At the First Friday Book Synopsis, we have presented a number of books over the past few years dealing with feminism. All of these are available for purchase at 15MinuteBusinessBooks.com.
One of our Creative Communication Network part-time consultants, Carmen Coreas, recently weighed in with her views about feminism, citing information from some of the books we have presented. In this blog post, she discusses what feminism means to her, and how in her opinion, the definition of feminism has evolved. She finishes by revealing whether she considers herself to be a feminist. If you have read these books, attended our synopses, or listened our recordings, you can see how closely her remarks resemble your own.
What Feminism Means to Me
Many women are tired of discussing the feminist movement. Many have just given up, moved on, and accepted society and the business world as they are. They are no longer interested in trying to enact real change in the workplace, at home, in non-profit organizations, and other venues.
I believe in the words that Sallie Krawcheck wrote recently in her best-seller entitled Own It: The Power of Women at Work (New York: Crown Books, 2017). The point of her book was not about excluding men, but rather, including women. Her stance is well aligned with the best-seller, Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead (New York: Knopf, 2013) by Sheryl Sandberg.
To me, feminism is not defeating men for the good of women. I define feminism clearly and concisely as standing up for who we are and what we do. Women can do that in ways that are not at the expense of men.
This is so different from what other authorities claim. One journalist, Jessica Bennett, is a flaming feminist. Her book, Feminist Fight Club: An Office Survival Manual for a Sexist Workplace (New York: Harper, 2016) is described as “part manual, part manifesto – an illustrated, practical, no-bullshit guide to battling sexism at work” (source: www.feministfightclub.com). The entire book is a men-basher.
Conversely, Sallie Krawcheck believes in the power of women. “We women are different. And therein lie our greatest strength and competitive advantage in the modern workplace…We need more women acting more like women. And this goes not just for female CEO’s or women in top senior leadership positions, but for all women. That’s because the power of diversity is…wait for it..,diversity” (p. 9).
This quote resonates well with me. I define feminism as being ourselves. We are women. We are good. We need to let everyone know that we deserve a voice. But, this is not a fixed pie. We can stand up for ourselves, and do everything we need, without fighting men in the process. Our gains are not men’s losses.
Evolvement of the Feminist Definition
In its earliest days, feminism was a power play. Women participated in braless public rallies. Women would attend professional seminars to learn how to survive in a man’s business world. They would learn how to dress like a man, participate in meetings like men, how to challenge and speak with men interpersonally, and even not to drink water before a meeting with men, so that they would not have to excuse themselves to use the rest room. At that time, you could not be a woman, because to survive, you had to act (and even look) like a man.
The early attitudes were to fight men. Remember the great push in the late 1980’s for the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). The Reverend Jesse Jackson, in his 1988 Democratic National Convention speech in which he accepted the nomination, rallied the crowd by exclaiming, “women cannot buy bread cheaper, women cannot buy milk cheaper,” and stated that they deserve to be paid the same as men. At that time, women made about 68 cents on the dollar to a man doing the same job. Today, there is still a disparity, even though women’s pay is now about 86 cents for every dollar a man makes. The difference for minority women is even greater.
Ronald Reagan was not popular with women by failing to support the ERA. His point was that in the wrong hands, equal rights will damage women. He said that unscrupulous people would use the ERA to also push equal responsibility. For example, he was concerned that women would be required to lift materials of great weight on a job, equal to men who had to do the same.
Not everyone was on board with the man vs. woman dual. One of the famous opponents to feminism was Phyllis Schafly. She was a strictly constitutional based attorney, as well as a famous conservative activist. Schafly was highly conservative, both socially and politically, and she opposed abortion. She is considered one of the major forces behind the failure to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
This train of thought of fighting men has not gone away. Read this 2016 quote from Jessica Bennett’s Feminist Fight Club: “We need weapons of our own, then – an arsenal of them. We must be armed with data to prove the problem exists and tactics to chip away at it from the outside and the inside. We need skills, hacks, tricks, tools, battle tactics to fight for ourselves while also advocating for change within the system. But! This is not a solo task. We need other women by our side. So let ‘s start by linking arms” (p. xxvii).
Myself as Feminist
I do consider myself as a feminist. I do not see myself solely in house slippers, cooking breakfast for my family, getting my kids ready for school, and spending my day doing laundry, cleaning the bathroom, then, cooking dinner, putting the kids to bed, making love to my husband, and then starting the process over the next day.
I do want to be married and have a family. I want to be a good wife and mother. But, I have other goals as well. I cannot define myself by what I am to others. I must define myself as who I am.
I am proud to be a woman. I am of Latina origin. I am aware that I am in a low percentage of women in my culture with the ambitions that I have. I am working hard to get my Bachelor’s degree from college, and then, go to law school. I know that I will represent women who are not as fortunate as I will be. I will have female clients who have been beaten, victimized, molested, and in many other ways, taken advantage of. But, I will also have male clients who have their own backgrounds and histories. I must represent them both.
It is my goal to stand up for myself, but not because I can do anything better than a man. My preference is to be strong-willed, but work with men, not against them. Therefore, my definition of feminism is inclusive, not exclusive.
You can reply below to let me know what you think about this subject. Thank you for reading my comments.
A smashing business-best seller on feminism has crashed the Wall Street Journal, debuting on its list at # 3 in the September 24-25 edition (p. C10).
Jessica Bennett’s work, Feminist Fight Club: An Office Survival Manual for a Sexist Workplace (Harper), was distributed on September 13, 2016. At this writing, it is # 1 in three business books sub-categories on Amazon.com.
Who is Jessica Bennett? She is a columnist and feature writer for Time and for the New York Times. Her specialties with the paper include gender issues culture, and language. Bennett is also involved with special projects for LeanIn.org, which is Sheryl Sandberg’s women’s nonprofit organization. Her major responsibility there is an initiative to change the depiction of women in stock photography. She earned a B.S. from Boston University. The New York Press Club honored her for outstanding web coverage and named her the city’s best young journalist. This is her first book.
Here is a summary of the book, from Amazon.com:
“Part manual, part manifesto, Feminist Fight Club is a hilarious yet incisive guide to navigating subtle sexism at work, providing real-life career advice and humorous reinforcement for a new generation of professional women.
“It was a fight club—but without the fighting and without the men. Every month, the women would huddle in a friend’s apartment to share sexist job frustrations and trade tips for how best to tackle them. Once upon a time, you might have called them a consciousness-raising group. But the problems of today’s working world are more subtle, less pronounced, harder to identify—and harder to prove—than those of their foremothers. These women weren’t just there to vent. They needed battle tactics. And so the fight club was born.
“Hard-hitting and entertaining, Feminist Fight Club blends personal stories with research, statistics, and no-bullsh*t expert advice. Bennett offers a new vocabulary for the sexist workplace archetypes women encounter everyday—such as the Manterrupter who talks over female colleagues in meetings or the Himitator who appropriates their ideas—and provides practical hacks for navigating other gender landmines in today’s working world. With original illustrations, Feminist Mad Libs, a Negotiation Cheat Sheet, and fascinating historical research, Feminist Fight Club tackles both the external (sexist) and internal (self-sabotaging) behaviors that plague women in the workplace—as well as the system that perpetuates them.”
Given its status, this book is a certain upcoming selection for the First Friday Book Synopsis. Check our web site – click HERE – for the exact month that we will present it.