Studies Show…. Feminism Is Good for You! (Part 1 of Series)
One of the many thorns in the collective feminist side is the way research is used as a weapon in promoting gender division and inferiority of one gender in particular (just venture a guess as to which one). Even when the research itself is unbiased, findings are often spun to neatly align with interpretations by certain “evolutionary psychologists” (a title that often seems to be an alias for Professional Guesser). They’ll take a study involving gender as a variable and hold it up as proof that men and women really are “hardwired” differently, with no regard to the countless other variables present in both research and life. This spin then gets funneled to the masses, where it’s used even further to divide and deride.
What’s annoying to me as a mental health clinician is – well, first, that word hardwired: It’s overused, often meaningless, and sometimes harmful – great way to make people feel hopeless about the possibility of change. Oh, wait… I reckon that’s the point, huh? But more than that, these folks really should know better. I do, and my training focus didn’t even include research.
As such, it’s a delicious surprise to come across studies that illuminate the benefits of feminism, which I’ve been blessed to know firsthand. I can’t help but imagine these researchers saying “Screw this - let’s do our own study!” This also speaks to the importance of equal representation in the sciences, in particular.
Below is the first of the series in which I’ll highlight research that reinforces the awesomeness of feminism.
Why feminism is good for you, reason #1:
It can strengthen your self-esteem, body image, and overall health. In a study that appeared in Psychology of Women Quarterly, researchers found that the more invested women were in gender ideals, the worse they scored on measures of self-esteem, depression and disordered eating. The reason cited was that their self-worth was dependent on external validation. In another study, from the journal Personality & Individual Differences, women who scored higher on the Femininity Ideology Scale (specifically, prescribing to stereotypical beliefs about “how women should be,” including ideals about purity) had lower levels of body appreciation.
My take on it is this: The more strongly you believe in prescribed ideals, the more your self-esteem is at the mercy of others – essentially making it a moving target. Feminism provides a buffer to the negative impact of societal expectations of appearance and other aspects of identity, since it a) calls bulls*!# on gender and other arbitrary ideals in the first place; b) encourages awareness about these influences and rebellion against them, which simultaneously strengthens one’s sense of personal power and autonomy; and c) fights for each individual’s right to be, and be valued for, who they are, regardless of size and appearance or anything else. Mind you, that doesn’t mean feminists are above these influences; it just means we continually strive to resist and overcome them - to not let them win, if you will.
So there you have it - feminism really IS good for you! But then, I already knew that. Do yourself an enormous favor and find out for yourself!