Demystifying Feminism
Exploring the concept – one opinion at a time
By Marianne Aleardi

If you ask 10 women to give their thoughts on feminism, odds are you’ll get 10 different answers. While once an easily defined and recognized concept, feminism is now a misunderstood term, which some dread and others embrace. We asked SJ women to tell us what they think about feminism. Is it dead or alive? Needed – or not?

Kathy-in-Weather-Ctr.If you asked me, “Are you a feminist?” I would say, “No.” However, I did pursue a career that was male-dominated. (I was the only woman out of 12 students in my meteorology major.) I do believe that women should have the same opportunities as men and have equal pay for equal work. I guess I associate the term “feminist” with activism or protesting, images I have seen from the ’60s. That is not my style, but I think we need to thank those who blazed the trail before us for leading the way. I like to think that intellect, education and “doing the right thing” pays off, no matter what your gender. That is the message I am passing on to my daughter.  –  Kathy Orr, Meteorologist, CBS3



ReneHudsonHeadshotsHigh-11Although many-layered in how it plays out, feminism involves advocating for the simple yet radical belief that women are human, too. It seems silly to even need to say that, and yet, here we are in the year 2014, and women make just 71 to 83 percent of the income of their male counterparts.

When my daughters (ages 16, 10 and 8) learned of the gender-based income gap, they were outraged. That we still do not have a law for equal pay for equal work in this country is mind-boggling. For these facts alone, until women are compensated justly, feminism cannot be declared dead. Until women and girls around the world are granted the full rights, respect, education and opportunities they deserve as human beings and children of God, feminism cannot be declared dead. I’m heartened to know that young girls today are looking at the world through fresh feminist eyes and are determined to work toward a day when women are treated as the full human beings we are.  –  Rene Colson Hudson, Spiritual Director, The Anam Cara Group



MarinoThe dictionary definition of feminism is “the social, political and economic equality of the sexes.” It’s about shared roles and responsibilities in the family, workplace and community between men and women, and it challenges traditional gender stereotypes. The feminist movement has created equal opportunity in many arenas. However, there’s still a wage gap and imbalance in executive and political leadership. Research also shows that far too many girls opt out of challenging academic programs and opportunities to lead because they are afraid of being smarter than boys and because their leadership traits are often labeled as “bossy.” Feminism is not dead – we need to continue to challenge ourselves to ensure gender-balanced leadership for the future.  –  Ginny Marino, CEO, Girl Scouts of Central & Southern New Jersey



KristinaThe idea that a feminist is an angry, man-hating and braless woman is a wild misconception. In reality, a feminist is someone (of either gender) who believes that men and women deserve equal rights and opportunities in our society. Since we have yet to achieve this equality, I believe that feminism is more needed than ever before. Until there is equality, I believe that feminism is a torch passed on from one generation to the next. There are countless young women today fighting for the same cause as their great-grandmothers, and with the same spirit as those who have joined women’s suffrage before them.  –  Kristina Coia, Singer/Songwriter



There were two waves of feminism. The first wave in the early 19th century dealt with women’s suffrage, which ended with the 19th Amendment giving women the right to vote. The second wave started in the ’60s, where feminism dealt with broader issues around cultural inequalities, reproductive rights and social disparities. In this wave, feminism is a continuing movement that needs to constantly recruit new members – from both genders.  –  Val Traore, CEO, Food Bank of South Jersey





Men and women are different, and frankly I think that’s a good thing. The real question is, do men and women have equal opportunities? In some ways, women are doing better than men – just look at higher education trends in both admissions and performance. However, public policies like equal pay and family leave continue to be debated. Young women should recognize and appreciate the battles fought for them by early feminists, because we have come a long way. But it’s just as important to seize the opportunities provided today and make the most of life. There has never been more opportunity for women.  –  Toni Pergolin, President/CEO, Bancroft



When I started my business career some 38 years ago, it was a man’s world and still is today. Many changes in feminism have taken place – just not enough. I don’t waste my time crying about it or even giving it much thought. More importantly, I stay focused on my goals – what I want to accomplish – and give no time to “I am woman, hear me roar,” even if it is similar to my last name. One of my favorite quotes, “There is no elevator to success, you have to take the stairs,” applies whether you are male or female.  –  Linda Rohrer, President, Rohrer & Sayers Real Estate



In the 1970s, there were thousands of vocal women – feminists – who pushed hard for women’s rights in the workplace. They made their voices heard and opened doors, but many early feminists polarized the workplace.The pioneering women who led the way to the C-suite weren’t so vocal. They were smart, assertive and learned to play the game. They cracked the glass ceiling.I was working on the first National Women’s Liberation Day of my generation – April 17, 1971. I did not burn my bra, but I did wear a pantsuit to work. Today’s “feminists” need to figure out how to shatter that glass ceiling completely and move up into the boardroom.  –  Anne Sceia Klein, President, Anne Klein Communications Group


Mindy-Holman-headshot-2013To me, feminism implies that men and women are equal. Men and women are not equal – we have different strengths and abilities by and large, and those differences should be celebrated. A woman who wants to strive for a top position in her career should be given every opportunity to do so. A woman who chooses not to reach for the next rung on the ladder, because it will impact her family life, should be supported for knowing her priorities. And a woman who chooses to stay home with her kids should be proud of that decision. A woman should be empowered to make the right choice for her.  –  Mindy Holman, President/CEO, Holman Automotive



Feminism is not dead and has nothing to do with male-bashing rhetoric. It does, however, have everything to do with honoring and respecting womanhood. The goals of feminism are eliminating gender inequality, empowering women and promoting the idea that a woman’s right is an essential human right. As women, we have had to overcome many obstacles. Unfortunately, there are many more to confront. We still have to protect our reproductive rights, fight for equal pay and eradicate violence against women. Feminism is a movement embodied by strong women who are not afraid to make their voices known in the face of injustice. There-fore, as women we are obligated to stand up, speak out and be heard in the name of our sisters.  –  Assemblywoman Gabriela Mosquera,  4th Legislative District


KassekertFeminism is alive and well in 2014, but perhaps not with the images or gusto of 50 years ago. I see it more today as “W4W” or “Women for Women.” It’s wonderful to see young women pushing forward and pursuing careers and fields of study historically dominated by men without limiting thoughts or notions. I see women in general more comfortable with their choices today, whatever they may be. I encourage all women, and especially young women, to support each other fully with compassion and without judgment, and to perfect the art of sponsorship. Women are an incredible and positive force, provided women understand they need each other to continue to advance and move forward.  –  Denise Kassekert,  Founder, Kassekert and Associates


Twenty-first-century equality is more than just feminism. Yes, there are still Stone Age men (and women), glass ceilings and the like. But larger issues plague our lives today: denial of voting rights, ridiculously high pay scales for the entitled and low pay scales for those trying to make it, inadequate child care for men and women raising families, and advertising campaigns that degrade women, men, children, all races, religions and lifestyles. As a society, we need to embrace human rights above all. Our role models should exist at all levels of the community, and children must be taught that they are a part of the community with responsibilities for it. We all must be held accountable for our actions. It is not about the best preschool, expensive prom gown or elite athletic trainer; it is all about being the best you can be and helping one another. Creating a caring world where everyone has a role will require everyone’s involvement.  –  Camy Trinidad, Executive Director, American Red Cross, South Jersey Region

What young girls and young women need to recognize about feminism is that just because more women are in power positions today than they were 20 or 30 years ago doesn’t mean the movement is over. It’s a constant that evolves every day. Feminism is more than getting the CEO job or the same salary as a man. It’s recognizing your self-worth as a woman. It’s about respecting yourself. It’s about realizing you are more than a suggestive selfie or status post. It’s about respecting other women and supporting them. It’s about standing up for yourself when the world seems against you and knowing you truly are worth it.  –   Kelli Cochran-West, Director of Community Education, Mental Health Association in Southwestern New Jersey

July 2014
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