By LeAnne Moss
Last month was the 50th anniversary of Betty Friedan’s classic, “The Feminist Mystique,” which is often credited with being the catalyst that birthed the women’s movement. Over these five decades, there have been fits and starts in this movement, and a wide range of emotions in what “feminism” is and isn’t.
In the last week, I’ve had some interesting and different conversations about women and feminism.
The first experience wasn’t so much a conversation as an interaction. I was one of 12 women in a two-day workshop on being a powerful woman. At one point, the instructor – a dynamic woman in her mid-50s who had been talking about her experiences as a short woman of color claiming her own power – made an off-the-cuff remark, “I’m not a feminist. You know, I’m not the bra-burning type.”
My voice was one of many challenging her on this view of feminism. I was heartened to see that the younger women in the group, those in their 20s and early 30s, were speaking the loudest. Once the instructor answered affirmatively to their question, “Do you believe women should have equal rights as men?,” we felt better about moving on.
The other conversations had to do with the lack of family-friendly policies and attitudes in a progressive organization, and the pros and cons of “taking back” the word feminism. To the latter point, my colleague and friend in her 50s didn’t think we had to take back the word. That’s beside the point, she argued. “Let’s just do the work, whatever we call it.”
Indeed, whatever we call it, the volumes of research still show that women face structural, behavioral and attitudinal challenges. Fifty years later, we still face challenges that affect not only our lives but those of our children, partners and other family members. We need to keep the conversation going to show how advancing the status and lives of women benefit all of us. And we need to acknowledge that these challenges are not ours alone to face. We have the support to do this work, together.