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Difference makes feminism complicated !

Fdaniel's picture

         Feminism has progressed for centuries with the aim to empower women. As the years went on it has changed with the time period and the mindsets of the women from each era. Women began with the idea of fighting for equality with men and erasing the power disparity. There was a transition to second wave feminism where women forgot about being equal to men and embraced their femininity. They were proud of their ability to have children and breast-feed. There was then a move to our current wave of feminism that focuses very heavily on liberation, forgetting about being equal to men but finding one’s self and generating that idea of choice. Feminism has changed so much that I think we forgot about why feminism even began. It’s interesting how equality evolved and excluded the many complexities of each individual woman. How can we possibly have feminism if there isn’t a common theme understood across the board? Am I even feminist because I’m questioning your thinking process about feminism? Am I even feminist for trying to justify anyone’s stance on feminism? Feminism is quite complex and delves deeper into the idea of choice and what that means for every single woman including women of all races, socioeconomic backgrounds, sexualities and more.  It must cater to every woman’s complexities with the goal to help her liberate herself. 

            As feminism progressed the representation of feminism has slowly changed with it. Rosy the Riveter is an icon and symbol for feminism. She has been the image for the words women have spoken for years about feminism. However, is the image of her hand held high representing the workingwoman really feminist? Or quite offensive? The controversy around this image has been discussed for years but never looked at through the lens of a multicultural aspect. We must look at feminism with the mindset of not “showing a single story.” Only speaking of the white woman who is the upper class isn’t speaking for women that don’t fit the category. Keeping that in mind we should analyze the evolution of the feminist representation and reveal whether or not it is truly grasping all the aspects of a woman. Multicultural feminism attempts to represent all women and their complexities. It makes works accessible to all women and gives them the opportunity to seek their own definition of what being a woman is. Through a multicultural lens we get to examine the evolution of the representation of feminism.

 Before we can even begin our discussion of the representation of feminism we must delve into what exactly multicultural feminism is. Multicultural feminism is a new movement of feminism that takes into account the different dynamics that make up a woman. It considers the different “isms’” and other structurally oppressive forces in our lives in order to allow women to cultivate their own meaning of feminism.  Multicultural feminism examines intersectionality and how diverse each and every woman is (Gregory). It takes into account that a woman’s age, skin color and level of education all have an effect on her role in society and her perception of what liberation is (Tong). Taking into account the smallest aspects of a woman’s life could easily effect how she views society, which may not align with other women. For example, I grew up in the Bronx and went to public school all my life; I’m heterosexual and consider myself cisgender. There are parts of my identity that are very much privileged in our society. However, there are some aspects that aren’t. The fact that I am cisgender and heterosexual makes me privileged in the eyes of society. However, the fact that I am African American and grew up in an underprivileged area makes me perceived as inferior and stereotyped. There is more to me then just my gender. All of those aspects play a role in how I view my feminism. I think there should be a universal health care plan. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with women working while having children. I fight for gay rights. I don’t think women should have to cover up. All of my stances stem from my experiences, my background and all the aspects of MY identity. I can’t possibly expect for a woman that is from Idaho, went to catholic school her entire life, homosexual and is transgender to have the exact same views as me because of her complexity. That is why multicultural feminism is effective because it attempts to understand women from different angles and puts into consideration other “isms’” that affect her as an individual.  

            Representations of feminism have shifted over the years because of the evolution of our society. Society has gone a long way in discussing women’s rights and giving women the opportunity to grow. During WWI Rosey the Riveter swept America with her masculine pose promoting women to work in factories. 

As seen in the picture above Rosy the Riveter is sticking up a fist symbolizing strength and endurance. Her masculine jaw and straightforward face shows that she means business. She’s showing no cleavage or breast of any kind and has on what appears to be no lipstick. The only aspects of her that don’t resemble a man is her hair style and the bandana.  She’s resembling characteristics of a man to possibly show that a woman can embody masculine characteristics and still very much be a woman. She’s encouraging women strength and can do the work but on top of that still take care of the home. We can honestly say that she isn’t being sexualized because the main focus isn’t her breast, buttock, legs or vagina but rather her muscles that measure her level of physical strength. However, is this representation of feminism really feminist? This image is very narrow and doesn’t grasp the complexities of a woman. Rosy is a woman, living in an area that has jobs accessible and can afford clothing. What about the women who live in poverty that don’t have the option to work for themselves? Are they not feminist? There are women that don’t speak English, that can’t afford clothing or have the opportunity to work.  The slogan also states “WE can do it” which is only coming from a white woman addressing the WHITE community. This image fails to address the complexities of a woman so how can this image possibly be feminist? In some respects it is. It addresses multiple aspects of a woman but isn’t accessible to all women. The power of accessibility is that it allows all women to relate and understand the dynamics of the world in a manageable way. This photo can’t possibly be accessible when it ignores the other dynamics of a woman. Through a multicultural lens this image doesn’t address other “isms” such as racism, classism and ageism. This image is a product of the time period. The obvious concern in first wave feminism was for women to be equal to men in all respects especially education, however, through a multicultural lens the one thing this image does address is the power of white women. 

       As the time period evolved more changes were made to the representation of feminism. Here, is a modern picture of feminism: 

As we can see here this is a younger woman that resembles Rosy in a very sexualized way. Unlike the first photo her face is more desirable with a smirk on her face as if she is flirting. She is clearly wearing make up and the focus isn’t on her hands and strength but rather her beauty. Her breasts are out and her hair is showing. These very dramatic changes shift the focus from strength to purely sex. The artist decided to keep the same background and the same slogan but simply by changing her appearance changes the slogan’s meaning. The use of the slogan “We can do it” sounds more like we can have sex instead of we can be independent. In some respects this image represents feminism. It depicts a woman that is proud of her robust body and embraces her beauty however, when this image is extremely sexualized it takes the focus away from the central goal of this image, we are distracted by her breast and hair. This image could be mistaken for a porn ad instead of a feminist symbol. This artist isn’t fighting against the stereotype that women are sexual objects he or she is encouraging it. However, although this image has changed and addresses even more aspects of a woman such as embracing one’s body it still doesn’t address the full complexities of a woman or speaks for a larger community.  There is still a white woman flaunting her hair and body. What happens to diversity? She has fit into the mold of what modern society considers “beautiful.” This artist has taken a image that first clearly attempted to depict the power of a woman and shifted the focus to sex.  This image still isn’t accessible to all women and doesn’t show diversity. 

         As we transition into the next image think about the extreme shift from the first image to the second.  We see the shift in focus change from empowerment to sex clearly not even attempting to be more accessible to all women. In this image below it take the icon of feminism and makes it accessible.

This image is a more accurate representation for feminism. It presents three women from different races mimicking Rosy the Riveter in their own way. The Muslim woman is wearing a hijab, the African American is wearing a bandana flaunting her fro and the Hispanic woman is wearing a color scarf. All these women come from different walks of life fighting for the same message, equality. Instead of depicting a “single story” of just a white woman we see women from different races coming together. Not only is this accessible to all women but its impactful. This image encourages unity and doesn’t promote “sex” or classism but rather liberation and diversity.  It addresses multiple “-isms” that are completely ignored in the other photo. It fights against racism, sexism, etc. None of these women are showing any body parts such as breast, vaginas and buttocks but rather they are flaunting their muscles and the symbolic fist showing their strength.  Women of color are able to relate to this photo and grasp the message that is being portrayed that they couldn’t do before because they weren’t represented in the other photos. The slogan has changed to instead of saying “we can do it” which is addressing only the white community but instead stating that “we ALL can do it.” It invites difference and “otherness.” It allows women from all walks of life feel included in this fight for equality. Through a multicultural lens we can safely say that this image is accessible and is a quality representation of feminism. 

         Multicultural feminism tries to include all aspects of a woman in order to make feminism accessible. Though a multicultural lens we are able to see whether or not works are trying to grasp all aspects of a woman and what isn’t. After analyzing these images and seeing the difference in how they changed was remarkable.  As the time period evolved we have seen the shift in priority and the true white hierarchy that is represented in these photos. However, the last photo truly attempts to address diversity and redefine what feminism is.  It represents what we strive for; for feminism to represent ALL walks of life that identify as a woman. 


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Works Citied

Work Citied


Desrosiers, Alisse. "Don’t Call Me A Feminazi." Web log post. Feminspire. N.p., n.d. Web. 06 Oct. 2013. <>. 1


Gregory, Laura. "Conflict." : Multicultural Feminism. N.p., 11 Oct. 2010. Web. 06 Oct. 2013.


Tong, Rosemarie, Tong,. "Feminist Ethics." Stanford University. Stanford University, 12 May 1998. Web. 06 Oct. 2013.


The Strength of [Orange Is the New Black] Isn't... | MY FEMINISM WILL BE FEMINIST. N.d. Photograph. MY FEMINISM WILL BE FEMINIST. Web. 06 Oct. 2013. <>. 2


#SAfem: Student Affairs Feminist. N.d. Photograph. #SAfem: Student Affairs Feminist. 26 June 2013. Web. 06 Oct. 2013. <>. 3