Feminism has been given a bad name in mainstream media, a feminist activist said in a speech on Tuesday in McShain Lounge.

Jessica Valenti, a 29-year-old feminist writer from New York City, stressed her belief that the word “feminism” has a bad connotation and that although most young women support many feminist ideals, they are hesitant to define themselves as “feminists” because of the stigma that comes with the label.

Valenti was one of the founders of the feminist blog feministing.com. The blog calls for open dialogue about modern feminism. In addition to working with feministing.com, Valenti regularly contributes articles to various Web sites and magazines and recently published her first novel entitled, “Full Frontal Feminism: A Young Woman’s Guide to Why Feminism Matters.”

“We never seem to get an accurate picture of what women are all about,” Valenti said. “Most young women are feminists, but they are too afraid to use the word. Women are shying away from the word because feminism has a bad publicity problem.”

She believes the media is one of the primary causes of this disconnect.

“Whenever you see women in the media, it’s because of a sex tape or they’re Paris Hilton.”

Feministing.com was launched because of Valenti’s desire to shift the image of feminism from being frumpy and man-hating to young, cool and edgy.

“The stereotype of feminists is that they are ugly, hairy-legged, bra-burning man-haters; but we are trying to give the word feminism a makeover,” she said.

To combat what Valenti perceives to be a misconception as to what young feminists embody, she posts examples of strong women in their communities on her Web site. The site also serves as a vehicle for her activism. One posting on the site showcased T-shirts that were made by major clothing companies that had sayings on the front such as, “I’m tight like spandex.” In response, some of the Web site’s readers sent e-mails to the companies and production of the T-shirts were halted.

Using that and other examples of modern feminism, Valenti said she thinks the movement has momentum.

“If people didn’t seem feminism as a threat and as powerful, they wouldn’t be trying to tear it down.”

Valenti emphasized that activists do not need to go to protest rallies every weekend or write weekly letters to congresspersons to be a participant in the feminist movement.

“If you tell the truth about feminism and talk to, rather than at, young women, they will understand and embrace feminism,” she said.

embers of the audience asked questions regarding feminism, abortion and how they relate to Catholic identity.

Valenti responded in part by saying that being pro-abortion rights is one of the staple values of the feminist movement but that people can still be feminists and anti-abortion.

She also noted that feminism can take on different meanings for different women.

“I’m not the arbiter of what feminism is and what it is not,” she said.

The speech, part of Women’s Week 2008, was sponsored by the Women’s Center, United Feminists, Georgetown’s chapter of the NAACP, Women of Color, Women in Politics, Take Back the Night, GU Pride, the Senior Class Committee, the Georgetown Solidarity Committee, Lecture Fund, InterHall and the Office of Institutional Diversity, Equity and Affirmative Action.

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