Susan Sarandon recently said she doesn’t call herself a feminist anymore because she thinks the label is too stigmatized to be taken seriously. She added that our daughters (mine included) can’t identify with this term anymore because it has negative connotations suggesting “a load of strident bitches….and the identity is used more to minimize you,” Sarandon said. She is hardly alone. I’ve been hearing this a few times lately. Most famously Marissa Mayer from Facebook said the same thing, that the term was outdated and old-fashioned.
To me, this is a tough nut to swallow.
In my upcoming book Happy Woman Happy World, I had to examine in great detail how I feel about the word feminist. At first my sentiments were very much that the word means man hater. Images of manly women came to mind, too. But the deeper I got into the topic, the more I understood just what feminism was all about.
Feminists took the fight for equality between men and women to the streets and it is because of them that we have the right to make choices for ourselves, have access to the same education, the right to keep your own last name, the same job opportunities, the ability to get our own loans or buying a home without a husband having to sign. Feminists risked everything to give women a voice. And they succeeded.
And now we don’t want to use the word anymore because it’s become a negative? We must honor our foremothers because without them none of us would be where we are. To deny feminists a term that they created and formed would be to say that Nelson Mandela’s apartheid movement is no longer an issue therefore we deny him the accolades of his fight.
Why do we have to do this? Why can’t we just accept feminism as an important part of our past, the foundation on which contemporary women have thrived, and leave it at that? Do we really have to publicly throw stones at other women who risked everything to help us to get here?
Or rather, is it time to reject the negativity that society for whatever reason has attached to the word feminism? I don’t know about you, but I can tell you one thing with certainty that I will not throw the women that came before us under the bus because the feminist message is not chic or trendy anymore. Perhaps a little dusting of the term would be in order? New branding maybe? But mainly, a reminder of what the actual definition of a feminist is and always will be: a person (male or female) who supports the advancement of rights for women equal to men.
In The Women’s Code, a system women often call “transformational” because it shows how to realistically realign personal priorities of work, family, health and well-being, we honor a code of conduct. And that says that we honor ALL women and accept them for what they believe in. We should be proud of our past, we should be proud of the women who came before us and were our trailblazers.
I am a feminist – and I honor all other feminists. Trendy or not, I don’t care. I respect women, period.
Beate Chelette is a respected career coach, consummate entrepreneur and founder of The Women’s Code, a unique guide to personal and career success that offers a new code of conduct for today’s business, private and digital world. Determined to build a community of women helping each other, after selling one of her companies, BeateWorks, to Bill Gates in 2006 for millions of dollars, Beate launched The Women’s Code to reach women everywhere.