Fear of the “F” Word

by Intern Courtney

Recently, I came across a Forbes article that caught my eye. In “Who’s Afraid of Post-Feminism? What It Means To Be A Feminist Today,” Jenna Goudreau asks women to weigh in on some hard-hitting questions: what is feminism, and is it relevant today?

Feminism, the other “f word,” has come to represent unwarranted stereotypes for some, and is a badge of honor for others. If some are uncomfortable calling themselves feminists, and others would wear the label on their foreheads, Goudreau asks, what’s the difference if we believe the same things? Does the label matter? What purpose does feminism serve today?

As Gloria Steinem put it, “Women in the world still bear most of the violence, do most of the work and get less of the salary. We’ve come along way in consciousness and made a lot of strides, but this is just the beginning.” Similarly, Robin Morgan (co-founder of the Women’s Media Center) points out the diversity of feminist beliefs, and emphasizes its continuing relevance, saying, “Feminism doesn’t have a narrow definition: it’s when anyone fights for women’s rights.” For Irin Carmon, the former Jezebel writer who’s now at Salon, feminism “is the recognition that women are human beings with the right to full participation in society.”

Although these women embrace the title “feminist,” there are others, such as Ursula Burns (CEO of Xerox) and Maggie Wilderotter (Frontier Communications’ CEO) who hesitate to label themselves. Burns and Woldrotter are wildly successful and wholeheartedly supportive of women’s rights, but say they have their own “re-imagined version” of feminism. Wilderotter describes today’s version as “a whole new way of being feminine”–one Goudreau defines as being “capable in a profession and nurturing at home.” Burns says, “being a woman today is about having choices: managing, leading, and loving your family; having an opinion and making it known.”

The article refers to a USA Today poll in which a 20-year-old female college student said talking about feminism was “unattractive,” and worried that giving herself the feminist label would lead to her being perceived as “pushy, problematic or troublesome.” These stereotypical perceptions of feminism bug me, but what I really want to know is: how many of us share the same beliefs, but are to afraid of being attached to the stereotypes?

According to Robin Morgan: “Bottom line: I don’t care if a woman wants to call herself ‘squirrel,’ as long as she fights for herself and other women.” What do you think, is it po-tay-toe/po-tah-toe? Does the label matter?

Image credit: lostwackys.com

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