What is a Feminist and do we Still Need Them?

Recently I had lunch with a 34-year-old son of a friend. He was very interested in my blog topic but was curious about what is a modern day feminist – having had, what he called, less than fun encounters with some strong women.

Similarly, a few weeks back I was chatting with a mid-50’s male lawyer colleague who opined that given all the laws now in place, there is probably no more need for feminists and activism.

Of course, “this got me musing” about feminism of the past and the present and what is a feminist and whether or not we still need them.

My Definition of Feminism

Let’s start with my definition of a feminist . . . . a person (man or woman) who believes the sexes should have equal opportunity notwithstanding the differences between the sexes and works toward that end. 

My daughter, who is 30 and a social justice activist, surprised me by disagreeing with my definition. In her opinion, one can be a feminist without being an activist. She and many of her friends would consider themselves feminists but are not necessarily out there carrying banners – not sure but perhaps this has to do with how relatively easy the Millennials have had it and the current controversy about the “f-word”.

Whether you chose my definition or my daughter’s, the equal opportunities to which I refer in my definition include education, employment, healthcare, politics, sports, the arts, religion, medicine, law, finance, government, corporate governance, film, music, writing, military and every other aspect of life that you can think of.

It’s Not About Man-Hating

Feminism has zero to do with one’s opinion of men – but has everything to do with wanting women to have all the advantages historically afforded to men.

It’s Not About Opening the Door 

Feminism has zero to do with manners. Men opening doors, carrying parcels, walking on the outside of the sidewalk and paying for dinner (not all the time but on a more equal basis), or doing other traditional “manly” chores such as handy-man work around the house, are all fine and in fact, are welcomed my many – including me.

In the Old Days

The feminists of the past focused on obvious disparity in opportunities – such as the right to own property (and not be property), the right to vote, the right to work and receive equal pay. The feminists of the past were the suffragists, the promoters of the failed Equal Rights Amendment to the constitution and other legislation designed to even the playing field. Gloria Steinem and Bella Abzug were leaders of the early feminist movement (the 60’s through the 80’s).


In the New Days

Female feminists of today include some notable artists such as Patricia Arquette, Jane Fonda, Amy Schumer and Jessica Williams. Stand-outs in the political/governmental/global arena include Hillary Clinton, Angela Merkel, Christine Lagarde and Malala.

Let’s not forget contemporary male feminists – some famous such as Jon Legend, Alan Alda, the Dalai Lama and Jon Oliver, and some not so famous such as my boyfriend, my son-in-law, the guys I work with and most of the husbands of my friends. (I guess it’s apparent that I surround myself with like-minded people.)

Current Controversy About the Word “Feminist” 

Until I started this blog, I didn’t realize that the word “feminism” (a/k/a the f-word) was so explosive among many young people. Many do not self-identify as feminists, not because of their beliefs, but because they don’t want to be seen as controversial, man-hating, superior, and bitchy. Others avoid it because of a belief that it is too narrow – connoting a white middle-class older women’s thing. Most agree with equal opportunities and many have enjoyed such opportunities, but nonetheless avoid this moniker to avoid controversy. 

So, Do we Still Need Feminists? 

As my work colleague noted, there is a plethora of laws that prescribe equality – that said, the actualization of equal access still lags. 

For example, let’ s looks at politics and government.

  • Women in Senate – 20%
  • Women in House – 19.3%
  • Women CEOs of Fortune 500 companies – 5.2%
  • Women on Board of Fortune 500 companies – 17%

As an aside, according to a research study by Catalyst, a leading nonprofit organization dedicated to expanding opportunities for women and business, corporations that had more women board members performed significantly better than their counterparts with only male members (40 % higher sales and 50% more return on equity).

As for women in government, the key negotiators in the recent US/Cuba agreement were women on each side of the bargaining table.

Since women make up about half (50.8%) of the U.S. population and now make up over 50% of college graduates, as well as law, business, and medical school graduates, it is likely that, in the not too distance future (another couple generations) women will make up half or more of our governmental representatives, corporate executives and other positions of leadership in education and the arts. Leadership positions for women in the military, religion and sports will likely take a lot longer due to cultural mores and long standing and ingrained male dominance.

Given the numbers and notwithstanding significant progress that has been made since the 60’s, in my opinion, we still need activist feminists (as opposed to the kind that hold the equality beliefs but do not chose to identify) until such time that our numbers are spread evenly in societal leadership – only then will ALL women, both leaders and followers, of color and white have access to true equal opportunity.

For Those Who Like Lists   —— 5 Myths About Feminists 

  • they look down on men
  • they rebuff men’s courtesy
  • they look down on motherhood
  • they are bitchy and without humor
  • they don’t shave, wear makeup or have any style

Song for this Blog Post 

OMG – you’ve got to see and hear this video – talk about being right on the mark!




Are Girls Better Team Players Now That they are in the Game?

You Can Have the Sports Section 

I am not a sports fan. I’m of the mindset that one ball game per year is more than enough – and then only with a couple beers and peanuts. When I grew up in the 50’s, not many girls played sports. Rather, many of us longed to be cheerleaders. I still remember trying out for the squad, practicing non-stop for weeks only to be eliminated in the very first round!

Suffice it to say, I only followed sports if my home-town team was on the verge of winning something big such as the Chicago Bears and their Super-Bowl Shuffle in 1985 and then I learned only enough to make polite cocktail conversation.

Recent Women Sports in the News

The reason I am writing this post about women in sports is because recent news got me musing about how the world of women in sports has changed so much in my lifetime.

  • US Women soccer team wins world cup but the size of its purse pales in comparison to the men’s. 
  • First woman becomes NFL coach. 
  • First Women’s surfing championship held in Oceanside with winning purse equal in size to the men’s.

Beijing Olympics Soccer Women

Title IX Becomes the Law of the Land and the Games Begin 

Many give credit to Title IX (passed in 1972 but its implementing regulations weren’t published until 1975 and its effective date for implementation wasn’t until 1978). Crazy but its focus was NOT sports. Rather, its focus was requiring all public educational institutions that received federal funding, to provide equal opportunities for women with respect to all their educational programs and activities. Its impetus was actually hiring and employment opportunities for women.

The proponents of Title IX look to its significant impact on women’s athletics. Since its implementation, girls’ high school programs increased nine-fold and collegiate women’s programs increased 450% – with the most popular women’s athletic programs being basketball, volleyball and soccer.

True Story About 15 Year Old Girl

I was recently blown away to hear about a colleague’s daughter who is an incredibly good athlete, plays softball and, at only 15, was recruited by numerous colleges and universities and just accepted UC Berkeley’s offer for a full ride.  OMG, no worries about early admission, personal essays, SACT scores or MONEY! Good for her and for her folks who encouraged and schlepped her to and fro since she first held a bat at about 5 years old. It’s great to hear that girls/women have the same kind of collegiate opportunities reserved only for boys/men in the old days.

Team Players and Corporate America 

Before girls had these kinds of athletic team sport opportunities, many in corporate America hesitated hiring women for managerial and professional jobs for fear they did not have “team” experience. Having had numerous positions of leadership in corporate America over the years, I found women to be more naturally team oriented than their male counterparts. Perhaps the guys needed the sports “team” experience to knock their egos down a peg or two – something the gals maybe didn’t need . . . don’t know, just conjecture.

Wind in My Sails 

I do want to share an anecdote about the only sport in which I ever participated – sailboat racing. I have always loved the water, swimming and boating. In my mid-20s, I was asked to join 2 friends on their 19 ft. sailboat named “Streaker”(named before streaking became popular – lest you think we sailed au natural).

We raced on Lake Michigan by Chicago. My first skipper opined that I took to racing “like a pig to slop”. That said, my greatest value was my ballast (a/k/a weight on a windy day) and my ability to follow orders yelled at me by a very competitive skipper. Who knew that “trimgoddamnit” is actually three words?

Fast forward to my mid-40’s when I resumed the sport after a 10 year maternity leave – this time on an all-woman/5 member crew. Picture this scene . . . a sunny afternoon in late August with a light wind blowing and the J24 fleet is battling it out for the championship. It’s the second to the last leg on an Olympic course and we are on a “run” with the wind at our back billowing our multi-colored spinnaker.

To port (on our left) was our competition – the all male crew we had traded first places with over the season. We are “neck and neck” or “beam to beam”. We are only about 10 feet apart – so close we could hear everything they said.

Our strategy was calm, steadfast, purposeful, sail trim and steering with no extra movements to rock the boat. Any questions were answered with calm, clear direction.

Our competition, on the other hand, was freaking out. The more we moved ahead, the more they yelled and fell behind. Never before had I experienced such exquisite joy in this boy/girl challenge.

You probably guessed that the girls won that race and we took first place for the whole season. Our skipper wore green sequins and I wore red ones – yes, we were called “port and starboard” as we accepted the first place trophy at the awards banquet!

So, why am I regaling you with my one and only sports victory? My point is that, in my opinion, and based on my very limited experience, girls/women do not need team sports to understand and implement teamwork – either on the water or in the office!

Size Does Matter

Even though I am not into sports, I am pleased that my athletic sisters can do their thing and hopefully soon they’ll be able to make as much money as the boys – because yes, size (of the purse) does matter.

Tune for this Post – The Super Bowl Shuffle!