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March 2017 - President's Message
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President's Message - MARCH

Stacy Horth-Neubert
WLALA President 2016-2017

 Feminism is Right Where You Belong:

Celebrating Women's History Month

 

Over the last few weeks, I have read with dismay news stories that feel like they were pulled out of another era entirely:

·         An anonymous person or group paid for a billboard in North Carolina that declares "Real men provide[.]  Real women appreciate it."  And a whole bunch of folks are defending its message.[1]

·         An op-ed on Fox News – written by a woman – creatively employed everyday "busy woman" rhetoric to argue that the key to a happy marriage is for the wife to acquiesce to her husband's points of view.[2]

·         There is a running debate among commentators over what women should do, if anything, to support Kellyanne Conway in the face of sexist comments and ridicule about her appearance.[3]

Let me pause over that last one for a minute.  On a personal level, I disagree with Ms. Conway on almost every issue and in almost every way.  But one way in which I always will side with her -- and every woman -- is in opposition to sexism.[4]  That is simply not an acceptable way to disagree with someone.  Period.  It's 2017, for crying out loud! 

It's also March, Women's History Month.  This is a month in which:

"America honors the celebrated women pioneers and leaders in our history, as well as those unsung women heroes of our daily lives.  We honor those outstanding women, whose contributions to our Nation's life, culture, history, economy, and families have shaped us and helped us fulfill America's promise."[5]

The theme for Women's History Month 2017 is "Honoring Trailblazing Women in Labor and Business."[6]  "The 2017 theme for National Women’s History Month honors women who have successfully challenged the role of women in both business and the paid labor force.  Women have always worked, but often their work has been undervalued and unpaid."[7]  I dare say that is a theme women lawyers can understand and appreciate.

In celebration of Women's History Month, and in defiance of the backwards views that are polluting our news stories of late, I'd like to invite each and every one of you to embrace (or re-embrace) a label that Ms. Conway herself has hesitated to don:  FEMINISM.  

Despite the hype to the contrary, every decent, fair-minded human being – whatever your gender or political persuasion – should be able to call himself or herself a "Feminist."  Feminism is:

"the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities"

— Merriam-Webster.[8] 

I would like to think this is an unobjectionable concept.  "Feminism is about the opportunity for a woman to choose whatever path in her life she wants, but, also to have the same rights as her male counterparts, whether in the boardroom or the bedroom."[9]

Of course, I recognize the term has been artificially ascribed negative connotations, most commonly those Conway herself has described, i.e., feminism is somehow anti-male.  There are no doubt numerous scholarly articles about how it is that "feminist" became a dirty word in our culture.  Some commentators blame Rush Limbaugh, who, over a period of 20 years, has repeatedly used the term "feminazi" to refer to powerful women who have voiced opinions with which he disagrees.[10]  On the flip side, there are those who criticize "feminism" as becoming too mainstream, and not disruptive enough of the patriarchy,[11] or too focused on the achievements of white women.[12]

There is no doubt some truth in these and other criticisms of "feminism," and the debate over the meaning of little "f" "feminism" is worth having.  But in celebration of Women's History Month, I am making an appeal to the lawyers out there:  let's all agree that we are capital "F" "Feminists," as that term is defined, i.e., we Feminists believe that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities.  Go ahead, call yourself a Feminist, engage in Feminist activities, support your fellow Feminists, this month and beyond.  Say it with me, "I am a Feminist."  Because Feminism is Right Where You Belong.



[1]       Doug Criss, Debate breaks out over North Carolina billboard, CNN (Feb. 23, 2017), available at http://www.cnn.com/2017/02/23/us/nc-billboard-protest-trnd/.

[2]       See Suzanne Venker, Want a happy marriage?  Try saying "OK' once in a while (really), Fox News (Jan. 5, 2017).

[3]       See Anne Helen Peterson, The Softening of Kellyanne Conway, Buzzfeed News Reader (Mar. 5, 2017), available at https://www.buzzfeed.com/annehelenpetersen/the-softening-of-kellyanne-conway?utm_term=.jcbRWpAy6a#.fbMvLdAOKD; Susan Chira, Sexist Political Criticism Find a New Target:  Kellyanne Conway, NY Times (Mar. 5, 2017).

[4]       And yes, this is true even though she works for a man who has frequently ridiculed women for their appearance – like I said, I personally disagree with her about almost everything.  For a nuanced view on this conundrum of supporting Conway despite her own rejection of feminism, see Peterson, supra n.3.

[5]       Women's History Month, 2017, By the President of the United States of American, A Proclamation (March 1, 2017), available at https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2017/03/01/president-donald-j-trump-proclaims-march-2017-womens-history-month.

[6]       National Women's History Project: Writing Women Back Into History, 2017 Theme and 2017 Honorees, available at http://www.nwhp.org/womens-history-month/2017-honoree-nominations/.

[7]       Id.

[8]       Definition, available at https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/feminism.

[9]       See Suzi Parker, It's time for women to take back the word "feminism," The Washington Post (Feb. 8, 2013), available at https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/she-the-people/wp/2013/02/08/its-time-for-women-to-take-back-the-word-feminism/?utm_term=.755d66c0d7a8.

[10]     See Suzi Parker, It's time for women to take back the word "feminism," The Washington Post (Feb. 8, 2013), available at https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/she-the-people/wp/2013/02/08/its-time-for-women-to-take-back-the-word-feminism/?utm_term=.755d66c0d7a8.

[11]     Eli Raddo, 'Why I am Not a Feminist' asks necessary questions, The Michigan Daily (Mar. 5, 2017), available at https://www.michigandaily.com/section/arts/not-feminist-book-review (discussing book by Jessa Crispin).

[12]     See Barbar Sostalta, This Women's History Month, I Refuse to Celebrate Your Feminism, Huffington Post (Mar. 2, 2016), available at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/barbara-sostaita-/this-womens-history-month-i-refuse-to-celebrate-your-feminism_b_9352370.html.

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