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Feminism: a Dirty Word?

When Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer said she doesn’t consider herself a feminist, I thought: How is it possible that such an intelligent woman could say that? To be honest, I immediately lost a certain amount of respect for her.

Then I started thinking: WHY would she say that?

feminism

Let’s start with this: What does feminism make you think of?

Burning bras? Extremism? Hairy arm pits?
A jaded and unattractive woman in a pant suit? A beautiful women in a sundress?

Chances are you only thought of the first four. Am I right?

Now, what does feminism mean?

A movement to help women be seen, treated and respected as equals to men.

What does a feminist really look like?

Me. My husband. All of my friends (simply because I wouldn’t be friends with someone who thinks women are second class citizens and deserve less respect than a man.) Women and men in all industries, who dress well and shave their pits (or don’t – to each their own!)

How did we get this distorted idea of what a feminist is?

In North America, the media and advertising have traditionally been industries run by men. It’s a fact that when the male-dominated printed media doesn’t like something, they find many ways to subtly (and not-so-subtly) demonize it. It’s also a fact that the media is one of the most (arguably THE most) thought-altering force in humans lives.

What can we do?

If the word feminism has been dirtied by the media, we can spend our time fighting over the meaning of that word, or we can choose to describe what we believe in more accurately: The Women’s Rights Movement, or The Equal Rights Movement.

Here’s an interesting TED Talk (made famous because Beyonce used part of it in a song), about what feminism means:

What do you think?

8 comments
Walt Freese
Walt Freese

When the female CEO of Yahoo declares that she's not a feminist, she's playing the game by the rules of the patriarchy. In doing so, she perpetuates the very prejudice she's had to fight all of her life. She's also sending a dangerous message to other women. "Don't expect me to upset the Board by fighting for equal opportunities and equal pay for our female employees. I'm not going to risk what I've accomplished to be associated with any "movement"." Some suggest the problem is with the word "feminism", but I disagree. The prejudice that exists against women being truly equal beings in all aspects of life is so strong that narrow-minded people will turn any new word - or words - in to something pejorative in their own minds. I wish there were more CEO's out there like Sheryl Sandberg at Facebook, who is a feminist and isn't afraid to be leading a movement to remove obstacles to women in the workplace - not just at Facebook, but everywhere! There are business leaders who are men that are feminists and champion equal rights for women as well. I'm one of them. But when women in positions of power distance themselves from the very fight that has gotten them as far as they have, they do a great disservice not just to women, but to all conscious human beings.

Peter Krieger
Peter Krieger

"In North America, the media and advertising have traditionally been industries run by men. " Whereas I don't doubt the influence of male ownership, it pays to note that women make or heavily influence between 80-85% of consumer purchases....the most masculine of manly men will not ignore that fact.

Rebecca Ariane Givens
Rebecca Ariane Givens

I wish this conversation didn't even need to happen, but since as women we're still only making about 70 cents to a dollar a man makes (and even less with an MBA), the more we talk about this the better....

Hilary Rowland
Hilary Rowland

I think that some people mistakenly associate "feminist" with people who are extreme. Just like some people think that "Arab" and "Arab extremist" are the same.

Zach Hanna
Zach Hanna

I would agree that Equal Rights Movement is much more modern because it is equal for all gender identities and cannot be construed as pushing the agenda of the female gender identity above everything else (whether that is true or not)

Zach Hanna
Zach Hanna

What currently passes as 'feminism' has been co-opted by some women who will not stop until the last person identifying a male is silenced and oppressed as much as women used to be. It's now become the "female privilege" or "men can't do anything right" or "you don't deserve that because you're male" or "you can't make that statement; it's offensive" movement. The freedom from being offended.

Zach Hanna
Zach Hanna

Feminism in its true sense is not a dirty word at all; but there seems to be a war around the word lately, and the perception of it has been misunderstood. So I would say equal rights is a better term.

Christine Collie Rowland
Christine Collie Rowland

excellent points - I agree, the media have used the word as an insult. Wouldn't it be nice if the words feminism and feminist didn't need to exist because all people were treated with equality and respect. Some day...

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