Feminist. I assure you, is not at all a bad word.
But new Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer missed that memo. When she told the PBS-AOL series “Makers” that she doesn’t have the “militant drive” and “chip on the shoulder” attitude that comes along with embodying feminism, she made it a bad word.
When she stood in front of a room of men and denounced that feminism was the foundation that helped her become Google’s first female engineer and head of a Fortune 500 company, she made it a bad word.
When she failed to realize the poignancy that, as a 6-month pregnant, 37-year-old woman, she has made it to the top of the male-dominated tech world..she made feminist a bad word.
Oh, and then there was the direct quote, from her mouth to the crowd, about why she doesn’t want to be considered a “feminist.”
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. And I think it’s too bad, but I do think that feminism has become in many ways a more negative word. You know, there are amazing opportunities all over the world for women, and I think that there is more good that comes out of positive energy around that than comes out of negative energy.
I’m sorry to be the one to school you Marissa, but like it or not, you are a symbol for feminism.
Like most feminists of the world, hearing Mayer disassociate herself with the movement that arguably allowed her to become the CEO of Yahoo was disappointing…and frankly made me angry. I couldn’t understand how Mayer, as we commemorate Woman’s Suffrage and Women’s History Month, would not recognize the battles that were fought or the backs that she used as a pedestal to spew her anti-feminist rhetoric.
But then I dialed back. I was embarrassed for her. I was ashamed. And I was steaming hot. But my anger only fueled her claim that feminists were “chip-on-the-shoulder” gals. And I didn’t want to give her any more ammo to support her bogus disassociation.
Instead, I started to realize that the problem wasn’t Marissa Mayer at all. It was the idea that this culture breeds…the idea that feminists were angry and ultimately unnecessary in this day and age.
Mayer might be ignorant about what it means to be a feminist, but then so are a lot of up and coming programmers and techies and authors and businesswomen and students who are vying for a position in a male-dominated world.
They don’t think they stand on the backs of their foremothers…we’ve somehow provided this generation with a can-do attitude that makes them forget their past. Why? Because we’ve created a faux-equal opportunity world. A sham. A facade. A fake nirvana.
I’ve got news for you all…feminists have not reached the top of the mountain as we so blindly believe.
It’s almost like convincing ourselves we live in a post-racial world. As long as race and gender dominate social constraints, we’ll also need to protect our minorities.
And Mayer needs to understand that. Feminism is absolutely necessary in our male-dominated world. Especially in her field. In fact, the New York Times declared Silicon Valley a “deal-making boys club” that still had very few women programmers and engineers.
It’s not a secret that women are as capable as men…but do those statistics represent equal opportunity, Marissa?
Instead of trying to brand herself as a non-feminist who made her way to the top by her own will and strength, Marissa Mayer should first recognize her own history and then fall into the role. She’s a powerful woman that we feminists do look up to, despite her shade.
Now, in turn, she should recognize that her success equals ours.
Like it or not…you’re one of us. Embrace it.
Christina Coleman is the News and Politics Editor at GlobalGrind. Prior to this she was a science writer. That explains her NASA obsession. She crushes on Anthony Bourdain. Nothing explains that.
Follow her on Twitter @ChrissyCole