March 6th, 2013
On My Mind

Feminism Today

Gloria Steinem

Last evening I went to hear Gloria Steinem speak. She was on a panel comprised of women who had participated in the documentary MAKERS: The Women Who Make America. Ms. Steinem was amazing, especially considering that she is just shy of 79.

Despite the fabulous Ms. Steinem, I found the talk uneven and the moderator a tad patronizing toward the feminist star and her generation. Regardless, I was struck by the question “what is feminism today?”.  Am I a feminist? By definition, yes. Do I call myself a feminist? No, I don’t. I feel that the term represents the women who came before me; the ones who fought for rights I now take for granted. But I think this is naive, and I am wondering why many women today refuse to apply the term to themselves.


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  • “Feminist” became a very loaded word. I also find it a bit outdated now. I can’t think of a better term at the moment, but I’ll think about it.

    KathyMarch 6th, 2013  1:01 PM

  • I am a feminist and not ashamed of it one bit! It is not a dirty word in my book.

    AlyMarch 6th, 2013  1:12 PM

  • I agree with Kathy, it’s a loaded word and carries certain connotations today that are now obsolete. Like everything living it has evolved, this is a great post and deserves further thinking from me too.

    TabithaMarch 6th, 2013  1:23 PM

  • Caitlin Moran’s book How to Be a Woman addresses this. It’s a fantastic, modern and very funny book.

    cherylMarch 6th, 2013  1:36 PM

  • I second cheryl’s comment re: How to be a Woman – I’m in the middle of it right now and Ms. Moran says that to answer that questions (am i a feminist) you should ask yourself, “do i care about women” and if the answer is yes, then YES you are a feminist.

    Amy SMarch 6th, 2013  1:50 PM

  • An advocate for women’s rights today, in my opinion, should mean someone who recognizes the value of women in all aspects of society and wants to see each women achieve her personal vision of success. I think the term “feminist” is problematic today as a label because I think it automatically alligns one with positions and causes that aren’t necessarily embraced by all women and should not have to be. We are big on classifying people as being “for” or “against” women on very narrow parameters. Going forward women need to be broader minded or else we will become part of the problem.

    AprilMarch 6th, 2013  1:51 PM

  • I think the reason it is so loaded is because it was hijacked and put about that it was unattractive, distasteful, undesireable – but this was done by those threatened by the idea that women are in fact people too. So, I do identify as a feminist, because I believe women and men should equally participate in all levels of society, which is what the word means. We can only combat it’s negative usage by insisting on it in the true sense.

    ValerieMarch 6th, 2013  2:01 PM

  • I am 32 and have no problem calling myself a feminist, particularly given the fact that women’s rights are compromised in most parts of the world. I know plenty of men who are feminists too, so the supposed connotations of the word have never bothered me. And I don’t think feminists need to agree on everything, so long as we focus on expanding women’s rights.

    AmmuMarch 6th, 2013  2:02 PM

  • Hear, hear to April. I am about to be 60 and have avoided being called a feminist because it meant I was exclusionary to other women. We should be about supporting ALL women. Women can do and should do everything! Well said April!

    Pam@over50feeling40March 6th, 2013  2:04 PM

  • I heard Marlo Thomas speak on this same documentary a few weeks back and wrote about it in my blog. I too shy away from labels so I have found a way to easily explain my stance to others. I simply say that I believe women deserve the same right as men, and I am therefore a feminist. Here is a link to my interview with a producer of the documentary.

    The SentimentalistMarch 6th, 2013  2:26 PM

  • Keep the dialogue going. Although I consider myself a feminist, I never was comfortable its connotations and MS (mis)representation. For present, let’s focus on every girl in our collective and individual lives. Rally support for “Girl Rising” wherever you can.

    Mary Lou EvansMarch 6th, 2013  2:29 PM

  • This post is one of the reasons that I truly like this blog. While I love fashion and all things chic, I love the fact that Keep It Chic also addresses issues that make us think….

    Brenda CraigMarch 6th, 2013  2:33 PM

  • I am about to be 62. I remember when girls were not allowed to wear pants to school. I remember when friends of mine had to get illegal abortions, if that is the way they chose to handle an unplanned pregnancy. I remember having to get my husband’s permission to get a credit card in my name…and I had my own income. Yes, I am a feminist – the changes that came into being thanks to Ms. Steinem and her contemporaries are not rights that women have to take advantage of…but they are there if women choose to use them. Being a feminist does not mean that you agree with everything every other feminist believes…but that you agree with the right of all women to choose their own path. There are many women today who subscribe to the Dr. Laura mentality that feminism led to the downfall of our society. That is very, very unfortunate indeed.

    bisbeeMarch 6th, 2013  2:35 PM

  • Last fall, I had this very discussion at dinner with a group of professors from a local university that started out as a “women’s college”. I said I thought it wasn’t necessary to call myself a “feminist” any more. I’m in my mid 50’s, I’m a professional in what was once a male-dominated field and I believe very much in equality. I thought I no longer needed to characterize myself as anything but a human! Boy, did I get an earful from my dinner companions! Now, more than ever it is important not to shy away from the word “feminist”. It’s important for young people to understand that feminism is not a dirty word. And that women like me who wear pencil skirts and Manolos can be, and in fact, are committed feminists who believe in equality for all. That dinner conversation changed my POV. I’m a feminist and I’ve started using the “f” (feminist) word again.

    RobbiMarch 6th, 2013  2:36 PM

  • I absolutely consider myself to be pro-woman. But I guess I think of myself as a “people-ist,”
    since women hold up half the sky (to quote the old adage), bearing and raising girl and boy babies. Life is less good for the entire population when women are subjugated and treated as property.

    ToryMarch 6th, 2013  2:44 PM

  • What a great conversation you have started here. Yes, I am a feminist. We have come a long way (thanks to Gloria and many others) but this is a movement that must continue to grow and evolve as we do. As the world does.

    AbigailMarch 6th, 2013  2:57 PM

  • I am a feminist! I am who I am today because of what all those women did for me!
    We live in a world where half of it considereds women to be second class citizens.
    So I embrace the title and I carry it proudly and I will fight to keep all the rights they won for me.

    LeahMarch 6th, 2013  3:24 PM

  • I am sooo glad you posted this! It is so important that women spread the word that Feminism is not a bad or dirty word. The more women use it, the better the word becomes. I feel it is our duty, the very least we can do to honor the women who came before, the somen who will come after us. Go go go Gloria and all the rest of us women who now celebrate every aspect of ourselves thanks to the women’s movement.

    p.s. Love your site and read it every day. That’s why it’s so awesome that you posted about this.

    LisaMarch 6th, 2013  4:27 PM

  • It is interesting and encouraging that this particular post has garnered so many responses.

    ValerieMarch 6th, 2013  4:44 PM

  • I am definitely a feminist (because I believe in equality for all people), and I proudly use the word. I don’t think it got coopted by anyone– I think there are segments of society that don’t want things to change who tried to make the word sound scary (whereas it’s now somehow acceptable for women to address other women or themselves as “bitches”– how is that better??). What we say and do matters, and because I want more opportunities for both my daughter and son (and all children), I will continue to proudly use the word. When more people openly use the word feminist to describe themselves (who are in no way scary or frightened by the word), it’ll become less of a “dirty” word.

    AlexandraMarch 6th, 2013  7:00 PM

  • Great post, fabulous blog! How can one possibly be chic if one is not a feminist in this day and age? There are still many people trying to take hard earned women’s rights away!

    KateMarch 6th, 2013  7:29 PM

  • I am 53 and will always call myself a feminist, and proudly. What women want and need to participate fully in society is bound to change with the times. But how can we stop fighting until women truly have equal rights? Equal Rights is not an old-fashioned term. I see the term Post-Feminism as a dangerous phrase to lull us into complacency! We need to be always on guard and to keep up the fight.

    RobbieMarch 6th, 2013  8:20 PM

  • While at university in the 90’s I took a ‘Women’s Studies’ paper and was taught that a feminist is a woman who supports other women. I support women regardless of race, colour, creed or age. Therefore I am a feminist.

    StephanieMarch 6th, 2013  8:22 PM

  • Many thanks, Preston, for providing a forum for such an important discussion! What a great example of women pulling together – even in this small way through your blog – to talk about and support one another in women’s rights and issues! Kudos to all who took the time to respond and keep this essential dialogue going!

    SheriMarch 6th, 2013  8:57 PM

  • Feminists are thought to be aggressive not just assertive. They fought and fight for a cause. Cokie Roberts speaks well on the defitition and the cause. My Mother would never want to be called a feminist. She was a Good Mother and worked hard, played hard and brought fashion to a new level in Houston and Chicago in the 1950’s, just as her Mother did in New York the 1940’s, 1950’s and 1960’s.

    NinnaMarch 6th, 2013  9:07 PM

  • I’ve always considered myself a feminist. I was reading this book and thought I should post three sentences from it: “It has been popular in recent years to laugh at feminism as one of history’s jokes: to pity, sniggering , those old fashioned feminists who fought for women’s rights to higher education, careers, the vote. They were neurotic victims of penis envy who wanted to be men, it is said now. In battling for women’s freedom to participate in the major work and decisions of society as the equals of men, they denied their very nature as women, which fulfills itself only through sexual passivity, acceptance of male domination and nurturing motherhood.” That was written 50 years ago and apparently it’s still true for some women. It’s from the Feminine Mystique which I’m just getting around to reading for my book club.

    DoreenMarch 6th, 2013  9:29 PM

  • Unfortunately, those who are reaping the benefits of the opportunities feminists worked so hard to achieve forty years ago prefer to dissassociate from “feminism” because it meant dedication, commitment and for many, sacrifice. The road was paved for them. They didn’t have to do the hard work.

    Marylyn HaspelMarch 6th, 2013  11:12 PM

  • Feminist and proud of it. Don’t be afraid of the word. Many women sacrificed for our rights today. And we take these rights for granted. The vote. Work. Abortion. Remember wasn’t always this way…

    Jane Dalea-KahnMarch 7th, 2013  2:03 AM

  • is it not fabulous that the most comments to be posted are in regard to a philosophical question rather than a chic question..
    we cant be chic if not equal..

    GillianMarch 7th, 2013  7:09 AM

  • Preston – You are so right. I always felt that I was taking credit for work I did not do by using the term ‘feminist’. But perhaps we should rethink that stance….after all, we still espouse the same beliefs! I heard an interview with Ms. Steinem on the BBC’s Hard Talk and loved the idea that equality and non violence toward women in the home is what will lead to equality and non violence everywhere else. So whatever we achieve in our own homes, our communities, and around the world to further equality will multiply exponentially. Such an obvious conclusion!

    Audrie HaagMarch 7th, 2013  8:25 AM

  • I think most women today are feminists. If anyone asks of course the answer’s yes – we just don’t need to shout it from the rooftops. It’s a given.

    That's Not My AgeMarch 7th, 2013  9:59 AM

  • Unfortunately, it is NOT a given these days. The subject needs to be discussed and brought to the forefront. It is a sad state of affairs that in this day and age the same discussions need to be held…but they do.

    bisbeeMarch 7th, 2013  10:35 AM

  • Who isn’t a feminist at these times..I guess we all are. We used to talk about it alot more when we were younger. In the nineties, I chose to do my masters degree about black women writers like Toni Morrison and Alice walker. The book Sula was my favorite book and Beaches was my favorite movie.. is not an itch, it is a right. We all demand respect,we have earned it..we deserve it.

    AmelMarch 7th, 2013  11:49 AM

  • just an edit to my comment—neglected the “with”—
    A major movement forward has been the expansion of information and diverse points of view in fashion forums like this.

    Mary Lou EvansMarch 7th, 2013  11:56 AM

  • I was also at the “Makers” talk with Gloria Steinam. What perhaps struck me most, was the video clip of Marissa Mayer stating that the word “feminist” had negative connotations and that she was not a feminist because she didnt have a “chip on her shoulder” and wasnt militant….hmmmm I am still stewing over that. I might phrase it such that ‘I hadnt earned the right to call myself a feminist’. I’ve done nothing more than benefit and sometimes take for granted what earlier generation of women fought so hard for.
    Looking forward to reading Sheryl Sandberg’s “Lean In” which addresses women’s issues that “never entered Betty Friedan’s wildest dreams”. Thank you all for very interesting dialogue.

    Lisa EastmanMarch 7th, 2013  3:17 PM

  • Spending time and energy focused on one’s gender and whether or not you are being treated well and fairly is a waste of time. Get busy, work hard, prove yourself, improve your talents and skills. True leaders, whether they are male or female, don’t sit around and whine about unfairness or how tough things were in the past. I grew up in the era of ‘feminists,’ who were mainly angry women who refused to shave their legs and underarms. It never appealed to me. The free market will always find the most qualified person, whether it is male or female, no matter the ethnicity, no matter the hair style. Talent will always be a marketable skill and fine a place where it is valued; the truly talented rise to the top. The term ‘women’s issues’ makes me cringe! How many men sit around and discuss ‘men’s issues’ in the workplace? Victimology has gone viral. Time to pull up our big girl pants and stop navel gazing.

    PaulineMarch 9th, 2013  1:42 AM

  • Pauline,

    your unfortunate stereotype of feminists says more about your values than you think. Please get your head out of the sand and appreciate the enormous contribution to women’s economic and social well being made by those “unshaven” feminist pioneers. Ask talented women such as Ruth Bader Ginsberg or Sandra Day O’Conner how easy it was for them to “rise to the top” during their era–neither of these brilliant women could find work in a law office after excelling in law school. It took massive political change and the righteous anger you mock to allow today’s women to flourish in whatever calling they choose–be it work, motherhood or both. What really makes me cringe is your naive belief that this nation always stood for meritocracy and gender equality. Where have you been living?

    BMAMarch 9th, 2013  12:51 PM

  • Pauline,
    I don’t know you how old you are, but you are so wrong to say that the “free market will always find the most qualified person.” When I was in school in the 60’s we had to do a presentation on our future career goal and the only topics we could choose were secretary, teacher, nurse, model or stewardess. One of my sorority sisters was majoring in business, and she was told the only jobs that would be available to her were secretary or bank teller. We owe everything to the women of The Makers – we stand on their shoulders. Do not scoff at their contributions to our lives and those of our daughters.


    WiniMarch 9th, 2013  4:24 PM

  • Wini,
    You know what is naive? It is to think that Gloria Steinem is anything other than a minor pseudo-intellectual who enjoyed 20 minutes of fame. Will she be remembered or read 100 years from now? Not a chance. Stridency and contentiousness have their moments, but have no staying power. What lasts is greatness of spirit and ideas larger than just being bitter and hating men. It is not naive to grow up and get over the past, get to work, and create great things no matter what the obstacles or prejudice. That is what grown-ups do after they stop accusing those who disagree with them of being naive. xo

    PaulineMarch 10th, 2013  10:08 PM

  • Wow, what fun to read. I am approaching the Big 6-0, so I do recall the times before and after Gloria, Bella, et al. I agree with bits said by all posters here, and I can value the early feninists without endorsing all of their issues. Largely, however, feminism today has become alligned with one political ideology too closely, and by virtue of that, will be subjected to the rough and tumble that is politics today. Does it need to be? No, but to move out of that narrow perception and broadly embrace women as a whole it needs to put some effort in reaching out beyond the special interest factions and pandering politicians it has traditionally cultivated and open up to hear some new voices. It’s a whole new world out there, and if Gloria and company won’t adapt they will be left behind as part of the past. Supporting women is a broad concept, not a narrow agenda.

    AprilMarch 11th, 2013  11:26 AM

  • April,
    Thank you for weighing in here. You are exactly correct. The ‘feminists’ of today, especially those organized groups who claim to represent women’s voices, are nothing but an arm of the liberal left and have aligned themselves exclusively with the Democrat party. Feminists, including Gloria, don’t support all women. They support liberal women. There have been so many competent and talented women who, when they dared to express their own differing opinions and positions on policy, were maligned, targeted, and their characters attacked by the ‘women’s rights’ groups. Sadly, the role of ‘feminists’ today is one of taking out any woman who doesn’t agree with their ideology. And the new poster child of the movement–the girl who testified to Congress that someone else should pay for her and her fellow Georgetown female law students’ birth control pills and that it was causing them all trauma and stress to have to pay for it themselves, and then went on with fear mongering at the Democrat National Convention–well, she is about the poorest example of an independent, modern, smart, capable, strong, self supporting woman I could ever think of.

    PaulineMarch 11th, 2013  1:41 PM

  • Pauline,
    Your comments regarding Sandra Fluke are false and malicious. You have deliberately mischaracterized Sandra Flukes testimony before a congressional committee to aid your spurious attacks against feminism.

    Ms. Fluke advocates that employers include contraception coverage in their health care plans. She gave an example of a friend suffering from polycystic ovarian syndrome whose symptoms are alleviated by certain birth control pills. Sandra Flukes main contention was that women’s reproductive rights should focus on healthcare and not solely on the abortion issue. For this so called “fear mongering” as you call it, Sandra Fluke was branded ” a slut” by Rush Limbaugh.

    Shame on you Pauline for perpetuating the falsehoods about Sandra Fluke. As noted in a letter signed by Georgetown Law Faculty, every decent person should “abhor the attacks on Ms. Fluke and we applaud her strength and grace in the face of them.”

    BMAMarch 12th, 2013  2:06 PM

  • BMA,
    This response is exactly the problem with feminists today, that has cost them so much of their constituency: do not answer the argument of your opponent, but rather tell them they are malicious, shameful, bad persons who are disqualified from participating in the debate. Shout down your opponents when they get too close to the truth. That way you never have to address the argument at all! The wonderful thing about blogs is that no one gets shouted or ‘shamed’ out of the room.
    Ms. Fluke started by advocating for free birth control. The record on that is irrefutable. Just read the darn speech. When it became apparent that that sounded just plain silly coming from a person well able to pay her own way and clearly living a privileged life, her apologists changed the subject to general ovarian health. Can we find someone not in favor of ovarian health? Unfortunately, what Ms. Fluke wants for herself and her female friends imposes on other’s freedom and demands that the rest of us pay for her stuff.
    The feminist movement started as an effort to empower women, liberate them from reliance on others (like their nasty husbands), and get out there and make it happen on their own. Sadly (but rather funny, really), it has spiraled down into a group of women who roll out a new laundry list of demands four times a year. What happened to the voice for female self-reliance and supporting oneself? What happened to the voice for independence and self-control? What happened to “I can do this!” and picking up their own tab? As stated in previous posts, the feminists have joined the leftists who look to government to nanny them through life from cradle to grave (see ‘the life of Julia,’ from the Obama campaign), fixing every problem or challenge that comes their way. The attitude of entitlement and victim status will never serve women well. I have raised our daughter to expect rough patches, expect unfairness in life, accept personal responsibility for her decisions whatever they are, and get out there and compete on your own merits. I tell her she is not a special needs gender, and anyone who has achieved success, male or female, will tell you they got there through incredibly hard work and it was not always far and never easy.
    Signing off & all the best,

    PaulineMarch 12th, 2013  9:32 PM

  • Pauline,
    judging from the results of the last election and President Obama’s overwhelming female support, your views are a relic of the past.

    BMAMarch 13th, 2013  2:47 PM

  • I am a feminist. I am in my early thirties and I SAH with my kiddo. I am very liberal, and I am very grateful for the feminists who went before me and opened so many doors. It is a privilege to be able to choose between SAH and WOH, for one thing, not to mention all of the other options that they made possible.

    Lovely blog, lovely post!

    JaneMarch 13th, 2013  10:54 PM

  • Great blog and posts! I am 60 and a feminist from the Steinem-era which transformed our society. My daughters and their fellow Millenials are living proof of this transformation as they raise families with partners who share the burdens of balancing with dual careers. I am inspired by this generation whose focus goes well beyond ours of the 60s, to address global women’s issues as fundamental human rights, in changing cultural attitudes towards rape, honor killing and female circumcision, among other abuses. This is the challenge we must meet today- women must see themselves as equal, in all societies, in all regligions, all over the world.

    SusanMarch 19th, 2013  6:03 AM


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