Writing for this blog has opened me up to new thoughts and ideas. I am challenged to think critically about the issues surrounding women and humanity as a whole. I am a believer that in order to find solutions to problems, definitions are needed. What is woman? I told myself, “I know what it is to be a woman, at least I know that I am one.” Besides exploring my gender with science, I wanted to know what it means to be a woman from a philosophical point of view.
I recently went to a lecture about the nature of woman and was introduced to the works of Dr. Edith Stein. She was an early 20th century philosopher whose research focused on women, empathy, and “feminine” traits. As I researched her life and read her lectures, I found the explanation to what I hadn’t been able to put into words before.
The Jew, the Atheist, and the Believer
Stein was born in in 1891 in Breslua, Germany, which is now in modern-day Poland. She was the youngest of eleven children and her parents were devout Jews. She was very close to her mother and was considered her favourite. Life circumstances, including the death of her father, led her to become an atheist by her teens. “I consciously decided, of my own volition, to give up praying.”
Stein was academically brilliant, studying German and history at University of Breslua, and later philosophy at Gottingen University. She was particularly interested in women’s issues and was a self-described radical suffragette. The subject of women in a professional setting and religious living became her focus later on in life. In 1915, she served as a nurse in WWI, where she was deeply disturbed by the sickness and death she witnessed. After a year, Stein returned to school and earned her doctorate summa cum laude with her thesis “The Problem of Empathy.”
On August 18th in 1920, the 19th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States was ratified. The 19th Amendment granted women the constitutional right to vote. While the Women’s Suffrage movement in the United States can be dated back to different specific moments, the most prominent and well-known event that started the Women’s Suffrage movement was the first women’s rights convention in Seneca Falls, New York in July of 1848. The convention was organized by abolitionists Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott. After this convention, Stanton and Mott were joined by many other women, including Susan B. Anthony and Alice Paul, in a national effort to grant women’s suffrage. In rallies and marches, the suffragettes wore ribbons that were white, purple and gold and the predominant color of their attire was white. Purple was to represent loyalty, and steadfastness to a cause while white was symbolic of purity and the quality of the cause.
This tradition started by the suffragettes is now carried on in their honor by women who have made ground-breaking accomplishments and who have paved the road for many other women who seek to be leaders in the United States government.
The Women’s Center at the University of Idaho is constantly brainstorming new and engaging ways to explore different issues that affect women all around the world.
What better way to open the discussion on women’s issues than through film?
There is no denying that film is still being dominated by a male perspective. Women’s roles are dwindling. Our lines focus on men or our feelings for them. There needs to be stronger female perspectives and society needs to hear our voice and be inspired by the strong stature of women fighting against educational repression, sexual violence, victim shaming, and political restraints. We are so much more than just a love interest or comedic relief.