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.