What is a 21st Century Feminist?
With all the talk of a “war on women” during this explosive election year, the notion of feminism is once again in the news – and open to debate. Especially among women.
Nothing illustrates that better than the rash of commentary following the recent death of sexual-revolution era author Helen Gurley Brown, says Heather Huffman, a 35-year-old author whose newest book, “Devil in Disguise,” continues her tradition of upbeat romances featuring strong female protagonists.
“Some writers took her to task for advocating sexual freedom for women,” Huffman says. “They say she wasn’t a ‘feminist’ because she was all for promiscuity, not women’s rights, and her actions led to an explosion of single moms and STDs.
“Others viewed her as the ultimate ‘feminist,’ a heroine who chopped through a cultural thicket to break down repressive social mores.”
The truth is, Huffman says, that Brown did important work on behalf of women.
“While I don’t advocate promiscuity, I do acknowledge that Gurley Brown’s boundary-pushing stance brought the topic of women’s rights to the forefront, paving the way for change,” she says.
The problem is, she says, that when people hear the word “feminist,” they picture a woman from another time, like Helen Gurley Brown. They don’t see themselves at all.
“I hear some women say, ‘I’m not a feminist!’ They think a feminist is a strident, angry man-hater who gets up in arms over any perceived slight,” Huffman says. “That’s too bad, because the world needs feminists as much as it needs any group that advocates for human rights.”
Feminism changes with the times, she says. So what is a 21st century feminist? Huffman offers her observations:
• She (or he) supports a woman’s right to be a mom – or not. When women won acceptance and equal rights in the workplace, we were released from one box and plopped right into another one. “We went from raising children to raising children and working. Too often, that’s the expectation now,” Huffman says. Feminists support a woman’s right to choose her life’s direction, whether that’s staying at home and being mothers, choosing never to become mothers, or some hybrid of work and motherhood. “Having equal rights is having the freedom to choose our life’s direction without being subjected to discrimination because of what other people expect our role to be,” Huffman says.
• Supports removing double standards. “You still see, in the workplace and at home, the tough guy gets praised, and the tough woman, well, she’s a ‘witch’ or worse,” Huffman says. More smart, savvy women have earned respect professionally – Hillary Clinton, Condoleezza Rice, Madeleine Albright – and that’s progress, but we still have work to do. “Professional women still get criticized about their hair style, their fashion choices. Rarely are professional men snubbed for these things.”
• Understands what rights are being legislated and by whom. We all know the hot-button “values” issues that polarize voters. “The reality is a politician’s party affiliation doesn’t paint an accurate picture of who they are or what they stand for. Voting records, corporate associations, and actions are much more telling. As citizens, as women with a voice, we must do our homework to ensure our values are being reflected in Washington. And, in truth, feminism is more than a political movement – it’s the empowerment of women to live the life they were created for.”
About Heather Huffman
Heather Huffman is a women’s advocate, writer, former human relations specialist and mother of three. She and her family are currently homesteading 10 acres in the Ozarks. Huffman is the author of seven novels, including “Throwaway” and its prequel, “Tumbleweed.” A portion of proceeds from sales of her books benefit groups fighting human trafficking.
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