Ladies, I believe that we are on the verge of something really exciting. A change to our future economy and capitalism. A demographic shift where baby boomers are retiring and where millennials and women will be stepping in to replace them, and I know I am not alone in feeling the energy in this shift. Sallie Krawcheck, chair of the Ellevate Network and Ellevate Asset Management, recently discussed her thoughts on this in an interview with PBS that really sparked some things in me. And I've been thinking about a woman's advancement in this day and age and the choices she has to make in order to find her own success or happiness. With these choices comes the knowledge and responsibility to continue the mission of our grandmothers and mothers who fought so hard for our rights back in the sixties and seventies (or earlier). I have so much respect for the women who went before me. I've always felt bonded to them and their feminism movement, as-if I was a part of their (modern day) gutsy and daring sisterhood. This sisterhood started out as the disadvantaged, dehumanized, discriminated against and exploited gender that didn't take no for an answer. When they were told they couldn't or shouldn't, they did it anyway. When they were told that they were weak or stupid, they proved them wrong. When they were told that they had little worth or value to the political, economic, social and cultural world, they started a movement and made historical changes to our society and women's rights.
And a few things have really been bothering me lately. Are we living in a state of failure for the modern day feminist? Is feminism dead? What has happened to this generation of women that is too scared or too ashamed to call themselves a feminist? And why is there a movement of women against feminism? Have we lost our marbles? Are we confused about the progress we've made? Or are we just tired of the never ending war to choose one side over the other? It seems to me that we have set ourselves up for failure because we haven't defined what the modern day feminist needs (is it still equality?) and because now we are making it a woman vs. woman thing. If we are going to pin ourselves against each other, instead of supporting each other, than we are certainly doomed.
I believe the war on "this side" (right) vs. "that side" (wrong) has caused us to pause and has hindered our progress. Who is making up the rules ladies? And why must we choose between one side or the other? Here are a few everyday examples…
- Career vs. Family
- Me 1st vs. Family 1st
- Pinterest Mom vs. Guilt Ridden Mom
- Stay at Home Mom vs. Working Mom
- Bossy Girls vs. Weak Girls
- Princess (Feminine) vs. Powerful (Masculine)
I feel like we have let down the sisterhood and started taking NO for an answer. We have let them down by fighting amongst ourselves, instead of advocating for our rights and standing up for each other's happiness. We have clearly let them down when you feel like you need to take a side and choose between Leaning In or Leaning Back? We have let them down by making posters that say "I don't need feminism" and posting them on social media for the world to see.
My friend Jen Rozenbaum had an interesting perspective on this topic recently and she said, "I want to have women’s rights. I want to be able to succeed politically, socially and economically. I don’t however want to be like a man. I want my attributes as a woman to lead to my success. I want someone to hire me BECAUSE of what makes me, ME." I agree with her wholeheartedly on this. Another article titled "The Princess Effect" discusses how women's magazines demean powerful women - even when they're trying to celebrate them and quotes Anna Wintour for saying, "the notion that a contemporary woman must look mannish in order to be taken seriously as a seeker of power is frankly dismaying. How has our culture come to this?"
When did it become a bad thing to be soft, nurturing or tender AND to combine it with brave, confident or powerful?? At what point did someone say you can't be them all? You have to choose feminine or masculine qualities but not both. Who is dictating our feminism anyway and the traits that we are born with? I think it's time for us to take back the word feminism and make it work for us! Let's put an end to the dichotomy that deprives us of being complete human beings. We might have failed at the "modern day feminism" according to Rush Limbaugh, so let's do what true leaders do and come back stronger from our failures and mistakes. Let's learn from our past struggles and triumph the way that courageous and resilient women do. Welcome to the fourth wave of feminism. The movement is growing strong and picking up speed.
So I want to know, what do we want this fourth wave of feminism to look like and how are we going to define this movement for ourselves?
- I want to see more examples of women putting their health and happiness first, so our children will learn that in order to love others we must (first) love ourselves.
- I'm confident that (together) we can abolish gender role expectations (heck, he can parent and clean just fine, and I know she can use power tools and run a nation!).
- I want to see women leading the workforce, polls and universe, simply because she is authentic and unstoppable! (It has nothing to do with her having a "pair", being a b!tch or acting like a man.)
- It's time for us to establish more flexible working hours and telecommuting jobs for mothers, and to provide her with small business training so she can create more jobs for herself and others.
- We need to take a stand for our daughters' futures and teach them about doing meaningful and purposeful work while also following their passions, so we can show them that you don't have to choose between career or family. They can co-exist today because we make our own rules (can I get an amen to that one?)!
- Women need to stop shaming each other (body, parenting, career, etc.) and start showing more compassion and support. It's time we had inclusive, open and welcoming dialogue with each other. We are all just trying to do our best, and our children (if we choose to have them) will learn and benefit from the encouragement.
- Our young girls need to learn how to build confidence, especially when it comes to believing in themselves, following their dreams, and knowing that they matter. Let's invest in the future of young women and in doing so I believe we will put an end to the devaluing of our gender and a woman's work (in and out of the home).
- Let's embrace who we are and celebrate our greatest strengths AND vulnerabilities, because we are more than just the stereotypes that you see in the stock images of feminists, parents or working moms. In fact, I want to rid us of these stereotypes because we are unique and extraordinary!
So in this spirit, I am launching my new personal photography project. #RedefineFeminism
I am looking for women models and I want you to help by commenting and tagging someone who you think fits the vision described here. You can even email me with more info if you feel compelled or want to be photographed in Connecticut! She is not one size fits all, nor does she look like me or you. She is unique and she is paving her own way…
She believes that she can have it all because she knows how to choose her priorities and honor herself in the process. She's a gutsy and visionary woman, and she isn't afraid to use her voice or be an advocate for what she believes in. She has experienced challenges along the way, and yet it has allowed her to live fiercely and go boldly in the direction of her dreams! She is idealistic and she believes that women can change the world. She has struggled with guilt and shame for her failures, and yet she remains confident and optimistic because she is not defined by them. She refuses to quit because she has this one life to live and she wants her contributions to matter (not just for herself but for the generations that follow). She empowers and unites others because it is a part of her human nature. She is unstoppable because she needs to feel alive!
Please join the conversation and let me know what else our feminism movement needs? Let's talk about who is doing this well and what she stands for, so we can lift her up and support her. Let's continue to elevate women and show the world that united we are stronger! I want to hear your thoughts and please share (and tag) this with anyone who you think this subject might speak to so we can continue the open, inclusive and welcoming dialogue. And here is mu very first model for this project. In Kate's own words...
I hope you'll join me in this movement to #RedefineFeminism in 2015!