeds of change, which, under the right historical conditions, and in interaction with the growth of the grassroots feminist organizing, could blossom into the next wave of the women’s movement.” Bringing feminism and individual activism back into the conversation is going to be very important in the progress toward true equality.