Name: Hugo Schwyzer
Occupation: Gender Studies and History professor at Pasadena City College
How do you define feminism?
I define feminism as the belief that men and women ought to be equal in terms of opportunity, in terms of worth, and in terms of their abilities to dictate the circumstances of their lives. Feminism for me is the belief that biology is not destiny, or at least need not be destiny.
When did you first identify as a feminist?
I’ve called myself a feminist since I was a boy; I was raised by a feminist mom who was a NOW member. We grew up with Ms. on the family coffee table!
Has your (definition of) feminism changed over time? How?
My feminism has evolved, of course, as I’ve fought to match my language to my life – and more importantly, as I’ve listened to women and men tell me their stories. Our feminism, like any view we hold, should always be subject to questioning.
Have you ever experienced resistance to identifying as a feminist? If so, why do you think that is and how do you handle it?
I have never had a personal problem identifying as a feminist. I know the old debates about whether men could be feminists; I lived through a lot of them in the 1980s. I understand the argument that men can’t ever use the term (or shouldn’t), and I still happily use the word “pro-feminist” or the phrase “male ally” when it would seem too presumptuous to claim the name. I do note that younger feminists seem to have far fewer problems with men using the word for themselves, as long as they walk the walk.
What do you see as the future of feminism?
The future of feminism looks great – we see it in the energy of the SlutWalk movement, in the resistance to the abuse of women in Occupy Wall Street, in the incredible use of social media by politically engaged women today. We still have a long way to go to achieve safety, equity, and freedom for women worldwide. But we’re headed in the right direction.
Hugo Schwyzer has taught history and gender studies at Pasadena City College since 1993, where he developed the college’s first courses on Men and Masculinity and Beauty and Body Image. He serves as co-director of the Perfectly Unperfected Project, a campaign to transform young people’s attitudes around body image and fashion. Hugo lives with his wife, daughter, and six chinchillas in Los Angeles. Hugo blogs at his eponymous website and at Healthy Is the New Skinny.
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