All three of my daughters were adamant about making one thing clear: they were not, in any way, feminists. So I asked a question: “When you get a job, do you think you should be paid the same amount as a man?”

Of course they did. So I was adamant about making one thing clear to them: “Then you are feminists.”

I don’t know if they believed me. They’ve formed so many negative associations with the word feminism, they have decided it’s a club they don’t want to join. They see a feminist as a woman who is loud and in-your-face; someone who lets everyone know they hate men, and someone who doesn’t get excited over a great pair of shoes. Their vision of these women is something you might have if you lived through the ’70s, which none of them did. So it’s interesting to me that they’ve formed these opinions, especially when the one woman who influences them the most – me – is pretty vocal about her feminist views, and I happen to love fabulous shoes.

Our conversation was the impetus for an article running this month: “Demystifying Feminism.” I asked different women to send me their thoughts – in about 100 words – on feminism. I expected to get varied opinions, and that was OK; contrary views would make an interesting piece. But I was surprised at just how different these opinions were – and how different they were from my own perspective. One of the first replies I received was from Kathy Orr, a successful meteorologist (a field once dominated by men) on CBS3. She started her piece like this: “If you asked me, ‘Are you a feminist?’ I would say, ‘No.’”

I was shocked. (I was happy, too, because shocking thoughts always make for a good article.) Of all the women

I know, I consider Kathy a feminist. Her words went on to explain her views, and it all made sense. She has beliefs similar to my daughters; she shares the principles of feminism but rejects the word.

As more replies came in, it was obvious that this simple word strikes a chord in everyone – but not the same chord. Feminism means different things to different women, and age doesn’t determine what your opinion will be. A young singer from Marlton, 22-year-old Kristina Coia, adamantly supports feminism. She writes: “Until there is equality, I believe that feminism is a torch passed on from one generation to the next.”

I’m not sure how these varying views developed, but they are solidly formed. And yet at the very core of each of these women, they would fight for equal pay, equal rights, equal everything for women. They just wouldn’t fight to be considered a feminist. In fact, they might fight you if they heard you describe them that way.

Of course, the name or the label isn’t all that important; what matters is the work still to be done – work that was started by some pretty loud, some might say obnoxious, women. But maybe those women had reason for their fury, and many of us have benefited from the revolution they started.

When you read the short pieces from these SJ women, you’ll see that no matter what they name their philosophy, they all share a belief that women should never be stopped  from doing what they want because of their gender. I call that feminism, but others don’t have to. We just have to agree on the concepts, then work together to put them into action.

July 2014
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