Marissa Mayer and the F word

24 Jul

And here we go again. Another “how dare she say she’s not a feminist” rant against a high achieving woman, this time newly appointed Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer. You’ll find it at the mamamia website, written by self-described feminist Jamila Rizvi.

The term “feminist” has become extremely fraught, not least because of the rantings of  those feminists who demand every other woman on the planet describe herself thus. Many women are understandably disinclined to use the term about themselves. Many of us will not on principle, describe ourselves as others say we should, because we are engaged in a process of liberation from all those who arrogantly claim the right to tell us who we are, and who we should be.

Instead of addressing the complexities that have developed around the term, feminists such as Ms Rizvi wrongly attack women who do not wish to include that word in their lexicon of self-description. The problem is not that some women do not wish to describe themselves as feminists. The problem is that feminists like Ms Rizvi insist on publicly shaming such women.

Rizvi writes: Somewhere along the way being a feminist has become associated with hating on men, rather than being equal with them. So, I can see why women like Marissa Mayer, who work in male dominated professions, simply cannot afford to attract the label of ‘feminist’. After all, success doesn’t come to the woman who throws her hand up in the air and says ‘look at me, look at me, I’m a man-hater’.

No, Ms Rizvi, you are wrong. “Somewhere along the way” feminism has become associated with women bullying women, bullying us into describing ourselves as feminists, for example, by using abusive tirades that were they employed against us by a male, would be regarded as emotional violence.

“Somewhere along the way” feminists such as yourself decided to take over patriarchy’s work for them, and assume the right to define women.

“Somewhere along the way”  the cant of ideological purity  has blinded some feminists to the reality that when ideology of any kind gets the upper hand, the war is lost, and the revolution has become the  orthodoxy.

“Somewhere along the way” as well as being acceptable to the patriarchy, we now must be also be acceptable to a hegemonic feminism that demands we identify ourselves with its  laws, otherwise we are traitors to the women who have gone before us?

If I don’t  choose to identify myself as a “feminist”,” for example, that does not indicate that I am either ignorant of or ungrateful to the women who’ve gone before me, and by their hard work enabled some of us to achieve what was once unthinkable. I do not have to call myself a “feminist” in order to honour and appreciate those women. I do not have to use the label “feminist” for myself in order to actively care about equality. I do not have to play by your rules, Ms Rizvi, and I do not have to use your language.

There are feminists who would tear Rizvi to shreds for her love of red lipstick, her fondness for five-inch heels and her love of men. They would never grant her the right to the title. This is another reason many women refuse the label: it is, unfortunately, divisive, its meaning is unclear, and nobody quite knows what it’s describing.

I am delighted that a pregnant young woman has achieved what Marissa Mayer has achieved. I don’t give a stuff if she calls herself a feminist or not. The problem lies not with Ms Mayer. It lies with those people, women and men, who demand that human beings fit into pre-determined categories and in so doing, trash the human spirit and deprive it of its freedom.

I don’t believe for one moment that’s what the early feminists intended for us.

I do think of myself as  feminist. One of the reasons I claim that title is my belief that it is a woman’s right to call herself whatever feels appropriate for her, regardless of what others may think or demand. I will not define myself according to another’s lights. I will only define myself by my own. Feminists do not condemn a woman for defining herself by her own lights. That is the task of tyrants.

20 Responses to “Marissa Mayer and the F word”

  1. gerard oosterman July 24, 2012 at 2:29 pm #

    Suffice to say, as I tweeted much earlier, Marissa Mayer has a Finnish ancestry. One reason amongst many why she would never give herself over to the tag of ‘feminist’. She simply is.


  2. Hypocritophobe July 24, 2012 at 3:03 pm #

    Spot on JW.
    The latest trend of public humiliation and bullying by petition is now becoming the lazy arguers complete toolbox.
    Ironically it is just women who ‘claim’ to be feminists or claim to have female issues at heart,when all along it is an asset protection and/or profile raising strategy.
    In the same way that Abbott has done irreparable damage to our cohesiveness as a community, and by way of his trashing of parliament and its role,the faux feminists have devalued the broad ‘church’ of feminism.It has,in many parts,boiled down to an exercise in isolation.
    If the faux brand is so exclusive,it will do nothing to further the cause of women or girls anywhere on this planet.
    In fact some of the higher profile ‘petitioner’ (as a first resort) crew are not in the slightest bit interested in females of other cultures,unless they be Muslims and then they can play media football, with their lives, without getting any mud on their designer shoes.
    Apparently highly qualified medical science practitioners, know less about obesity,cancer etc than petitioners.Go figure.
    There must be frequent flyers points on offer for the petition instigators.


  3. helvityni July 24, 2012 at 3:25 pm #

    ““I don’t think that I would consider myself a feminist. I think that I certainly believe in equal rights, I believe that women are just as capable, if not more so in a lot of different dimensions, but I don’t, I think have, sort of, the militant drive and the sort of, the chip on the shoulder that sometimes comes with that.”,says Marissa.

    Marissa might just be one of those nice competent quietly confident women, who indeed has no chips on her shoulders, is not envious, nor a man hater…
    I certainly would not like to run into one of those militant unhappy feminists in a dark lane late at night….I’m already running away from them on these blogs, and fast…


    • Jennifer Wilson July 24, 2012 at 7:51 pm #

      A tweet just appeared on my time line from Mia Freedman saying *I’m a feminist and proud of it. Retweet if you are too.* This is all getting very very silly.


  4. gerard oosterman July 24, 2012 at 3:26 pm #

    When compared with women of other nations, Finnish women, who accounted for just over 50 percent of the population in the mid1980s, did have a privileged place. They were the first in Europe to gain the franchise, and by the 1980s they routinely constituted about one-third of the membership of the Eduskunta (parliament) and held several ministerial posts. In the 1980s, about 75 percent of adult women worked outside the home; they made up about 48 percent of the work force. Finnish women were as well educated as their male counterparts, and, in some cases, the number of women studying at the university level, for example, were slightly ahead of the number of men. In addition to an expanding welfare system, which since World War II had come to provide them with substantial assistance in the area of childbearing and child-rearing, women had made notable legislative gains that brought them closer to full equality with men.

    In 1972 the Council for Equality was established to advise lawmakers on methods for realizing full legal equality for women. In 1983 legislation arranged that both parents were to have equal rights for custody of their children. A year later, women were granted equal rights in the establishment of their children’s nationality. Henceforth any child born of a Finnish woman would have Finnish citizenship. After a very heated national debate, legislation was passed in 1985 that gave women an equal right to decide what surname or surnames they and their children would use. These advances were capped by a law that went into effect in early 1987 forbidding any discrimination on the basis of sex and providing protection against it. Once these laws were passed, Finnish authorities signed the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, in 1986.


  5. jacintaoc July 24, 2012 at 3:47 pm #

    I wish I had written this article; it has articulated what I have been experiencing and observing – feminism bullying or the rise of the feminazi! Goodness wasn’t feminism meant to be a pro-women movement.


  6. Ann ODyne July 24, 2012 at 4:08 pm #

    Ditto what JacintaOC said above.
    I am 63 and have been drummed off femiBlogs for comments that didn’t suit the young Host so now I hardly dare to address female-ness online. As with so many other things, after the first flushing bloom, feminISM palled a little.
    Where were they when a female prisoner was given a punishment that could not be given to a man (Lindy Chamberlain had her infant removed from her at birth) and not a word of horror from the big femi Names.

    Trivia: 1. the composer of cracking great hymn ‘Jerusalem’ signed the royalties over to the Suffragettes Movement.
    2. St. Gloria of Steinem was briefly the step-mother of Christian Bale.


  7. paul walter July 24, 2012 at 4:15 pm #

    Its a bit treacly isn’t it? The kid is infatuated with and by image, without knowing it, (and) a representation of the Baudrillardian cultural set of Gen Y.
    Eric Hobsbawm describes the Age of Extremes; the twentieth century, as the death of cultural memory, as a constant barrage or wall of marketing forces induce a permanent and unthinking “now” within its subjects, who become voided of vision and critique, decoupled from a thinking able to link the present to its formation, through historical context to identify a path into and through a prospective future based on appreciation of reality.
    Use value is superceded by exchange value and shoes, eg, become ends in themselves rather than functional, as mere modes of perambulation. This is the sort of mindset that is going to be at sea if ever put on a leaky boat and cognitively “sent back back to where they come from”.
    The paragraph cited is ok in itself, but the writer is unable to develop it for lack of perspective and the lack of development offers no home for the sort of thinking individual I’d call a feminist, because a set of ideas has to derive of something and be beyond mere sloganeering or lampost-pissing on the march to some sort of Gadarene cliff.
    Any way, other commenters also know what Jennifer is getting at, judging by above. Maybe consequence will adjust the mindset.


  8. paul walter July 24, 2012 at 6:20 pm #

    OTH, it’s not wrong that Jamila Rizvi should question the rejection of a belief from some who could turn out to be just another privateer; Mayer.
    Is Mayer, or any other executive, merely helping themselves to prawns freely proffered of life’s barbecue, or a thief in the night. The problem we need to solve is whether or not Mayer’s purportive rejection of feminism is a rejection of social responsibility or the carrying an already understood message into action, as Mayer cites her view as based on an alleged tendency for adversarialism within a modern feminism no longer open and inclusive, but defensive, anxious and tending to controlling.
    I find it peculiar that Rizvi could reject Mayer yet accept Tankard Reist, simply on the basis of outwardly different but underlyingly similar (arguably) strategic decisions. Tankard Reist’s success depends on her being perceived as feminist, Mayer’s on not being seen as such.
    Which is the more sincere person, we can’t say, this will only come out in the wash.
    Whoever you are, as Jennifer suggests, you can’t allow yourself to simply buy another’s version of who you are and what you should do without first examining it to be being able to feel that it’s right, other wise its just an abdication of your responsibility to yourself and others.
    If you (lazily?) let others do your thinking for you, you just set yourself for a fall, although it rarely hurts to hear a new point of view. If Mayer has rejected feminism prior to investigation, then Rizvi can do little more than pity Mayer for not seeing the forest for the trees. If Rizvi prejudges Mayer, then that is rash also, for the same self-limiting reason.


    • Jennifer Wilson July 24, 2012 at 7:48 pm #

      I felt as annoyed about people claiming MTR wasn’t allowed to call herself feminist as I do about Rizvi’s criticism of Mayer for not describing herself as such. I mean, really, this nonsense has to stop sometime soon.


      • moiby July 24, 2012 at 11:11 pm #

        Completely agree, Jennifer.

        Someone once told me that if I am humanist, and that unless I was [bra burning | lesbian | unwilling to be the primary caregiver of my child/ren | intolerant of other views | insert other feminist cliche here] I should not call myself such.

        I am happy to claim the label of feminist, partly because I want it to reflect a broad church.


        • Hypocritophobe July 24, 2012 at 11:23 pm #

          You must be ultra pissed off with the way the states (this very day) are using the disabled as a political football.(It is a 2 pronged strategy to prepare the electorate for the increase in the GST (under the soon to be elected coalition) and to further undermine Canberra’s relationship with the states and Gillards tenure,generally,IMHO.
          I think you should call Newman out, as the opportunistic lick-spittle he is..


          • moiby July 25, 2012 at 10:54 am #

            Sure am, Hypocritophobe.

            Unfortunately Newman is not the only one. Abbott was cynical of the NDIS and although he belatedly came on board, any ‘bipartisan’ support is undermined by Hockey’s statements, and the constant references many in the Coalition to the necessity of state and territory support.

            I am very concerned that the NDIS will be over before it began.


            • Hypocritophobe July 25, 2012 at 11:18 am #

              Newman is on a mission to Canberra.His narcissistic ego will have no less.
              The other conservative premiers just want to team up to gut the govt.
              That these people are the ‘leaders’ in our community, and yet they use the weakest or the empowered to further their own personal agenda,is obscene, but not a surprise.
              They need to be exposed as the heartless opportunists, they are.
              Unfortunately it is crystal clear the media is not up to it and/or severely compromised.

              The latest development of the Gillard powder puffs backing down on a media watchdog with teeth,proves we will get no relief from government by corporations in this current generation.So the battle looks like being fought by the victims,rather than the defenders.
              In one term our democracy has become pretty much damaged beyond recognition.And I think most people know who the main offenders are.


              • Hypocritophobe July 25, 2012 at 11:21 am #

                “use the weakest or the empowered \”

                should read DISEMPOWERED


            • Hypocritophobe July 25, 2012 at 11:24 am #

              BTW There is a poll at the ABC about the scheme.


        • Jennifer Wilson July 25, 2012 at 7:27 am #

          The moment anyone tells me I should/shouldn’t describe myself as one thing or another, they’ve pretty much lost my interest or aroused my ire. Incorrigibly anti authoritarian, I’m afraid, no matter what form the authority takes.


          • moiby July 25, 2012 at 11:01 am #

            I agree – which is why I also agree that not every woman should have to identify with the word feminist either (and to be honest, I think some women may be liabilities to the cause anyway).

            My original post was a bit dodgy (I blame my being up late), and should have read ‘Someone once told me that if I believe in equal rights, I am humanist, and that unless I was willing to claim [cliche label] I should not call myself a feminist.’


  9. hudsongodfrey July 24, 2012 at 11:31 pm #

    Sorting out the language certainly helps if we intend to have a discourse that galvanises around a consistent set of ideas. We do need to form some broadly agreed definition of what feminism is on about in terms of gender equality for example. But I also think those definitions are useful in a way for talking about ideas that doesn’t translate to defining individuals.

    I think that MTR is perfectly entitled to aspire to being a feminist, supposing that she understands what it means. I just don’t think her cause or her particular agenda have the remotest thing to do with feminism in way that is typical of what I see as the conflicted nature of her arguments.

    By the same token if the stellar Ms Mayer doesn’t want to “label” herself as feminist then that’s fine in my book, quite apart from the fact that it may be argued that she does seem to satisfy several criteria for so doing and clear enjoys the benefits of living in a society that itself has embraced broadly feminist ideas. These are things that speak to the consistency of who she may be, but do so without having to label her

    Good on her from not wanting to be a poster child for something.


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