As we celebrated International Women’s Day on March 8, it’s a good a time as any to reflect on all the back-and-forth surrounding this abstract term, "feminism."
Today, so many strong women are renouncing the characterization of “feminist” -- everyone from Katy Perry to Sarah Jessica Parker has refused to label themselves as such (see an even bigger list of the women who’d rather not be known as a feminist here).
With all this sudden interest (and seemingly a lot of confusion) surrounding the term, perhaps we simply need to redefine what it means to be a feminist.
Beyoncé, whose surprise self-titled album is full of female-empowering songs, was hesitant to embrace the traditional view of the term, and in an interview with Vogue, instead called herself a “modern-day feminist.”
“I do believe in equality. Why do you have to choose what type of woman you are? Why do you have to label yourself anything? I’m just a woman, and I love being a woman.”
Allison Rapson and Kassidy Brown of We Are the XX, an empowering organization and soon-to-be media company that seeks to encourage Generation-Y to fight for gender equality (and who serendipitously met on International Women’s Day two years ago), advocate returning to a simpler and more inclusive definition of the term.
While they support the Merriam-Webster Dictionary definition of the word -- the belief in the “political, economic and social equality of the sexes” -- Rapson said they also hope to help rebrand feminism, changing what society thinks about the movement in general.
“Feminism should be inclusive, celebratory and desirable. There has been a fear -- founded or not -- that to claim yourself as a feminist would put you in a position of being ostracized, or feeling outside of the main community.
We want to shift the conversation so that it’s no longer a siloed conversation, but so that it’s highly resonant, and palpable like any equality conversation should be.”
Here are five ways every Gen-Y woman can talk about feminism differently:
1. Say Something, Anything
At this point, just being a part of the dialogue can be a pretty powerful thing. So whether you want to go on a rampage about the dirt bags who hit on you, or take to social media to list all the things you’re not, figure out what feminism means to you first.
“A strong change would be to have anyone who owns the word ‘feminist’ to have that applauded rather than criticized,” Rapson said. “One of the most discouraging and longstanding traits of the feminist movement is that there’s so much criticism. No matter how people weigh in, there’s a strong reaction, and it often becomes a salacious conversation. We’d like to see feminism move past that. Speaking up should be welcomed by the community, and people should be applauded for using their voice.”
2. Don’t Be Afraid to Use the F-word
You know what? Go ahead and call yourself a feminist. The belief that feminists are all man-haters and bra-burners is seriously misguided -- despite Fox News’ best attempts to convince you otherwise.
What we all need is to realize that being a “feminist” doesn’t preclude you from being anything else -- you can be a feminist and fall madly in love with your significant other, be a stay-at-home mom, a total boss in the boardroom, whatever.
“We want people to claim feminism without qualification, and to get to the point where it’s ludicrous to say that you’re not. Because it’s about equality," says Rapson.
Being a feminist is about being unapologetic in your own beliefs, standing up for equal rights and acknowledging that both feminine and masculine characteristics (however you want to define or categorize them) are important in today’s society.
You don’t have to be able to quote Gertrude Stein or feel guilty if you refer to your BFFs as your “main bitches.” Just embrace your own ambition, and don’t be afraid to both fail and succeed (because you really can’t have one without the other). I like to think of it as being the Lena Dunham of your life: It’s cool to create, write and star in your own saga.
3. Engage the Bros
While there’s been a longstanding back-and-forth surrounding feminism, it’s sort of surprising how often these conversations don’t involve men.
Unless your guy friends are "I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell" author Tucker Max or this superdouche of an elected official (seriously, how is he a congressman?), their perspective (and the educatory information you can unleash) is crucial.
If feminism is all about the equal treatment of women, then we need to get the other half of the population involved and invested. Being a feminist isn’t about being a rogue crusader for an important cause; it’s about working together for this common goal that will benefit both men and women alike.
4. In the End, It’s All About the Equal Opportunity
When asked who was a model feminist in contemporary times, Rapson and Brown’s answer was all but expected: Macklemore.
“He uses a self-created platform to talk about real issues, like equality,” Rapson said.
With pop culture icons like Beyoncé using public media to also give their views on equality -- or the lack thereof -- it’s easy to see that feminism is, at its core, about people in general being treated with the same rights and respect. Who doesn’t want that?
Long story short: This International Women’s Day, let’s make feminism something we feel good about. The women’s movement might have just one day in its honor, but we can always be expressing feminist ideals of equality and fairness through our words and our actions.
Top Photo Courtesy: Picstopin