The F Word: Coming to Terms with “Feminism”

Feminism. It’s a loaded word. Depending who you ask it can have a positive or negative connotation, and people’s individual definitions start to stack up pretty fast.

screaming woman pixy

I’ve never liked the word feminism. I’m one of those people who has often referred to it as a term for man-hating women pushing to have more rights than men. Hearing from a few male friends, they feel that the word “feminism” simply sounds like it is about championing women over men. And since sexism and genderism have already been taken, perhaps we need to be looking at the meaning of feminism more than the word itself. I believe it is time to take a step back and get to the core of what it truly means to be a feminist.

Revisiting Feminism

At its most basic point, feminism is about women having equal opportunities to their male counterparts. This doesn’t mean that there should be sex-based affirmative action where women who are underqualified are selected for opportunities simply because they are female, but women should be allowed to try anything. In [amazon template=product&asin=B00IY1JCTW], the comedian says, “Stop telling girls they can be anything they want when they grow up. I think it’s a mistake, not because they can’t but because it would’ve never occurred to them they couldn’t.”

medical career

Using Silverman’s quote as a true example of women being able to think and do anything, I have three resilient examples of the strength of women that come immediately to mind.

I think first to my sorority (actually a fraternity itself because the word sorority was not in use at the time of its founding), which was established by a few strong, educated women who believed they should be allowed to have their own organization. Not simply be pinned as honorary members of a men’s fraternity. I continue to give back to this organization as a volunteer so that the strengths of my sisters both young and old are nourished and developed, demonstrating our myriad of abilities in our businesses, our communities and our families.

I think secondly to the United States Navy. (Yes, the U.S. Military made this list.) A notification due by July 1, 2015 will determine whether women will be allowed to qualify as Navy SEALs starting in 2016. Women testing for this opportunity must meet the same requirements as their male counterparts. The success in this story is not how many women will actually be accepted, but that a trial run of 30 female candidates was successful and the outlook is favorable for women gaining the opportunity to try for admission into one of the military’s most elite ranks.

Finally my mind turns to A Mighty Girl, which self describes as “the world’s largest collection of books, toys, and movies for parenting, teachers, and others dedicated to raising smart, confident, and courageous girls.” A Mighty Girl champions girls to have a realistic view of themselves and to pursue any dreams they choose, letting young women know they can succeed in their own right. The work of A Mighty Girl puts into action Silverman’s words – don’t tell girls they can’t do something because they would never have supposed otherwise.

Feminism and Career

An article published earlier this month in Newsweek titled “What Silicon Valley Thinks of Women” (the magazine’s cover image is a basic tell-all), shows just how relevant career resources for gender equality are today. Sites like, a career resource site for female entrepreneurs, and Glassbreakers, a “safe, supportive and dynamic online community for professional women,” are continually relevant for women looking to make something of themselves in all areas of what is still a very male-centered business world.

Recently, Abbi Gabasa, Managing Editor for Ms. Career Girl, Jason Batansky, the company’s owner, and I had a wonderful opportunity to speak with Tim Muma at about Ms. Career Girl and the importance of having well-rounded career resources geared specifically for women. Listening to the shared views of Abbi, Jason, and myself as we spoke with Tim, I found opportunity to revisit the idea of being a feminist, and not in my own preconceptions of it as a radical label, but as a title of strength and opportunity for women to continue to grow and succeed in business and in life. As we say at Ms. Career Girl – you CAN have it all – a booming career, a happy family, loving relationships and a solid sense of self, that is, if you put in the conscious effort to claim it.

It is with my newly defined understanding of the idea of feminism that I will continue to educate men and women, and push for gender equality in life and in the workplace. As a friend said recently, “We’ve got to fight this good fight together. And it’s not just women. Men need to be supportive too, they have to believe in equality, too.”

Have something to say about Alissa’s thoughts on Feminism? Let her know in the comments below or tweet us @mscareergirl. 

Alissa M. Trumbull

Alissa M. Trumbull recently co-founded #BizGalz, a Twitter chat starting in September 2015 geared for women in all stages of life and career. She is also one-half of the Social Outlaws, a new blog dedicated to the areas of social media and social business. Passionate about business ethics, Alissa seeks opportunities to strengthen individuals and organizations through the application of best practices and human understanding. She is also a graphic designer, voracious reader, and fitness enthusiast. Always remember that the more love you pour into the world, the greater your reward. Don't be afraid to risk for what's important!

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