Are You A Feminist?
Your answer will be shaped not only by your generation but also by your socio-economic background, your parents and family’s beliefs and your personal history.
It always surprises me when I hear women today separate themselves from the feminist identity. The core belief of the feminist movement is that men and women are equal and thus should be treated equally. Unfortunately, the feminist movement got a bad rap over the years. I have always wondered why?
As a teenager in the 80’s I witnessed my mother suffer through sexism and discrimination in her work environment. She felt empowered by the feminist movement. She was a working woman who brought home the bacon and she certainly fried it up in the pan along with laundry, grocery shopping, house cleaning and taking care of aging family members and two kids and a husband.
I have always felt proud to align myself with the ideology and glad that even though my mom wasn’t on the front lines of the movement, she wasn’t afraid to engage with it. She knew that her boss’s behavior was wrong and that she should not have to put up with it. The women’s movement brought these issues to the forefront so that women like my mom felt they could stand up for their worth and their rights.
Over the years I read snippets here and there about the actions women took in the late 60’s and 70’s that started to turn the tide. But I didn’t know the details in the history. I recently saw an interview with Gloria Steinem, now 81 years old and decided to look into her life a little further.
Ms. Steinem recently released a book called “My Life On The Road”. I decided to download it to my nook for some before bedtime reading. The book is full of stories of her interactions and experiences as a daughter, writer, activist and political supporter. Not just supporting women’s rights but human rights. Stories that tell the tale of sexism in our country that will have you gasping.
For instance, did you know that at Harvard Law in 1971 there were a handful of women in law school (7% of the student body) and there was a day referred to “Ladies Day”? Ladies Day was the one day the female students were called on in class to participate.
Throughout the 60’s and 70’s and up to 1986 female flight attendants, then called stewardesses, fought for the right to keep their jobs after they got married and to abolish the weight restriction that was imposed upon them. Yes, that’s right. If you were a stewardess not only did you have to abide by a weight restriction but you also could not be married. I’m still a little perplexed by this one. Did the airline executives at that time think that if their stewardesses were single ladies that gave the male passengers the impression that they had a chance to get lucky? With advertisements that read, “ I’m Sandy, Fly Me” or “She’ll Serve You – All the Way”, that is exactly what was going on.
There are dozens of examples like this weaved throughout the book that tells the story of the fight to change the future for women and minorities.
It is almost unbelievable that the experiences Ms. Steinem shares could have happened a mere 35 years ago. So much has changed.
But, there is still more change that needs to happen. Today we hear candidate’s talk about gender pay inequality and the need for more women in executive positions so they cannot only affect sound business decisions but also represent the needs of female employees.
I believe the most recent stat is that US women make .78 to each $1.00 a man makes for the same work. Hello, that is today not 1970.
Recent studies confirm that organizations with more women on their boards enjoy 42% higher return on sales, 66% higher return on invested capital and 53% higher return on equity than their rivals (“Why Diversity Matters” by Catalyst and “Women Matter 2012” by McKinsey Consultants).
Prior to writing this blog I did a little Google search on Gloria Steinem and came across a few articles referencing her recent comment and that of former Secretary of State, Madeline Albright (the first female Secretary of State) and how their comments did not help Hillary Clinton’s campaign.
Secretary Albright said “ There is a special place in hell for women who do not support women” a phrase she has used for years to move women to action.
Ms. Stienhem said, “ Girls will go where the boys are, right now that is with the Sanders campaign” as she tried to explain why young women were not supporting Ms. Clinton in masses.
Of course, these two phrases were tweeted without correct context by the political opposition. But what I think Ms. Albright and Ms. Steinem are saying with frustration is that the fight is not over. We need to continue to support each other. We still have issues such as pay inequality, gender bias, unpaid maternity leave and the list goes on.
I am glad I read Ms. Steinem’s book prior to my Google search. It gave me an understanding of the true fight and the amazing advances women have achieved in the past 35 years. It also allowed me to have more empathy in understanding Ms. Steinem and Ms. Albright’s comments. If you spent your life fighting discrimination that shamed a whole segment of a population into thinking they are not good enough, not worthy, you wouldn’t put down your sword easily either. You would do what you could to continue to rally the troops to keep moving forward.
Get the book here: