Posted by: jordanmassey12 | April 1, 2015

Teresa Younger, CEO and president of the Ms. Foundation, speaks out for feminism

Recently, the CEO and president of the Ms. Foundation, Teresa Younger, spoke about the true meaning of feminism and the way in which it is perceived today. The Ms. Foundation works to advocate for laws and policies which protect women’s rights, safety, and health. They work with policy makers nationwide to provide a better world for women everywhere. For the last 40 years, they have been one of the organizations at the forefront of the women’s movement and ave spoken out about the issues that are most pressing to women everywhere.

When asked how she defined feminism Teresa said, ” The definition, as I have spent my life believing it to be, is the belief that men and women should have equal social, political, and economic rights and opportunities. I do think that that is the most inclusive definition of what feminism is about. It’s about equality for both men and women and a playing field that respects the voices of women. True equality, true feminism is recognition of the dynamics that each person brings to the table. And I say “each person” because women will have reached truest levels of equality when men also have truest levels of equality. As long as we stay and assign task and duty, responsibility and opportunity to a particular gender, then we are not actually striving for true feminism.”

I think that her viewpoint is a very important one because it has been a major topic of discussion for modern feminists who find themselves defending the first wave of feminism. Today’s society views those original feminists as fighting solely for women’s issues and not being inclusive of men at all. However, Ms. Younger spoke to that point as well. She said that at the time of the original movement, the balance of power was so far off center that the focus had to be getting women equal rights above all else. Now that we have achieved some level of equity, the movement has evolved to be more inclusive of both genders.

Another interesting question which was posed was “Why do you think Millenials have an issue with feminism?” Her response was as follows: “I think it’s been interesting because you’ve got Millennials who are identifying themselves as feminists like Beyoncé. For a long time, the definition of feminism has been defined by the opponents that want to divide the population and those supporters. Generally, if you just give the definition of feminism without the label in any conversation most people are on the same page. The difference is the perception. It’s about how they label that…As long as we believe in the same principles to measure equality and opportunity, I’m not going to judge anyone for not “calling” it feminism. You should have that choice, which is what feminism ultimately is about. It’s about giving women and men a full cadre of choices about what they can do, what they want to do, and how they can get those goals accomplished.”

Throughout the rest of the interview, Ms. Younger continued to point out many of the misconceptions about feminism that are so rampant among people today. The common issue of “manhating” was addressed as being fearmongering thrown around by those who do not support the idea of true gender equality. The main source of conflict in this area is the outdated view of feminism that many people continue to operate under even though the women’s movement has changed so much since then.

Personally, “feminist” is a term of pride. A feminist believes in equality, period. A feminist is one who fights for the rights of both men and women and who desires a fair and just system of treatment where no one gender is marginalized. I think the term is powerful and has national recognition as being a term that people are passionate about and a belief that people are willing to fight for.

My main question is, what are your thoughts? Do you think that the push against feminism is really just a disagreement on terminology, or do you think it runs deeper? How can the modern women’s movement communicate the differences between first and third wave feminism to the general public? Is there any way to effectively change the perception of the term?

You can find the full interview here: http://www.forbes.com/sites/bonniemarcus/2015/03/31/true-feminism-is-about-equality-for-both-genders/3/

And if you want to learn more about the Ms. Foundation for Women, go here: http://forwomen.org/

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Responses

  1. I think the push against feminism is rooted in a much deeper problem than just the terminology because people are making the movement about man-hating. It seems that people have this misconstrued perception of what feminist are because there is sexism still. Men do not want to give up their power, so they make feminist seem evil. Modern feminism runs deeper than just equality for the sexes, but they want equality for everyone no matter the gender, sexual orientation, or ethnicity. Also, feminist today are relying heavily on online sources to spread their movement which is new because past movement never had the internet, so feminist today are can reach global audiences. As more women leaders or celebrities come out and talk about real feminism I think that is when we will see a change in the term because they are people society respects and idolizes.

  2. I think that the issue with the feminist movement does run deeper because of the negative connotation that goes with the word when it is used in today’s society. I believe that if it was just a terminology issue, that people wouldnt think of man-hating when you say that your are a feminist because they would know what being a feminist really means. Honestly, until this class, I didnt know the true meaning of feminism and I had that same negative connotation paired with the word. I think that the only way to really get people on board about feminism today is to add men to the conversation. I know that we keep saying this but we shouldnt wait for someone else to do it. We need to do it now, and with people we are close with. If we wait for the generation below us, they wont have any role models to base their ideals off of. It starts with getting boyfriends and friends on board because if they care about us then they should agree that men and women should have equality. Also, we should be more clear about the definition and put it out there as much as possible. Like I said earlier, I didnt get on baord until I understood its meaning and I think that that is one of the largest problems and the first that we would need to begin with.

  3. I think the push against feminism runs much deeper than terminology. The definition of feminism have evolved over the years. However, many people are not aware of the evolution of the definition. The majority of society still views feminism as being a masculine, man-hating movement. I can attest to this because I have received many judgmental comments and looks when I tell people I am taking a women in leadership class.

    An example of a person who has effectively educated others about the modern women’s movement is Emma Watson. Her initiation of the HeForShe Campaign has successfully given the world a glimpse into what the modern women’s movement is all about. The success of this campaign is attributed to the fact that it educates and brings awareness to the disparities women face around the world when it comes to gender equality. Additionally, this movement has ditched the word feminism and coined a new catch phrase for the women equality movement (HeForShe). Finally, this campaign has also included both men and women in the process. In order to effectively bring positive light to women’s rights, I believe that more people need to follow the HeForShe Campaign model.

  4. I would agree with Younger that the main disagreement over feminism is the discrepancy between the term and the intent/actions behind it. I have had multiple conversations this semester in which people have said, “I do not consider myself a feminist but I do believe in equal rights for men and women.” As we have discussed with the “Women Against Feminism” movement, the term has gained a very aggressive connotation that both men and women want to avoid. However, I think it is possible that some of those people fear the term and along with that, fear the change that it brings. They say they support equal rights but would in practice shy away from it because they fear perhaps the loss that change brings.
    I think in order to change the perception of feminism we must be passionate yet understanding. We must realize that we cannot cultivate men as allies unless we are patient with them and allow them time to adapt to what equal rights for men and women really means. I think things like what Emma Watson did in her UN speech are beneficial because she is a public figure and she addressed men specifically, asking them to join the conversation and telling them that feminism is beneficial to everyone. I think addressing the aggressiveness issue is a good idea, along with continuing to cultivate men as allies and then placing them in the media’s eye to vouch for the new wave of feminism.

  5. I think that language is a powerful concept that can do a lot of good and a lot of harm. Words are just letters in random orders that we as a society assign meaning to through our perceptions. I said perceptions because with every word that has a denotation there is a connotation that shout just a little louder. I think this is what happen to the term feminist. Through the male-dominated society, the term started to take on a negative connotation, leaving it’s true meaning to be lost. Because probably one of the only things that is stronger their the power of language is the power of fear. People fear change and therefore they fear advocates like feminism. I think the first step toward progress for the feminist agenda is a societal make-up the term. WE, men and women need to stop shunning the term and start embracing the concept.

  6. I think that Teresa Younger does a great job of relaying what, I know I have, come to define feminism as. To me, feminism isn’t about receiving special treatment for being a women, but receiving the same treatment as men because its a human rights issue. Most college-aged women and even men that do not agree with feminism believe that its about man-hating rather than gender equality. I think that the misconception comes from a lack of knowledge or even acknowledgement of the feminist movement taking place around the world.

    I think that the use of social media can be very beneficial in transforming the millennial generation’s understanding of and advocacy for feminism because this generation has grown up on the Internet. While previous generations have bashed social media due to lack of influence and the like in their lives, the millennials know nothing other than texting, tweeting, Facebooking, etc. While posting about feminism will not change the gender inequality and misunderstanding of “feminism” itself, I think that it’s a good place to start with this generation.

  7. I love that you brought this issue back up – it feels as though we have really come full circle.

    I think it’s difficult when we use the term feminism because of the feminine focus rather than the equality focus. But, I do think the push against feminism is deeper than that. People are uncomfortable with change and are very (or seemingly so) satisfied with what society is currently putting forth about gender identity. So, coming up with the idea of treating women in a new fashion is so novel and can be frightening at times because gender roles and expectations have been engrained in society for such a long time.

    I think changing the perception of the term will come with time. If people start using it in a more effective manner rather than in derogatory terms, it can be seen as a positive word rather than a negative one, so I think the change has to start at the root of the issue rather than trying to tackle it from a big picture perspective.

  8. I think that the term “feminism” will always come with a negative connotation attached to it, except for those who would categorize themselves as belonging to the feminist group. In fact, I don’t think I ever heard feminism talked about in any sort of positive light until I came to college.
    One of my questions is why do we have to call it feminism if that doesn’t seem to be catching on? Could we just refer to it as gender equality? Or a new term/movement all together?
    I think that we all may get hung up on surface level issues such as terms and stigmas when, if we took all that away, we might realize that we are all in agreement for what is right and just.


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