This piece was also published on In Our Words.
Yahoo! has a new CEO. Her name is Marissa Mayer and she is 37 years old, making her the youngest CEO of a Fortune 500 company.
Mayer’s accomplishments in her career are incredible and she deserves credit for them. However, to some extent, so does feminism.
Mayer was born in 1975, as the women’s movement was really starting to take off. But at the time, it was still controversial for a woman to wear pants rather than a skirt, let alone to cohabit with a boyfriend, work outside the home after marriage, and so on. However, Mayer was able to benefit from the gains of feminism: she attended college (and not just any college, but Stanford University) and became Google’s first female engineer.
On the same day that Yahoo! announced Mayer as its new CEO, Mayer and her husband announced that they are expecting a baby. In a time when pregnancy-related workplace discrimination is still very real, this is momentous. And don’t think for a moment that this happened in a vacuum.
So, does Mayer identify with feminism, given all of her achievements? Nope:
I don’t think that I would consider myself a feminist. I think that I certainly believe in equal rights, I believe that women are just as capable, if not more so in a lot of different dimensions, but I don’t, I think have, sort of, the militant drive and the sort of, the chip on the shoulder that sometimes comes with that. And I think it’s too bad, but I do think that feminism has become in many ways a more negative word. You know, there are amazing opportunities all over the world for women, and I think that there is more good that comes out of positive energy around that than comes out of negative energy.
This viewpoint seems to be very common among successful women in the U.S. these days; I’ve heard it from many of my female peers at Northwestern. Yes, women can do anything men can do; yes, women should have equal rights, but do we really need to be all, like, negative about it?
First of all, there’s a certain amount of irony here. Feministing‘s Chloe writes, “Marissa, it is too bad that feminism has become a negative word. You know what’s also too bad? Your failure to acknowledge that without feminism, you could never have become the CEO of Yahoo.”
Second, what Mayer said that she believes is exactly what feminism is. Feminism is the idea that women and men should have equal rights, and that women and men are essentially capable of the same things, despite the physical differences that may exist between them.
Beyond that, everything’s up for debate. Different feminists believe entirely different things. Some very radical, separatist feminists believe that women should choose to be lesbians and to associate only with other women. Most don’t believe that. Many feminists see feminism as a place to address related issues, like racism, homophobia, and class issues. Others don’t. Some feminists supported the Equal Rights Amendment. Others didn’t. Some feminists are angry and bitter (and, often, rightfully so). Others are cheerful and friendly. Some feminists hate men. Others love them, and still others could take ’em or leave ’em. Some feminists are lesbians. Others are straight, bisexual, or something else. Many feminists are women. Some are men. Others don’t identify as either men or women.
Despite this incredible diversity of opinions, lifestyles, and identities, many people, including those who support equal rights for women, insist on distilling feminism only into its most unpleasant stereotype. This is a classic strawman fallacy, and, the way I see it, it’s an attempt (if an unconscious one) to avoid discussing the real issues. It’s unfortunate that Mayer has chosen this path.
However, as Amanda Marcotte points out in her post at Slate, Mayer’s refusal to identify as a feminist might be the only option for a woman who wants to get ahead in the corporate world:
Women are correct to believe that direct confrontations with sexism result in people turning on the “complainer” instead of blaming the person who acted sexist in the first place….Taking that on just isn’t for everyone, even for a powerful woman who is unquestionably willing to suffer for the ultimate success of her corporation. Someone who would rather do what’s right than what’s profitable simply isn’t going to climb very high on that corporate ladder.
I would agree. Not everybody has to be Super Social Justice Warrior (although I’d like to see more people at least not hold the movement back). Given Mayer’s career goals, it makes sense that she chooses not to align herself with feminism, and I can’t blame her as an individual.
That said, I do wish she wouldn’t promote the same tired stereotypes about feminists having “a chip on the shoulder” and “negative energy.” Are there feminists like that? Yes. Is feminism itself like that? Depends on who you’d ask. I would say no, because I’m involved in countless feminist circles online and in real life, and our discussions there are fun, productive, and extremely connecting experiences. It’s certainly more “positive” than sitting around and pretending everything’s fine with the world when you don’t really feel like it is.
Of course, there’s a good chance that Mayer already knows all of this. It’s quite possible that her statement about feminism was entirely a political one, something she said to make sure that the men she’ll be leading don’t feel too threatened.
I can’t blame her for making that choice, but she shouldn’t have had to make it–because our culture should not be so militantly averse to serious (and, sometimes, uncomfortable) discussions.
Totally spot on. I can’t tell you how much this very debate has killed me, as a female professional in the IT world. Do I play nice as one of the guys to get along (“I’m not one of ‘those girls’, I’m one of the guys!”)? Or do I stand up for myself as a woman, and risk ostracizing myself by pointing out how these guys, whom I respect & genuinely like, how much they play the old boys club?
I’ve recently made a decision (not too far from your own) to move from IT into a social services world (and possibly into therapy/LCSW), because I *can’t* make the statements she has. I *can’t* decide to not threaten teh menz in my fight for women. I agree, I can’t blame her for making that choice – I just can’t join her in making it.
Good for you! Yeah, I’m sure there are people who do care, just less than we do, and they’re able to stay in those fields. But I’d go insane.
Mayer’s comment could have come from any powerful woman in business who I’ve read about ever. They almost all say that they believe in equal rights but aren’t feminists because blah blah blah. It could be partly a generational thing: as you point out, she was born when feminism was really getting under way, which has benefited her, but also means she grew up with that media image of scary hairy man-hating feminists. Not that that’s ever gone away, but given that it’s no longer generally socially acceptable in our culture to say that a woman’s place is in the home, and with more young women now identifying as feminists (like you and me), that image has been mitigated in recent years.
I do think, though, that you’re right to point out that this could be a symptom of being in the corporate world. In plenty of high-powered industries women are still expected to wear heels and lipstick all the time, which seems hilariously outdated to me. Does make you wonder what other outdated attitudes still hold sway in the corridors of corporate power.
Mhm, I’ve certainly seen this come up elsewhere in the corporate world. You might be interested in this: http://brute-reason.tumblr.com/post/23004019025/ive-thought-a-lot-about-the-issue-of-stereotypes
It’s a quote from an interview with a woman who worked on Wall Street. She acknowledges that a double standard exists, but thinks that women should change their behavior rather than changing the double standard. Very sad.
Oh Jesus. However, I do like how in the original interview that tumblr links to, she doesn’t buy into the guilt-at-leaving-children thing.
Yeah, it’s not that she completely fails feminism. 🙂
But I think women like these kind of take what’s of use to them and leave the rest. Which, as I said, is fine. As long as there are still people who ARE fighting for things to change.
I guess Feminism isnt a monolith, right? 😉
Haha, yup, that was basically my point.
I guess its a bummer when they dont tow the party line……….whatever that would be for a non monolith.
That would be the party line.
I’m not sure what you’re trying to get at here.
What Im getting at is the optics that you dont like how she see’s aspects of feminism. The feminism that you purport to follow isnt what is always practiced by your brethren in the real world. It is a nice idea though.
The feminism that I “purport” to follow? Excuse me?
Excuse you for what?
“Purport” means to falsely claim something. Are you suggesting that I’m falsely claiming to follow a particular type of feminism? I don’t think you know me nearly well enough to suggest that.
Ok, lets say you get married. You and your husband decide to have a baby. You get pregnant with his assistance. At month 3 you have an affair and then decide to not follow through with the pregnancy, the one you agreed to with your husband. Does he have equal rights in relation to your decision? By the way, “purport” doesnt always mean falsely.
No, he doesn’t, because it’s MY body. I’ll quote the authors of The Ethical Slut, a great book I’m reading about and that I agree with in this regard:
Is it absolutely tragic if a man who wants to be a father has a wife who wants an abortion? Yes. Is it unfair? Yes. But it would be infinitely worse to force a woman to carry a baby to term if she doesn’t want to, because it would violate her right to bodily integrity. I believe that that right is fundamental in a just society–that individuals should have the final say over what happens to their bodies.
That doesn’t mean that the man’s desires don’t matter. It doesn’t mean that he shouldn’t have the right to try and change her mind, as long as he’s not being manipulative or emotionally abusive about it. It doesn’t mean that what women want is more important than what men want. All it means is that, as it happens, our bodies have evolved in such a way that only women can become pregnant and give birth, and a person’s right to control what happens to their own body must come first.
I dont know you, but I know well enough what you were going to say. Equality, yep. If you were deciding to have the baby you can just imagine how many equal rights the sperm donor would have after you conceived. You guessed it, none. Ah feminism, you gotta love some aspects of it, others not so much.
You haven’t actually refuted my point about bodily integrity. And for the record, I don’t believe that men should be required to pay child support for children that they did not willingly conceive, so nice try attempting to guess what I believe.
That said, however, it’s worth noting that unlike women, whose birth control tends to be very expensive and inaccessible to those without a good health insurance plan, condoms are cheap, easily available, and require no prescription from a doctor. There is no reason why a man who doesn’t want to be a father should not use them when he has sex.
The deal or arrangement or partnership or contract I alluded to was one that a woman and man entered into. The act of conception was mutual with an intended purpose. In the scenario I proposed it was the female who decided unilaterally to not continue with it. The problem is that in cases such as this the male has absolutely no rights. In other words, our legal system has ensured that there is nothing equal in this relationship. It is totally one sided regardless of what the female counterpart says. THAT is not right regardless of bodily integrity. I am aware enough to know that nobody is willing to address that discrepancy.
Do you have a solution that doesn’t take away the woman’s bodily integrity?
Like I specifically said, I agree that it’s unfair and it sucks. But when it comes to issues of basic human anatomy, I’m not sure what other option there is. Aside from something absurd like developing a technology that would allow fetuses to be brought to term in an incubator or something, it’s simply impossible to afford men greater rights in this area without trampling on the much more fundamental right of bodily integrity.
No I dont. It is a difficult situation in certain instances. Before I go off to sleep, I would like you to think about this one. Why do our laws on rape not include the term “envelopment”? Afterall in a society of equal rights you would think that we would be enlightened enough to understand that men can be raped too. Even by women. 😉
Yeah, valid point re: rape. That’s why literally every single feminist activist I know recognizes the invisibility and the problem of male rape. That’s why any time my friends or people in the groups I’m involved in slips into talking about rape victims in female terms, someone else steps in to remind them that men can be victims, too. That’s why the sexual health peer education group I’m involved in has started using gender neutral language when we discuss rape prevention.
Also, I should add that the reason feminism focuses on women is because it mostly consists of women. People have the most knowledge about their own problems, so when they get together to advocate, they tend to advocate for causes that are personal to them.
So this is a self-fulfilling prophecy: if men refuse to get involved in feminism, then OF COURSE it’s not going to address issues specific to men, or issues from a male perspective.
I agree that many feminists do great things. I also believe many masculists do great things. I know we will be on the right track when we will no longer need gendered terms to describe ourselves. We simply will just be people. 🙂
Impressive derailing job! You must be a pro at this. I’d never even seen this technique before: you brought up a completely unrelated issue on which you had already made up your mind, waited for Miriam to disagree, and then told her how she wasn’t actually for equality because of it. And then you finished it with your noble wish for a utopian society in which we’ll all be “just people,” thus making anyone who fights oppression by identifying with their oppressed class automatically against equality. I give you a 10/10, keep derailing my friend!
If the fight needs to be about an oppressed “Class” then ultimately a bias comes in to play. When the fight should be directed at oppression in general. This goes both ways. Hence the reason I dont call myself a Masculist or Feminist. Egalitarian fits my ideology so much better. As far as derailing, youre off a little but believe what you will. That makes the discussions so much more interesting. 🙂
imo, oppression isn’t just being mean to other people. oppression occurs within a larger system.
when oppression takes place along gender lines, i think it’s important to acknowledge dominant patterns of gender oppression (men oppressing women and non-binary folks). likewise, when oppression takes place along racial lines, i think it’s important to acknowledge dominant patterns of racial oppression (white people oppressing poc). the same goes for cissexism, ableism, sizeism etc.
when we fail to acknowledge these patterns of oppression, i think we render ourselves incapable of actually addressing the issues at hand. for instance, when a white person appropriates, say, meaningful items/practices from the cultures of poc, just saying “don’t be a jerk!” doesn’t really cut it. i think we have to able to say, “hey, white person, you’re drawing on years and years of racial oppression when you appropriate pieces of other people’s culture. that’s uncool, and here’s why:…”
so when you talk about fighting “oppression in general,” i have no idea what you’re talking about. sounds to me like you’re probably another person who thinks we’re “all pink on the inside” and that’s all that matters, never mind the concrete differences we experience as men vs women vs non-binary folks, or as poc vs white people, or as disabled people vs currently-abled people.
i think it’s totally useless to try to erase our differences– diversity is exciting and i think we should respect/celebrate our differences– not just try to forget about them.
ps: i give you 10/10 for derailment, too.
I agree its important to look at the larger context when it comes to oppression. Imo it is also vitally important that we dont allow our bias to cloud our view of other peoples oppression(not just mean things happening to them). The truth is, depending on where you are you could be a white man being oppressed by a woman or a black man being oppressed by a brown man(my daughters friend had this recently). My issue with most of the gender stuff that I encounter on line is the fact that it is usually the heterosexual, white male as the oppressor and rarely does it every get acknowledged that it could come from another way. I guess the old saying holds true, “Walk a mile in another person’s shoe’s”. I get oppression, very intimately, I get it. 😦
Thanks for the 10/10, I will take that as a compliment I guess. 😉
Normally, I would say it bothers me, but I’m more forgiving of that since discovering myself that “feminism” seems to mean “I want equality as long as that bitch over there doesn’t get any.” Hence, I am a LOT more ambivalent about that word nowdays than I ever was, to the point of refusing to use it. I don’t know what her internal motivations are for this, so I’m not judging — but I’ve seen more than my share of girls who are altogether too anxious to Look Cute To Boys™ who love piping up about how feminist they are and that’s why they take pole-dancing lessons and think porno is just peachy keen ooh did that cute boy in the corner overhear me?
Once you’ve seen enough women recasting the word “feminist” as meaning “perky, not too bright, and non-threatening to boys,” I’m not quite so ready to leap to the conclusion that she’s NOT calling herself one to appear non-threatening to boys.
Yeah, I think I know what you mean. Have you read Female Chauvinist Pigs by Ariel Levy or Enlightened Sexism by Susan J. Douglas? These books discuss the perversion of feminism by corporate interests and by this idea of “empowerment” through appealing to men. Very interesting. Can’t blame you for wanting to dissociate yourself from that.
I remember reading an old comment by Rebecca West about how people called her a feminist anytime she did anything at all that distinguished her from a prostitute or a doormat. It seems to me that an awful lot of so-called feminists have done everything they could to make those categories overlap as much as possible … to the point where I can’t call myself a feminist because I’m neither prostitute nor doormat. (Nor backstabber.)
There’s a trope on TVTropes called Faux Action Girl. To me, that’s what feminism has turned into.
Haven’t read those books, though — I stopped reading ANYTHING have to do with feminism and women some time ago, and my blood pressure is much lower. 🙂
Haha, that’s fair! If you ever feel up to it, though, they’re pretty damn critical, so maybe you’ll enjoy that. 🙂
I kind of feel the same way about feminism as I feel about most philosophies/ideologies that I subscribe to, which is that, if you really care about it, you’ll criticize it, because that makes it better. I’m also an atheist and I criticize atheism all the time. 🙂
Yeah, I did that for a while. Then I decided my sanity was more important.
Well, that IS the most important thing. 🙂
Reblogged this on Make Something Every Day and commented:
Interesting article on feminism and female CEO’s.
Wouldn’t you say though that she isn’t a “feminist” but an “egalitarian”? I mean, I find her comments to fit with my own thinking. Sure, I’m a feminist but only as part of the wider meaning of one who believes in equal opportunity and equal rights. I don’t find her comments inconsistent with feminism at all – she simply doesn’t accept the smaller label or the limitation that boxing up the idea in a tight little package entitled feminism places on her thinking. And, actually, neither do I.
Well, sure. As I said, by that definition she definitely is a feminist. But I don’t know if you can really distinguish that definition of feminism from the concept of “egalitarianism.” Since, as I’ve hopefully shown, the contingent of feminists who actually believe that women are superior to men (or whatever) is tiny and mostly belongs only to the second wave, the overall message of feminism is exactly what you’ve just mentioned.
Your article is really well said. I’ve sat on the fence about title as well: I’m very much a women’s advocate and firmly believe in supporting women & girls in their pursuit of success – whatever that may include. Yet strong negative connotations about the term feminism still exist and many feminists themselves shy away from the title for fear of being labelled as one of the extreme stereotypes.
I do also feel that there is still a divide in corporate culture, and one that I have experienced favours men. I can see how women have to at times, be more strategically political in their ascent of the corporate ladder.
I think you’ve hit the nail on the head with your closing argument! We need to foster constructive conversations, and possibly arguments, that address the uncomfortable issues. All of them. That is how progress will be made.
Congrats on FP!
Generally, I think that the more open-minded people take on the label, the more the stereotype will fade away. I’m always so shocked when people try to apply it to me because it just doesn’t explain my experience and feminism at ALL; as I mentioned, the most challenging and joyful and fun experiences in my life have been with fellow feminists. So the man-hating, humorless, chip-on-the-shoulder type doesn’t resemble anyone I’ve ever encountered, except perhaps in the far reaches of the Internet. But that stereotype definitely predates the Internet, anyway.
Absolutely. Those are my experiences as well, and while I do very much support women’s issues, I also support men’s issues and general equality. So you’re right, those of us that identify with the underlying message of feminism and not just the stereotype have the opportunity to put those negative connotations to rest. Good point.
Yeah, I’m actually very interested in men’s issues and I mention them pretty frequently on my Tumblr, but it’s definitely unfortunate when men hear that I’m a feminist and assume that that means I don’t believe they should have child custody rights or that I think men ALWAYS have it easier than women in every conceivable situation.
But I’m sticking with the label for various reasons.
Ultimately, I don’t really care what people call themselves as long as they do the work that’s important. 🙂
I’ll have to check out your stuff on Tumblr; generally I’m a health activist and there is a very clear physiological difference between sexes, so I do at times have to separate them. Though socially speaking there are many similarities between the sexes that are limiting to health. I agree about the title and that it is unfortunate when people associate extremism with the term feminism. That’s not me either, but I sum it up to those that will judge are likely ignorant to the issues. Therefore, their opinion of me doesn’t much matter 🙂
You’re very right about that. And, in general, people who hear that you have a certain label and then immediately jump to the worst stereotype possible aren’t exactly open-minded people.
For instance, I’m also an atheist, but if someone tells me they’re Catholic, I’m not gonna be like SO YOU THINK IT’S OK WHAT THOSE PRIESTS DID TO THOSE BOYS. Likewise, I won’t assume that they want to have 10 kids or that they oppose legalizing same-sex marriage.
Exactly. It’s the whole cheesy adage “actions speak louder than words” or in this case, “actions speak louder than labels”
So well said, and rationally and calmly. Kudos! AND, Thank you!
She should see this:
Any culture is adverse to uncomfortable discussions, it is more interesting to see which discussions are uncomfortable.
Really? I’m not sure. In Israel, where I spent my early childhood and still visit regularly, people love to argue. They seek out opportunities to do it. Sure, tempers get heated (especially since Israelis aren’t NEARLY as polite as Americans are), but there’s never the sense that this is an inappropriate thing to do.
But you’re right that different subjects are uncomfortable in different cultures. Maybe there are things that would be inappropriate to discuss in Israel, too; I don’t know well enough since I don’t live there anymore.
I would be surprised if there weren’t… but I have been wrong before.
I went ahead and skipped past all the comments to say: yeah. I’m a feminist. Loud and proud. And not angry or militant about it. Too bad feminism is getting a bad rap these days.
Thanks for a well written article about a serious issue. It hasn’t been that long since we got our rights, and every time we get a bit lax about it, there are plenty that would try to take them away.
Thank you! And keep on being loud and proud about it. 😀
Great article! One day, hopefully, we won’t need to write such articles because this will no longer be a debate, and need to be discussed. There will always be some women as well as some men who scoff at progress and evolvement and will do everything they can to keep the rest of in the kitchen, so be it. I won’t laugh at their baking cookies all day barefoot and pregnant if they don’t try to hold the rest of us for choosing not to. 😀
Born the year after Mayer, I am also a beneficiary of the feminist movement who really has no clue what it was like for women in the days before she could make her own choices regarding her life and career. However, as I have become a mother, I know the reality that often circumstance limits those choices. For example, despite declaring that I would never do so, I became a stay-at-home mother when my second child was born three months prematurely. I had to make that choice for her own health. Still, our financial situation pushed me to seek a job I could work from home. Now that I am expecting my third child, I feel the pressure to continue to stay at home because we simply cannot afford to send two young children to day care. Would I like to have the opportunity to work outside the home? Absolutely! I’m pushing 40 and feeling like I haven’t accomplished what I want from life. Yet, I struggle to balance that with family issues. I say all of this in light of other comments that Mayer recently made regarding her matenity leave, which will only be a few weeks long. I think feminism should not only call for equality but should also embrace what is uniquely feminine, and for a powerful woman to diminish her own motherhood is damaging for us all. Does she have the right to make that choice? Of course, but I wonder if this is actually her choice or if she, too, is responding to the position she is in.
Yeah, this is why it would be unfair (not to mention inaccurate) to call staying at home an anti-feminist choice. There are certainly women who DO choose it because they feel it is their “place” (and men who encourage them to), but that’s clearly not your situation.
My mom stayed at home for several years after I was born, too, but she’s always encouraged me to get as much education as I can and have as high-powered of a career as I want (granted, I don’t want a very high-powered one). At the same time, she’s emphasized the fact that family can give you something that not even the most successful career can. My mom doesn’t identify as a feminist, but what she taught me was certainly in line with what I believe feminism to be.
This is a great post and I’m glad something like this has appeared on Freshly Pressed. When I read her statement about not being a feminist, I was like ‘hey, you believe in exactly what feminists believe in – equality’. It’s so sad that feminism has become such a bad word. Most people know nothing about it but don’t want be associated with it in any way. I wonder how it reached this stage. Very thought provoking though that as women we have feminism to thank for so many things, we like to distance ourselves from it. Then if you tell someone you’re a feminist, they start thinking that you’re talking about hating men and women ruling the world. Thanks for the great post and looking forward to your future posts. Congrats on being Freshly Pressed! Well deserved!
This is well-written. Culture has engineered the word feminism to mean something that it is not. Feminism is simply the desire for equality. I wish that she acknowledged that fact. That being said, however, I do not think that she owes anything to feminism because, although the feminist movement created pathways for her success, she is still responsible for her life, just like successful males do not need to recognize history’s role in their success.
Mhm, what I meant with that statement was that feminism contributed to her success, not that she owes it to feminism to support/advance it or whatnot.
Regarding your response to one of the earlier commenters: it’s true that women are the ones to grow a child. I’ve grown two of my own., Being a baby boomer, I have also trained my sons to respect women and taught them that they need to expect the same in return. Miriam, you and other feminists believe in equal rights for women, not equal rights. If you believed in the latter then you’d have to acknowledge that nature, a mothert but not a feminist, has set things up so that when it comes to procreation (as the song goes), ‘one can’t do without the other.’ There’s equal rights for you. My body, my decision sounds true, but that thesis doesn’t bear examining. Even those lesbians who chose to associate only with women still have to rely on men, even if it’s indirectly, if they want to conceive. Some man should make them acknowledge it.
As for Mayer, whatever her views, they are hers and hers to make.
Having said all that, can I congratulate you on being fFreshlyh Pressed. And can I also congratulate you on having reasoned opinions (whether I agree with them all or not) that don’t begin and end with criticising men in order to justify these opinions.
That’s a fair point; of course a woman needs a man to conceive a child. However, I don’t think it’s possible to equate providing sperm with carrying a baby to term for nine months, giving birth to it, and (probably) nursing and caring for it afterwards, since women still do the majority of child-rearing. That’s why a man can’t have an equal right to an unborn child as a woman does.
Hi Miriam, my dad was a lovely man who worked hard to support his family. My mum raised us. He was a loving human being and a good father but he was a man of his generation who believed that when he came home he was entitled to relax.
Try getting away with that these days. Today, in this country, anyway, (that’s Australia) children are often raised by child care workers at day care centres because the extra wage is needed or because of career choices that women make. Even those women who stay home only do it for the first few years. They get a lot of help from their partners when they come home from work. On weekends I see men in the libraries with their children at the local shopping centres and riding on bikes with their children following behind like little ducks. Lot of changes since my dad.
A few years ago a university somewhere in Europe were working on an artificial womb and were close to success. Women’s groups complained that it would make them the unnecessary gender. Type in a search word and you can find anything on the internet. But not that. The article has disappeared and I’ve certainly not heard anything more of that research. You work out the maths,
Feminist propaganda has it that women love their children more than men do. Several men a week commit suicide because they have had their children taken from them in a divorce situation.
And PS, You say women are the ones nursing and caring for the children after they are born. It’s a financial decision the couple have made between them. In my family, my nephew stayed home. His wife earned more than he did and he was a househusband for three years each for both his children. Then they went off to creche. He is not the exception these days. As I said, it’s about finances.
Thanks very much for bothering to respond to my comment. Believe me, I do appreicate it. It’s just that I have two sons (and two grandson) and watch as feminism has taken a particularlhy nasty and aggressive turn. I don’t like it.
a few things:
feminism as a whole hasn’t taken a “nasty and aggressive turn,” imo. i think feminism has expanded to include cissexist radical feminism (that scares me, honestly) as well as new, inclusive/powerful/liberating sub-movements. the “nasty and aggressive turn[s]” taken by (some? all?) radfems are pretty frightening, though.
i’d like to point out that some trans* men get pregnant and give birth, though not commonly while legally identified as male (as far as i know, anyway). it isn’t sexist to insist that the pregnant person has the right to decide what to do with their body. if a pregnant trans* guy wanted an abortion while in a relationship with a woman, he would probably be legally allowed to obtain an abortion. (i’m just guessing about that, i admit.)
i really having trouble NOT seeing the whole “men should have the right to force their partners to stay pregnant for equality’s sake” as yet another way of trying to control women’s bodies. because you know what? in my experience, and i recognize that this is only MY experience, married guys go ahead and get sterilized without obtaining their wives’/partners’ consent– but i’ve never heard anyone say that doing so tramples on women’s rights.
i’m interested in your opinion on this!
Beauty with BRAIN !!
Are you referring to me? If so, thank you! 😛
You got that on the first hit..Ma’m. 😀
Great post, I really enjoyed reading this 🙂
At the risk of repeating others (I read your post, but I will admit, I did not read all the comments), I could not help but think of all the drama which recently surrounded Anne-Marie Slaughter (http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2012/06/having-it-all-anne-marie-slaughter-responds-to-readers/259207/).
It seems to me that it’s fair to admit that you can’t have it all. But on the other hand, I really think you should tell people they can try.
I also think that everything that Mayer’s opinions seem pretty feminist to me, even if she ostensibly rejects the notion that she is one.
Very thought provoking though, and it’s nice to be offered a well-considered, well written and substatial piece of opinion writing. Thanks a lot!
Great post, I’m tired of, “I’m not a feminist, but…”
Reblogged this on wwtd? what would terripham do? and commented:
Amazing article! Must read.
Reblogged this on Pen, Paper & Prose and commented:
Thoughts on feminism today. What do you think?
Reminds me of what Caitlin Moran had to say on the matter
“What do you think feminism IS, ladies? What part of ‘liberation for women’ is not for you? Is it freedom to vote? The right not to be owned by the man you marry? The campaign for equal pay? ‘Vogue’, by Madonna? Jeans? Did all that good shit GET ON YOUR NERVES? Or were you just DRUNK AT THE TIME OF SURVEY?”
God, ILH so much.
I want equal rights for everyone. That said, you just proved why feminism has a negative connotation above:
You said, “Feminism is the idea that women and men should have equal rights, and that women and men are essentially capable of the same things, despite the physical differences that may exist between them.”
You also said, “That’s a fair point; of course a woman needs a man to conceive a child. However, I don’t think it’s possible to equate providing sperm with carrying a baby to term for nine months, giving birth to it, and (probably) nursing and caring for it afterwards, since women still do the majority of child-rearing. That’s why a man can’t have an equal right to an unborn child as a woman does.”
This last statement was incredibly sexist.
You followed this up later with, “No, he doesn’t, because it’s MY body. (A man does not have equal rights to a fetus as the mother carrying said fetus).
How does that foster equality? It doesn’t. Which means, it’s not a feminist viewpoint (as per the definition given above). Feminists can’t have it both ways. Why can’t men have equal rights concerning a fetus (especially, if the woman agreed to said fetus, even if hypothetical for this discussion)?
“. . . (Probably) nursing and caring for it afterwards, since women still do the majority of child rearing . . . ? Are you kidding me? I know a man who has been caring for his daughter since she was born. The mother lives and works in another state. Which means that man is taking on all the “traditional” female roles of child rearing, cooking, and cleaning. Kudos to him! My husband helps with all the household chores and child rearing responsibilities. He wasn’t able to carry our child through the pregnancy or “nurse”, but he went to all my Dr.’s appointments, read all the books, did the breathing, shopping . . . and, after the birth he fed her by bottle, changed her diapers. He is every much the nurturer and care giver as I am.
I support equality . . . for everyone. Men, women, no matter what race, religion, or sexual preference. I tip my hat to Mrs. Mayer and congratulate her on her hard work and accomplishments.
Equality does not equate with sameness. Biology gave men and women each certain advantages and disadvantages. The fact that a man deposited his sperm in my body does not give him equal rights to my body just because it’s now an incubator for a fetus he fathered. It gives him a say, but not an equal say. It’s great that more and more men are choosing to take a more active role throughout their partners’ pregnancy and delivery, and throughout childrearing. But biology gave them the option to walk away in a way that women cannot. Biology is unfair to men and women alike, albeit in different way. The best we can do with that is find ways to acknowledge the differences and equalize the fairness. But that will never include pretending that equal and same are synonymous. Life is full of gray areas, Kimberley. Get used to it.
Gray areas, you say. Get used to it you say. Re-read the discussion. If a woman AGREED to parent a child and then changes her mind later, and after this agreement, then says, Oh no you can’t have the baby now. Then, how is that FAIR? Or EQUAL? Women walk away as much as men. And don’t give me the crap that biology made it easier for men to walk away and that’s not fair bs. BOTH of my parents gave me up. Did my mother find it harder to walk away than my dad, PLEASE. She walked away first. Gray area my ass. I call that gray area . . . hypocrisy. Equality! Equality. Except for this gray area and then it’s MY RIGHT. Pisha. And it’s Kimberly. 😉
Well, no, a woman (or guy) doesn’t have to be a social justice feminist. However, some women are incredibly naive and who have been beneficiaries of feminism. Why does Melissa tend to think feminism is negative anyway or it’s associated with a chip on one’s shoulder? She does think “feminism” is negative by virtue of the fact she doesn’t refer herself as a “feminist.
She would change her tune super, super fast if she was not allowed to drive a car in Saudi Arabia –a rich country with many university educated women who are barred from driving because it’s illegal. She would change her tune fast if she knew many women in some countries are barely allowed to ride a bike on their own without a male chaperone (I cycle and women in the Westernized countries wonder why so many women in parts of Africa, Middle East do not bike at all. Not at all.).
I could go on. But no point wasting time for those who live in a bubble of complacency.
Did Feministing’s Chloe ever consider that perhaps Mayer’s intelligence, perseverance, and motivation got her where she is today? Isn’t it disrespectful to attribute all of her success to the feminist movement, which has encouraged women to essentially become men rather than celebrate the inherent and beautiful differences between the sexes? I’ll admit that we are all, to some extent, products of the times in which we live, but how does that make our individual actions any less important? Let’s think about Mary the mother of God, Cleopatra, Joan of Arc, Charlotte E Ray (the first African American woman to get a law degree), Mother Teresa, Anne Frank, and our countless other historical female heroines, and then tell me that their lives, choices, actions, and successes weren’t the result of the women they were. Isn’t this post reminiscent of President Obama’s recent gaffe: “You didn’t build that”? Let’s not give the feminist movement all the credit, please.
I don’t think anyone would seriously suggest that feminism deserves all of the credit for Mayer’s accomplishments. I specifically wrote:
That is, Mayer’s intelligence and talent are her own traits, but several decades ago, she would not have even been given the opportunity to use them. That’s the part that we should credit feminism for, at least partially.
Granted, I’m speaking for myself, not for Chloe.
What, then, do you suggest about the women who were able to overcome the status quo of their times? (I did give several examples.)
Sure, there are incredible women who were willing to risk losing their family’s support and being scorned or even abused by their communities in order to accomplish things. But nowadays, wanting to work outside the home won’t make your parents disown you and your husband divorce you, and that would not have come about without feminism.
Also, looking at case studies, especially extreme examples like the women you mentioned, is a really bad way to think about history and society. Most women are not Cleopatra and Mother Teresa, and those women deserve opportunities too.
No, most women are not Cleopatra or Mother Teresa, but then, most women aren’t Marissa Mayer, or we’d have more than just 18 women at the helm of Fortune 500 companies.
Mhm. But if we were still living in the 1950s, we’d have zero women at the helm of Fortune 500 companies. And I can also guarantee you that in a decade or two there will be many more than 18, and it won’t be because women are becoming more like Cleopatra and Mother Teresa.
And that’s wonderful for those women, but I’m intellectually bothered by an idea: are you going to expect all women to thank feminism in the future for playing a part in their success?
Maggie, now I’m really starting to think you didn’t actually read this post. Let me quote it for you:
Oh, I read it, but perhaps I simply misunderstood. Your response here doesn’t really answer my question. You say that you “can’t blame her as an individual” for not aligning with the feminist movement. Okay, but why do you think women can’t (or at least shouldn’t) say that they don’t identify with the movement? Because it holds the movement back? I have always said that I will to everything I can to better the lives of women throughout the world who are truly condemned simply because they are women, but feminism in the United States seems to have turned into a crusade to lift women up at the expense of men, which I’m not sure the majority wishes to continue.
Nope, I only said that I think she misunderstood it. I don’t think deciding not to identify with feminism holds it back, but perpetuating stereotypes about it does. It’s very easy to claim that feminists want to “lift women up at the expense of men” when you don’t actually take the time to read tons of feminist books, blogs, and essays, and when you don’t really talk to actual feminists that much. As I specifically mentioned in the post, there are as many different types of feminism as there are feminists. Despite my fairly serious involvement in feminist circles, I’ve yet to encounter one of these mythical man-hating ones.
I read for education, and you have educated me. Thank you! We may disagree, but disagreement can foster increased awareness and a deepened understanding. Hopefully my comments have made you think as your comments have made me think. Have a great day!
Thanks! That’s what I love about blogging. You too. 🙂
Well, his gaffe was less than your own, on several points. Not only does the thread below show that you are not paying attention to what are important context-driven comments, but further, Obama didn\’t say \”You didn\’t build that\” in the context you intimate. When hearing his comments in the context of before and after remarks, what he said is what this blogger is saying – no one does anything alone in a society. There is a structural social basis for what the CEO was able to achieve that wasn\’t in place 100 years ago. Yes, exceptions exist in every era, but we\’re not talking about the exception: we\’re talking about the rule. Mayers likely could not have done what she did without the legacy of feminism, just as most women who attempted it back then were drummed out of technical fields, redirected to more \”appropriate\” jobs, etc. 90% of my female professors over 50 tell the story that they started in another field and were forced or harassed, professionally, to move into another area of study. Are you under the impression that no one was as smart as Mayers 50 years ago? As ambitious? As desiring of something beyond family? Plus, the idea of the \”option\” to stay home or not is class-based: poor women have never had the choice to not work, and they also weren\’t popping up in company board rooms, in spite of their numbers. If women are free enough in this era to not have to recognize the effect of the feminist movement of their quality of life and range of options, then that proves how successful it was – and how ignorant of history most people are. Besides, the US is more solid in its idea of being equal, more than the reality: women still earn a fraction of wages earned by men with the same qualifications, are still ostracized when they communicate in ways which are not feminine enough, are still underrepresented in every high paying sector and public service. The most recent discussion around rights to birth control made it stunningly clear what kind of gendered vitriol lies just beneath the surface, here.
I would not classify myself as a feminist, much like Mayer. I think her response made a lot of sense to me. Perhaps it is just that to me, a feminist is person who demands equal rights for women, but we pretty much have that in the US. Most of the discrimination is due to personal opinion. You can’t force someone to change their opinions. No matter how much you complain and yell, a person is going to think what they want. I think that this, along with a few other reasons, has soured the word feminist.
I feel it is the same for the corporate environment. We have to remember the age in which most CEO’s find themselves are in the upper 40’s and 50’s. They are generally older. Even so much as 30 years ago, there was a drastic difference in opinion about women in the workplace, and obviously their careers would have been stunted because of it. Thus giving men the edge, resulting in more experience and more qualifications. For every potential CEO position open, there is most like 75% more men applicants than women, and many of them will have better qualifications simply because they did not have the roadblock of sexism in their way.
Much like racism, I think the way to gaining equality is to stop putting so much emphasis on it. If we stop praising feminism every time a woman gets elected into a leadership position, equality may actually have a chance to bloom.
This is such a wonderful post, and a very fair look a tricky issue. There are too many people who’d rather not even address the feminism question at all, stating that feminism “has been achieved,” whatever that means.
Really good article. I just wish we were at the point where you won’t need to say ‘I have a lot of Feminist friends’ – it would be obvious that a woman would be a Feminist – because why wouldn’t she be? I want it to become an unnecessary question.
To me, being a Feminist means having respect for everything women have fought for to get to this point. Wanting women world-wide to have a voice and rights in many cultures where they are still second-class citizens. To walk down the street wearing a skirt if I want to without having to endure harassment and catcalls. To live whatever life I will happen to live without the constant question of when I will have children or ‘settle down’, or to deal with any suggestion that what I do or don’t want is ‘against my nature’.
Maybe I’m not an expert, or a critic, or someone who wants to question every aspect of Feminism to the nth degree, but who cares? That’s the point you’ve made here, that anyone can believe in any form of it that suits their specific situation, so long as the aim is the same. I felt so amazing watching the Olympic Ceremony at the mention of female athletes from countries that had never had any in the Games before. That’s what the motivation behind Feminism is all about, and that’s why we should all support it.
I can’t agree with this more, “…I would say no, because I’m involved in countless feminist circles online and in real life, and our discussions there are fun, productive, and extremely connecting experiences. It’s certainly more “positive” than sitting around and pretending everything’s fine with the world when you don’t really feel like it is.” I’m tired of successful women trying to run away from calling themselves feminists, or still tacitly supporting the negative stereotypes concerning feminists. If it was not for feminists, successful women wouldn’t be where they are and most importantly their voices would have no meaning. If they wish to be heard, if they wish that they play any significant role in their professional and/or personal sphere, they are automatically feminist to some extent. Of course, within feminists, there are different degrees of feminists, but that doesn’t mean that we discredit all feminists for seeing problems that do exist.
Hi, thanks for a great article. It’s a shame that so many women feel they can’t identify with the word ‘feminist’. I’m a teacher at a school for girls and feminism came up during a lesson, perhaps you’d like to read their responses? http://misslaurac.wordpress.com/2012/01/13/feminism-is-fun/
You nailed it, down the line.
Sadly, as with many other “isms” the definition(s) are widely interpretive. Yet at its core, feminism is about equal opportunity. We aren’t there yet.
And we are averse to uncomfortable discussions, though it still seems that women are required to be more circumspect than men even when the discussions concern a few items we care about like, say… earning a living, seeing a doctor, owning our bodies.
A few other related “F” words that some of us care about… sparked by Ms. Mayer, as well as Anne-Marie Slaughter.
Hey! Congrats on getting Freshly Pressed Miriam!
“…I believe that women are just as capable, if not more so in a lot of different dimensions…”
This woman’s denial of feminism is an oxymoron if not an outright lie by this very statement. She says earlier she believes in equality but then says women are more capable in some ways. It wasn’t enough for her claim just equality she had to go a step further to claim superiority. The new Yahoo CEO is a closet feminist.
To the women out there wondering why feminism has a negative tone it is because of the double standards. Let me break the obvious ones down for you:
1) No feminist has ever lobbied for women to be included in the Selective Service. When men brought a discrimination suit (Rostker v. Goldberg) against in 1981 the SCOTUS threw the suit out. Neither NOW nor the ACLU backed the men up. Even if there isn’t a war men must fill out that stupid card or face criminal prosecution and possible a fine up to $250,000. You also get bared from state and federal employment. Some states, under the auspices of female governors, took it a step forward and stopped men from getting drivers licenses if they didn’t register. Imagine if men made you register for your birth control and abortion right? The aliens on the other side of the Milky Way would hear that outcry! And then you wonder why men don’t take you seriously. You like to play the game of Life but don’t like to pay to play! In Isreal women are required to serve and do. You women are perfectly capable…maybe even better!
2) You claim you have more rights over the child in your wombs but if you choose to have the kid the man is financially liable whether he wants to be or not. Why should you have an out but all a man can do is run? Secondly, if you give a man no say they why would he feel obligated to do his part? It seems like all women see men as is cash cows and the only good man is a dead man to many women. Most guys would give their life for a woman. Look at the recent shooting in Colorado. At least 3 guys died shielding their girlfriends. Why didn’t those girls do it Katniss style and offer to die with their man? Again, like to play Life but not pay to play. Fact: More poor women survived the Titanic than rich men! That’s what feminism destroyed! Men cared deeply about the life of a woman but you’ve done nothing but give us reasons why we shouldn’t care.
3) Your incessant claims that men are lascivious animals yet the firestorm of “50 Shades of Grey” was celebrated as “women expressing sexuality” by women. If it were the other way around men would be getting chided, scolded, and ridiculed to no end. Or if a man had written it……again the aliens on the other side of the Milky Way would be wondering what the heck is going on here.
4) Women now comprise a majority of the college graduates by 60:40. Why won’t the pro-feminist groups now lobby and support programs for men? If you are going to be fair then you have support the underdog no matter what. Yet women still get all the scholarships and men just fall by the wayside and scoffed at as sub-intellects by those oh so loving feminists. How many feminist causes included making more male nurses or elementary school teachers? NONE! Feminism is nothing more than an anti-male club formed to counter the perceived anti-female club. Right there you loose your legitimacy when you stoop to the same low as what you oppose.
Bottom line is ladies if men do not feel wanted and needed in a society you will be met with nothing but resentment by your own hand. I think men are starting to wake up and realizing women are more trouble than they are worth. Perhaps that is what the feminists that think women should only be with other women want. Good luck and leave us men alone!
Excellent post. I’m happy for Marissa’s achievements, but her ignorance really irks me. Someone as educated as her should be able to differentiate between what a word IS and what people PERCEIVE it to be.
Whether she thinks it or not, she is a feminist. And her denying it just adds to the negativity of the concept.
Many good points!! I agree with the last paragraph about her making those statements for political reasons. She is clearly a smart woman, otherwise she would not have been named CEO, who has to know that she didn’t get to where she is all on her own.
Great article and congrats on being freshly pressed!
Love the quote about snark!
I think the problem is that people associate feminism with negative qualities, such as man hating, which isnt true. Feminism is wanting women to be free to make their own choices, and live their lives in a way that makes them happy without having to climb over extra barriers simple because of gender. I like to think that makes most of us, male or female, feminists.
It is true. Feminists want men to respect women as equals but NEVER require women to treat men as equals. See my post below for examples.
Isn’t feminism about letting women be who they are regardless of differences in ideology. I would say I am a feminist, but I will also say there is a negative connotation associated with the term and perhaps with good reason. Maybe as feminist we should embrace the multiple perspectives of women without snarky judgmental comments and recognize that perhaps that just might be where a lot of the negativity surrounding the term originates. She is living her life to its fullest…let’s support women and stop ripping them apart. I don’t see men doing this…why do we?
That’s a fair point, but I’m not sure I see what you mean by “ripping them apart.” On the contrary, I wrote that I’m amazed by what she has accomplished and that I understand her choice in light of how our society works.
Oh, come on. You surely did try to rip her for not identifying as a feminist… and succeeded only in making her point crystal clear. Why would anyone want to be associated with bitter feminists that are impossible to make happy?
I don’t think you understand the difference between criticizing and “ripping apart.” I pointed out that, based on my experience, she’s wrong about feminism. That’s a valid criticism to make.
Can you read?
Thanks for writing this! I find that the only people who feel negatively about feminism are people who haven’t actually studied or read any feminist thought – it’s a commonly held stereotype that feminists are militant, but in actually reading feminist thought, you find a lot of warmth and positivity.
Most feminists understand that men want to do what’s right, but that the commonly held understanding of what’s right can often be very hurtful, especially if you’re dealing with women that don’t want to be treated as prizes or objects of adoration (or belittlement). Saying that you don’t believe in feminism is like saying that you think everyone should fit themselves into narrow social roles, because everyone’s different – which is pretty silly.
i love this post! i can’t believe that something feminist (as opposed to fauxminist) actually made fp; congrats on that! 🙂
also, i’m glad you didn’t erase non-binary folks; that sorta made my day along with the rest of your awesome post.
Thanks so much! And yeah, I’m always trying to be better about being inclusive with my writing; sometimes it’s difficult, especially when commenters (like some of the ones on this post) lead me into a whole men vs. women discussion. It’s always good to remember that it’s not always just about men and women. 🙂
Fantastic post–you did a great job addressing both feminism as diverse and Mayer’s statement, which I find ridiculous but which she perhaps thought was necessary. Reminds me of yelling at my female friends who couldn’t be bothered to vote when we were in high school because I was trying to explain the concept of the 19th amendment to them. Sigh.
And I absolutely loved the Feministing quote: “Marissa, it is too bad that feminism has become a negative word. You know what’s also too bad? Your failure to acknowledge that without feminism, you could never have become the CEO of Yahoo.”
I almost wasn’t going to read your post because of it’s title. It made me roll my eyes and think “hmm…does this new female CEO think she deserves equal pay? Then–surprise–she’s a feminist!” But I’m glad I got past the title. Thanks for making this point.
Haha. You’re welcome. 🙂
It doesn’t really matter if the CEO is a male or a female. If the CEO has a complex or a chip on the shoulder, then that is not a good CEO, and those below will suffer from bad leadership and management.
My question is, why don’t you feel as if you can hold her accountable for her views as “an individual”? Before change on a larger scale happens, won’t many (if not a majority) people have to address / challenge their own personal beliefs? Insightful post!
I think my only reasoning for that is the fact that playing dumb when it comes to institutionalized sexism is a requirement of her job. Sadly, it does seem to be the case that an open feminist wouldn’t even be considered for a position like that. And I think that women should be able to pursue any career they want, including being the CEO of a Fortune 500 company. Obviously, though, I hope that through the work of those of us who DO identify as feminists, there will come a time when one will be able to be both a CEO and an open feminist.
Yeah. When I was reading your post I was thinking about people of color (Black people, in particular, since I identify as Black) and some saying you have to “play the game” to get ahead. I always struggle with that; always go back and forth. I don’t want to “play a game.” But some may argue I already have, being college educated and getting a post-grad degree–then you get into this age-old discussion about institutions vs. this abstract notion of “freedom” … sigh. I digress. But I also hope that at some point in time, one can be a fearless CEO-feminist.
Mhm, and that kind of mirrors the schism in the gay rights movement that started in the 60s and 70s, when younger gay activists wanted to be loud and have protests and things, whereas the older generation of LGBT folks was still advocating assimilation.
Regarding POC, I’m obviously not an authority since I’m white, but what you said really reminds me of all those articles I see in women’s magazines about whether Black women should straighten their hair for work or leave it natural. The consensus seems to be that if you want to be “respected,” you have to straighten it. What a shame that that’s still a choice that people have to make.
Yeah, I couldn’t imagine Shelly-O (the First Lady) with a ‘fro! The narrative surrounding her would be very different. (Or maybe not that different, considering what some detractors have said). But for sure, she’d be “militant” or somehow “unprofessional.” Even some Black women consider natural hair to be inappropriate. Even for me, it took a lot for me to start locs. I was concerned about jobs, keeping it “neat” and “presentable” (whatever that means). But I also recognize my privilege as someone with education, and that may help me in regards to employment. Someone who has not attained a certain level of education or someone who identifies as working class may not be able to explore their hair in the same way. All marginalized groups (women, the poor, people of color, the LGBT community) have to navigate, in some way, around the dominant power structure and at some point decide how to address their Otherness. Some people do it easily, others are conflicted–but it usually has to happen, it seems.
As a person of color I always find hair to be such an interesting topic, “good hair” v. “bad hair.” My thing is that I like to wear mine natural which depending on the weather can be slightly manageable curls to an afro which is mostly the case now that my hair is cropped so close to my head. While I understand why straightening your hair versus not straightening your hair is a big issue I think it’s overly focusing on things like this that end up taking our focus away from what’s actually important. As a person of color I should be able to wear my hair however I want, straight one day, curly the next, without having to worry about someone walking up to me and saying that I’m trying too hard to identify with the white part of my Latino heritage, or that my hair looks like a hot mess because I haven’t straightened it to death. In any case while this does underscore some of the white-centric ideas of beauty POC and esp WOC are faced with, I think focusing on some more systemic things is more important: graduation rates, teen pregnancy rates, etc as those things underscore broader systemic things. Anyways that’s my long winded two cents.
Back to the article, I think the people who speak the loudest always end up being inevitably the spokesperson for their cause. For a long time I had the same attitude of not considering myself a feminist because I didn’t want to be lumped in with the others who acted in a way I considered non-conducive to an active dialogue and mutual understanding. Now, understandably those folks were mad, but I just found the group too tense for my tastes. Then I realized through *exposure* that it didn’t have to be that way. That there were in fact some level-headed feminist out there, and that they were actually the majority! Maybe this google CEO should just go out and meet some different kinds of feminists!
I think that the hair issue Black women face is linked to very serious issues regarding policy and identity, so I choose not to separate that from “more important” issues. I’ll include a portion of a post I wrote about hair: “I believe it is very important that Black girls learn at a young age not to be ashamed or uncomfortable with their hair. Unfortunately, many Black girls (and women) are ashamed of their hair and believe that it becomes “more manageable” when straightened or chemically altered. In her article, “Economies of the Flesh: Representing the Black Female Body in Art,” scholar Lisa Collins asserts that “[Black women created] a ‘self-imposed invisibility [my emphasis],’ which can afford Black women a space where they are temporarily shrouded in secrets and silence and thus not overly visible or exposed” (109). Though Collins in this quote is referring to attempts on the part of Black women to avoid sexual exploitation, I think the quote can have broader implications. I suggest that Black women also desire to protect their hair from aesthetic violation. So that we can comport ourselves in the most effective way possible, we must tame our wild manes so that we can secure our economic, social, and ontological positions.” I think that if you cannot achieve an ontological presence, if you can’t firmly fix who you are a person, you won’t be fully equipped to completely engage in movements to address inequities (like the ones that you mentioned). And isn’t that also a part of the struggle? Being able to be exactly who you are without altering it for dominant society?
In regards to Mayer not familiarizing herself with other types of feminism, yeah, perhaps she should expand her feminism lexicon. I think people who don’t know that much about feminism always have the same argument about it being “angry.” What does that mean, anyway? Is that inherently negative? I think if that’s the argument, they have to expand on it.
It’s not just black women, as a Latina of mixed race because my father is Black and my mother is a white both from the Dominican Republic. We in our country also face the same issue, however, I firmly believe that when we start to occupy positions of power at all levels and not just one or two tokens here and there, those issues come to the forefront as we learn to accept who we are and where we come from. It’s of course something I myself have struggled with, my hair, I mean since I was raised in a predominantly Dominican neighborhood but went to school with white folks. I understand where you’re coming from of course, I didn’t mean to imply that it’s not an important issue, of course it is, because a standard of beauty that excludes oneself and makes one feel inadequate (especially one that is tied to race) is an important issue. But its one for example that for me, in my mind, also takes a backseat. However, its also quite clear that the issues POC face can vary by ethnicity. “Latino issues” of all races and “Black(American)” issues can intersect but also vary quite a bit.
I think the question then becomes, when will there be more than tokens? I think the dialogue surrounding inclusion may have to change. I feel like the language people use when discussing inclusion and equality almost always implies a desire for those in power to give them something. Professor and attorney Derrick Bell coined the phrase “interest convergence,” which explains the mindset of the dominant group. Essentially, the dominant group will only work to address inequity / injustice if they get something out of it and their interests are protected. If their interests are threatened, the work simply will not get done. I’m not saying that you in particular are saying that we must be “given” an opportunity; I’m just commenting on this sort of trope that seems to attach itself to discussions about inclusion.
No of course, and I agree with you on that. Also the being “given” an opportunity implies that its something that can’t be done on our own merit unless someone from the dominant group usually a white, hetero man, gives it to us. But I get what your saying and completely agree.
I feel like a lot of women today are just tired of the “feminist” label. What does it even mean? You couldn’t even give a straight answer – there isn’t one. So, what does one (especially one in Mayer’s situation) reply when asked if he/she is a feminist? I’d say no, too. I’d say I’m all for equality between men and women. Honestly, I really don’t see anything wrong with Mayer’s answer. I think the feelings of negativity people feel when they think about/discuss feminism come from that uncertainty of what, exactly, feminism is. I think it’s a lot of things. I think it’s just humanity. I think it may be time to retire that word – because obviously the women who should be using it, aren’t, and those who are are all using different definitions.
Why do you think that’s the case only for the term feminist, then? “Liberal” and “conservative” are also very broad, almost meaningless terms, but plenty of people still use them to identify their opinions. There are certainly negative stereotypes associated with both, but people don’t seem to back down from the labels just because of the stereotypes. Very few people would ever say, “I’m not a liberal or anything, but I think the government should do more to help the poor,” or “I’m not a conservative, but I think the government shouldn’t regulate business so much.”
Interesting. “liberal” and “conservative” are very broad, yes.. However, they still carry some definition of their meaning with them – in the terms themselves. Given that, what does “feminism” mean? Pro-women? Pro-women’s rights? Isn’t every woman, then, a feminist? I think the term is just difficult, perhaps unnecessary, redundant. So, when asked, as Mayer was, “Are you a Feminist?” wouldn’t all women say – yes, of course. I’m a woman. That’s why it seems the term “Feminism” carries with it a stereotype and negativity. Feminism doesn’t really mean feminism, it seems. What does it mean, then? People with a chip on their shoulder? People with a militant drive? I think the term means so many different things, when really it’s meant to be simple. This is why women say they are not feminists. Because, well, are they? Who knows. Perhaps only they know. If they are simply for women, for equality – maybe they don’t belong to the term at all. “conservative” and “liberal” are general terms, but everyone can agree with their basic meanings. Maybe we need to redefine feminism. Or maybe we need to get rid of the term altogether.
Well, to me–and this is just a personal definition–feminism means paying attention to disparities in power and justice, not just between the genders but between all categories of people. Feminism means that you don’t say that everything’s just fine in our society, or that “They’re just looking for something to be upset about” or “They’re just playing the race card.”
How we go about solving these problems is up for a LOT of debate, but to me, being a feminist means that you notice these problems, care about them, and want to help correct them.
I do not participate in the Women’s Network at work because I’m afraid I’ll be lumped in as “one of those”. At my work site, I am the only woman in management. The lone female. Yet, when we hire interns, who must be engineering students, we almost exclusively hire young women. Hmmmmm. I know how incredibly hard it is to find a male engineering student. They are so rare.
I do not identify myself as a feminist because that would be a bad career move. I do not think it’s fair that health insurance covered Viagra but not birth control (until today! Hooray for the new insurance requirements!). I hate that women are routinely paid less than men for the same work.
There is still much work to do in the fight for equality. But as a working mom, I’m not in the position to do it. Maybe when I start my own business I can be more vocal about my beliefs. Or then again, maybe not.
Thankfully, women fought for equal rights, and now Mrs. Mayer has a pretty cool job. Just because those women fought before her does not mean she has to thank the “pioneers” for her getting this job. I would even call it insulting. She’s earned this job! What those women fought for has happened, and that should be thanks enough. Let Mrs. Mayer have the views she wants to have…people have fought so she can have those views.
Reblogged this on strutdogg.
Excellent post! Feminism is a really complex movement that is still evolving. I, however, would give less credit to Ms. Mayer. So many women under 60 are completely oblivious to the struggles our gender faced (and still faces!) just a few decades ago.
Reblogged this on The Universe of Lord Vito the Ninth.
This is exactly how I feel! I’m so sad that by saying we still have places to go we’re viewed as whining. so unfortunate. Thank you for this it’s amazing!
Great post. This is an important subject and I’m glad to see that you have provoked so much debate here. I haven’t had the chance to read all the comments (I should really be doing something else right now!) but I feel compelled to add my small voice in a) congratulating you and b) pondering how feminism came to be considered a dirty word. By women. Women who can vote, and can have careers and financial independence (the list goes on and on). It really is not that long ago since many of the freedoms we now take for granted were hard fought for.
Love this post, thank you!
Reblogged this on louisepageblog and commented:
I thought this blog gave an excellent outline of feminism and the issues that are attached to it.
I haven’t read all of the comments or even read up a lot on Mayer so forgive me if I am being repetitive, but the issue I (and my mother before me) have around the term “feminism” is that it in the noble and necessary pursuit of equality in the workplace we often inadvertently (I hope) diminish the vital role of of females as mothers/caregivers. Those of us who choose, for a variety of reasons, to stay at home with our children are somehow usually painted as somehow retro or detrimental to the feminist cause. You don’t have to be June Cleaver (or independently wealthy) to stay home with your kids. Why don’t so many women get that?
Well, I’m not a huge fan of that sort of feminism either. 🙂
There is a legitimate case to be made for the idea that depending on a man for financial support is a bad idea; what if he divorces you, loses the ability to work, or (God forbid) passes away?
But sometimes staying home IS the best financial decision. There’s another commenter further down here who mentioned having to stay home because she can’t afford daycare for all of her kids.
The best route for feminism is to make sure that women CAN make that choice, and that they won’t be left without support if they do depend on their husband financially and that goes wrong somehow.
Feminism is no longer about equal rights and equal opportunities for women. It has morphed into something entirely different with a questionable agenda.
Hi, congrats on getting freshly pressed! What annoys me about Marissa’s attitude to feminism is that (as your link spelled out) she is fulfilling Susan B Anthony’s hope when she said “Our job is not to make young women grateful, but to make them ungrateful”. However she is the same age as me (not quite so young anymore) and like me, knows that the women who opened up these fantastic opportunities for us are mostly still with us, so why not give them a shout out. They deserve it.
I really wouldn’t look down on Marissa Mayer because instead of being a feminist, she could easily be an egalitarian. Some women choose not to associate with feminism because the majority of the time, the negative outweighs the positive.
Urk, so I don’t think my comment loaded properly prior to writing this, so I will write it again!
I personally don’t think that women should look down on Marissa Mayer for not calling herself a feminist. If anything, she could easily be an egalitarian (believing/promoting human equality) and just choose not to mention that.
Fantastic post! I am a feminist, and I was women’s studies minor in college and involved in a group called POWER (People Organized for Women’s Equality and Rights). I think your article beautifully shows the vast diversity of individuals who consider themselves feminists (women and men, conservative and liberal, etc).
Essentially the definition of feminism is social, political, and economic equality for women. While most people would agree to that ideal if asked their beliefs, most would balk at the “negative” stereotype of the word feminist that is unfortunately so often promoted by society. Also, women have only had the right to vote since 1920 (not even 100 years), and it took over 70 years of fighting to obtain the basic right for a woman to vote.
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I remember a university tutor asking a class of 8 girls and 2 boys I was in, “is anyone here feminist?”, and no-one put up their hand.
A few weeks later, when studying Wuthering Heights, everyone was voicing opinions which would suggest feminism.
It’s become a stigmatised word, but I think that famous, powerful women are few of the only people who can change this, by admitting to being feminist without being militant.
Thought I would just say I’m currently feeling proud for finding this in my reader and not on Freshly Pressed, and not realising until I went though some comments!
Why do people worry about issues like “gay marriage” or whatever, if it has
nothing to do with them, to begin with? Why do so many people not know how to
chat online, yet act like talking is age/location/sexuality based?
Do people not know how to tal to each other?!
Uh…I’m confused? What are you talking about?
Really great piece. Congrats on being freshly pressed.
I personally don’t understand why (some) powerful women refuse to associate themselves with feminism. They’re doing their gender a disservice by saying feminism has become a negative word etc.
This is a quote by Caitlin Moran which is relevant and humorously sums up at least my beliefs on the topic:
“We need to reclaim the word ‘feminism’. We need the word ‘feminism’ back real bad. When statistics come in saying that only 29% of American women would describe themselves as feminist – and only 42% of British women – I used to think, What do you think feminism IS, ladies? What part of ‘liberation for women’ is not for you? Is it freedom to vote? The right not to be owned by the man you marry? The campaign for equal pay? ‘Vogue’ by Madonna? Jeans? Did all that good shit GET ON YOUR NERVES? Or were you just DRUNK AT THE TIME OF THE SURVEY?”
Your post moved me so much, because it was such a fair, logical argument–showing both sides of the situation–but I can’t help but be disconcerted with Ms. Mayer’s comments. I know there’s all types of feminism-or, rather, types that promote it-but to have to give up representing ‘girl power’ to get ahead is just sad. In her situation, I might have done the same, but I’m not sure–I would have had a major guilt trip, that’s for sure! As much as it’s nice to be like “oh, i’m not a normal girl, i play with the boys” those boys, no matter what, will look down on you in SOME WAY–and for that, we need feminism! Because, really, why look down on a ubersuccessful CEO?
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