by JAMILA RIZVI
Marissa Mayer is not a feminist.
Marissa is the CEO of Fortune 500 company Yahoo. She is one of the world’s most successful businesswomen and when she announced last week that she is about to start a family, she got everyone’s attention. Here is a woman who really does seem to ‘have it all’ and yet on the topic of feminism, she told AOL:
“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.”
This is a woman who has benefited enormously from the women who went before her. A woman whose achievements are noteworthy in and of themselves but at the same time, a woman whose achievements would never have been possible without the feminist movement.
Yet Marissa Mayer takes that feminist name tag, casually chucks it into the garbage and wipes her hands of it. And she is not alone in doing so.
More and more, women are distancing themselves from the term ‘feminist’.
Surveys consistently reveal that as few as 30 per cent of women in Australia, Canada, the US and the UK consider themselves ‘feminists’. And the number of self-identifying feminists only decreases when you survey younger women.
Caitlan Moran in How to be a Woman asks the respondents to these surveys:
“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? ‘Vogue’ by Madonna? Jeans? Did all that good shit GET ON YOUR NERVES? Or were you just DRUNK AT THE TIME OF THE SURVEY?”
Somewhere along the way being a feminist has become associated with hating on men, rather than being equal with them. So, I can see why women like Marissa Mayer, who work in male dominated professions, simply cannot afford to attract the label of ‘feminist’. After all, success doesn’t come to the woman who throws her hand up in the air and says ‘look at me, look at me, I’m a man-hater’.
But even beyond the corporate world and in our day-to-day social interactions, calling yourself a feminist triggers eye rolling, grimaces and complaints of political correctness having gone too far.
‘Feminist’ is a term that teenagers use to insult each other. What’s even worse is that we are now seeing women use their rejection of the feminist label as a way to endear themselves to men. Refusing to characterise yourself as a feminist has become code for saying “I’m all for equal rights and stuff but not in a scary threatening way cos’ I think boys are just the bees knees.” Calling yourself a ‘non-feminist’ is just another way of being more alluring.
Jezebel’s Katie Baker says that “the goal of the movement is equal opportunity, not gratitude and actions speak louder than words.” She argues that it doesn’t matter if Marissa Mayer doesn’t consider herself to be a feminist because Mayer can still be a feminist role model.
I disagree. I want to know when we decided that it was okay to enjoy all the benefits of equal rights while disassociating ourselves from those who fought for those rights in the first place?
As a single, working woman in 2012, I stand on the shoulders of giants. I stand on the shoulders of the women who went before me. And I am grateful to them.
I am grateful to the women who fought for my right to vote, to open a bank account, to own property and to order my own goddamn drink at a bar.
I am grateful to the women who said I should be able to keep my own name if I want to, the women who got rid of the ‘obey’ part in marriage vows, the women who said my life could be about more than a clean house and a well set table.
I am grateful to the women who were called evil, who were called baby killers and who were called witches. The women who took all of that crap, so that my girlfriends and I could control and make choices about our own bodies.
I am grateful to the women whose fight won me the right to marry the person I love and start a family, while still being allowed to pursue a career outside the home.
And what I fear more than anything else is that the women of future generations will not have anything more to be grateful for. I fear that the young women of 2062 will look back on me and my generation and wonder why we dropped the ball.
Because as far as we have come – there is still a huge way to go.
Women still earn around 80 cents for every dollar that men earn over a lifetime. And this isn’t just about who has the bits that make the babies. Australian women earn less from the very first year after they graduate from university and TAFE.
Women still carry the burden of around two thirds of unpaid work and caring duties.
Women are almost 51 per cent of the population and yet we hold less than 30 per cent of elected positions in the federal Parliament. We hold 8 per cent of board directorships and 10 per cent of executive management positions.
Nearly one in five of us will experience sexual assault, one in three will experience some kind of family or domestic violence in our lifetimes.
We earn less, we are heard less and we are hurt more.
And all of this pales in comparison, to the women around the world who still do not share the basic rights, safety, freedoms and equalities that here in Australia we all take for granted.
To every woman still reading my rant, I say this: Yes, you are a feminist. All that little word means is that you believe in women’s equality with men. It’s not scary, it’s simple.
So let’s stop wasting our time ‘reclaiming’ words like c*#t and start reclaiming a word that really matters.
And let’s start doing that today.
Feminism is ours. It is an ideal, a thought, a vision that was designed by our mothers and our grandmothers and our great grandmothers, but it is still relevant today. It isn’t something we should take for granted and it isn’t something we should forget.
Let’s not let feminism become a dirty word on our watch.
Let’s give our daughters and grand daughters something to be proud of too.
And while I’m at it, I will add this.
Girls – your boyfriend should be a feminist. So should your husband and your brother and your mates and your son. Because just like I can be a supporter of the civil rights movement and not be black, they can be feminists without being women.
My name is Jamila. I’m an ordinary gen Y woman. I shave my legs, I own red lipstick, I wear 5-inch heels. I love my job and I love men – from the one who fathered me, to the ones I live with, to the one I want to share my life with. I’m a feminist and proud of it.
And you should be too.
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Here are some feminists who inspire us:
Do you consider yourself to be a feminist?