On Tuesday, Jan. 24, Professor Shannon McCoy presented the first Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Colloquium of the 2019 spring semester.
McCoy is an associate professor in the Psychology Department at the University of Maine who specializes in experimental psychology. The purpose of her talk, “Feminism and Gender Self-Identification,” was to develop an understanding of what it means to embrace the role of a being feminist.
“To me feminism means that men and women have equal opportunity, value, respect and safety,” McCoy said.
She added that recent events have had both negative and positive effects on the movement. On the one hand, the nation after last year is well aware that sexism and unfair treatment is a rampant issue in some professional industries. On the other hand, people are becoming more and more polarized.
McCoy also noted that increased media coverage of issues important to feminism has produced a similar effect.
“In some great ways [the media has been positive], it gives voice and platform to those who hadn’t had it in the past. At the same time it is very polarizing,” McCoy said.
At one point, McCoy asked the audience about what they believe the media’s role in feminism is. One student answered that the effects have been diverse, giving strength and agency but magnifying arguments on both sides. Others said that they believe more people now have an improved view of feminism as cultural leaders have worked to create a more approachable and positive image.
Many pop-culture icons have now jumped on board with movements that have propelled the development of feminism and equal rights. Recent trends such as the #MeToo movement have been backed by many celebrities; even Ruth Bader Ginsburg has been quoted supporting the movement for women.
She admitted that the #MeToo movement has brought about many important conversations in her household as a parent — conversations that might not have happened before.
The origins of the #MeToo movement go back to 2003 when civil rights activist Tarana Burke began using the phrase while employed with Just Be Inc., her nonprofit organization focused on the “overall well-being of young women of color,” according to Biography.com. The movement gained steam in 2017 when celebrities such as Alyssa Milano used the hashtag on social media to call out sexual misconduct and abuse in their professional workplaces.
The mission of #MeToo is to provide support to victims of sexual violence, assault and manipulation and create a sense of community for the survivors.
According to McCoy, many are quick to say that as a whole women face discrimination, but they are less likely to say that they do as individuals. The academic term for this is called “personal group discrimination discrepancy.”