FEM­I­NIST MYS­TIQUE

Elle (Canada) - - Editor's Note - Noreen Flana­gan Ed­i­tor-in-Chief Follow me on Twit­ter and In­sta­gram @noreen_ flana­gan We love hear­ing from you! Please write to us at ed­i­tors@ellecanada.com.

be­fore I wrote this note, I asked a num­ber of women from var­i­ous age groups whether they de­fine them­selves as fem­i­nists. Their an­swers both sur­prised and en­light­ened me. One woman in her mid-60s, who has led a re­mark­ably in­de­pen­dent and ad­ven­tur­ous life, said it never dawned on her to use the term to de­scribe her­self. “I never thought for one minute that I didn’t have the same rights as men,” she said. “I al­ways did what I wanted.” Another woman, who came of age dur­ing the late ’70s—a wa­ter­shed mo­ment in the move­ment’s his­tory—said she would de­scribe her­self as a fem­i­nist but has never ac­tu­ally said “I’m a fem­i­nist.” “I read The Fem­i­nine Mys­tique when I was in my late teens, and it changed my life,” she said. “It in­flu­enced my views about ca­reers, mar­riage, hav­ing ba­bies... ev­ery­thing. I still see ev­ery­thing through a fil­ter of ‘fem­i­nism.’ Gen­der in­equal­ity is ev­ery­where, not just in Third World coun­tries.” I also spoke with a pro­fes­sional woman in her early 30s. “A fem­i­nist?” she replied, when I asked her what it means to her. “Oh, I don’t re­ally think about it that much. Should I? It has never been an is­sue for me. I’m more in­ter­ested in hu­man rights.” Then I sat down with two twen­tysome­things. “If be­ing a fem­i­nist means that there’s equal­ity for men and women—which is how Emma Wat­son de­fined it in her UN ad­dress—then I’m a fem­i­nist,” said one. “For our gen­er­a­tion, there’s still this as­so­ci­a­tion that to be a fem­i­nist means you’re a man-hater,” added the other. “The def­i­ni­tion gets in the way of the goals. That said, I would still say I’m a fem­i­nist.” When Wat­son spoke at the UN, she said she was sur­prised to learn that fem­i­nism is such an un­pop­u­lar word. “If you still hate the word,” she said, “it is not the word that is im­por­tant but the idea and the am­bi­tion be­hind it.” So, am I a fem­i­nist? Yes, but, like some of th­ese women, I iden­tify more with the goals than the term. Prag­matic by na­ture, I would rather work to­ward change than con­tend with any mis­con­cep­tions the word may con­jure. It’s not just a ques­tion of se­man­tics; I ap­pre­ci­ate that words are im­mensely pow­er­ful. Per­haps the cur­rent fourth wave, with its pop-cul­ture cham­pi­ons like Wat­son, Bey­oncé, Lena Dun­ham and oth­ers, will re­brand its mean­ing so that women and men, re­gard­less of their age, will feel com­fort­able an­nounc­ing to the world that they are fem­i­nists.

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