The Feminist Questioning and Envisioning Process
Aliya Khalidi & Seema Gokhale
Are gender differences and inequality natural, as has been assumed, or are they created and perpetuated by social and economic institutions? Who or what do women perceive as "the enemy"? Can women be liberated within capitalism?
The Questioning and Envisioning Process is the first of seven feminist transformative processes that fight against women's oppression. This process visualizes greater justice for all women of the world. In the Questioning and Envisioning Process, feminists dream about a society free of sexism, gender discrimination, or male domination. By challenging the rationalized status quo and existing order, feminists denounce the sexist notions and practices that reinforce traditional gender roles as natural or inevitable.
This process challenges the rationalization of women in society as weak, dependent, and inferior compared to men. For example, girls internalize feelings of inferiority at a young age. There is a common belief in society that girls are less skilled in science and mathematics than boys. A classroom study has shown that this belief is in place among girls by the time they reach third grade . Studies show that girls underperform or lose interest in math in science because they feel that they are innately inferior to boys in those disciplines. For example, a Newsweek article from 1980 carried the headline, "Do males have a math gene?" The answer was yes . One of the more influential people in the academic world, former President of Harvard Univerisity Lawrence Summers, controversially claimed that the male mind was better suited for science than the female mind . This commonly held rationalization of women as worse at math than men leads to unfortunate feedback effects in which girls lack confidence in their math skills, causing them to perform poorly on tests .
The media contributes to rationalization of gender roles. For example, the Walt Disney Company is frequently at fault for reinforcing gender stereotypes. In most Disney movies, the heroine is impossibly thin yet curvy, scantily-clad, and subject to the will and whims of the men around her. There are several examples of these women. Forced to flee from her home, Snow White escapes to the forest and is rescued by seven male dwarves. By the time they come home after a long day of physical labor, she has dinner on the table and has happily cleaned the entire house. In the Little Mermaid, Ariel's curiousity has gotten the best of her. Having given up her voice to become human, she can only reclaim her voice by physically attracting Eric, the movie's hero. In Beauty and the Beast, Belle gives up her freedom in exchange for her father's, and is treated roughly by the Beast. Despite his aggressiveness toward her, she waits it out and he becomes her Prince. While this may seem innocuous, when taken out of its cartoon context, it can support dangerous mentalities. It supports the idea that it is acceptable to abuse women, and all women can to do is wait for the inevitable "Prince" to emerge . For young and impressionable children, this reinforces the passive role of women and the dominant role of men in society.
Once women in the United States questioned the injustices ingrained in the status quo, they called for change in society through a set of demands and manifestos. For example, in the first wave of feminism this was embodied by the the Seneca Falls Declaration. In Second Wave Feminism, this was Betty Friedan's The Feminine Mystique. In the first and second waves of feminism, these delclarations proved catalysts for change.
We will be analyzing the Questioning and Envisioning process in the United States and abroad. We discuss the first, second, and third waves of feminism in the United States.
In recognition of the fact that women worldwide come from many cultures, and feminism has evolved differently in various countries. Women worldwide are speaking out on a diversity of issues, and proclaiming their dissatisfaction with the injustices imposed upon them in their respective societies. Despite the myriad feminist movements, women are uniting across political borders to support one another in their feminist struggles.
So come along on our journey through our dreams for a greater future!
 Gutbezahl, Jennifer. "How Negative Expectancies and Attitudes Undermine Females’
Math Confidence and Performance: A Review of the Literature"
Jennifer Gutbezahl http://www.mathstat.uottawa.ca/~msajn339/mat3100/women1.pdf
 Benbow, C.P. and Stanley, J.C. “Do Males Have a Math Gene? Sex Differences in Mathematical Ability” Newsweek Dec 15, 1980 p 73 (1 p).
 Reyna, Christine. "Lazy, Dumb, or Industrious: When Stereotypes Convey Attribution Information in the Classroom." Educational Psychology Review, 2000, vol. 12, issue 1, p 85
 Mickey Mouse Monopoly: Disney, Childhood, and Corporate Power, directed by Chyng Su, Media Education Foundation, 2001.
 Bombardieri, Marcella. "Summers' remarks on women draw fire," The Boston Globe, January 17, 2005.
(c) 2006 Aliya Khalidi. Seema Gokhale
Last modified: May 21, 2006