An article in the New York Times, “Who Is a Feminist Now?” explored the willingness of celebrity women to self-identify as feminists. Those who didn’t identify as feminists gave reasons based on what Andi Zeisler called a “Fox News version of feminism.”
Those who eschew the label tend to think feminism is about women having more power than men, rather than equal power, and that it’s about taking from men rather than sharing equally.
The false narrative of feminism is that it’s about man hating and putting women above men. The idea that fighting the patriarchy helps men as well as women in multiple ways, including by fighting ridiculous gender expectations and limitations, doesn’t have a place in the imaginary feminism people shy away from.
Similarly, if you ask women whether they share their age, those who don’t share tend to base their decision on the false narrative about what it means to be a certain age, to be an older woman in general. They don’t see themselves in the aging stereotypes, so they don’t want others to assume those stereotypes are true.
The problem, of course, is that if we don’t start saying our age, our society will not have the examples it needs to disprove those stereotypes. We can’t rewrite the story of aging if we don’t allow ourselves to be a part of that story in the first place.
The same with feminism. Those who don’t label themselves feminist often agree with the actual tenets of feminism. Yet, we can’t change the false narrative about feminism if we don’t have people willing to step forward and show the world that this is what a real feminist looks like—women and men at all ages and stages who believe in human rights, equality, and a better future for all of us.
One point raised in the Times article that was particularly interesting is that many more people identify with feminism than as feminists. The focus on feminism and its real-world goals is less polarizing than focusing on a label we affix to ourselves.
I still think that owning the label feminist and owning our age are crucial steps to take in changing how society views and treats women and people in midlife and beyond. But focusing on the goals and the concepts of feminism and changing the story of aging is also a step we can all take toward a future in which we culturally embrace the potential in all, transcending age and gender, . . . an ageless future.
Do you call yourself a feminist? Are you open about your age?