Are You Afraid of the “F” Word?

UN Women Goodwill Ambassador Emma Watson and Nobel Peace Prize Winner Malala Yousafzai discussed feminism last month at the premiere of ‘He Named Me Malala’ at a UK Film Festival. “…we all should be a feminist because feminism is another word for equality” says Malala.

The first time someone asked me if I was a feminist, I hesitated.

Honestly, this wasn’t that long ago.

In 2011, I was asked to speak on a panel at the WriteGirl Journalism Conference in Los Angeles. WriteGirl, if you are not familiar with them, is a creative writing and mentoring organization that promotes creativity and leadership skills to empower teen girls.

My journalist colleagues on the panel came from a variety outlets including the Los Angeles Times, LA Weekly, and NBC’s The Today Show. At the time, I was the only one on the panel specifically covering women and girls.

When it was time for the Q & A, one girl stood up and asked me point blank:

Do you consider yourself a feminist?

I paused. Took a deep breath. And thought hard about how I wanted to answer that.

No one had ever asked them that question, especially not in front of 100+ other people. So I stumbled. I did a quick inner reflection, and what came out was:

I don’t necessarily call myself a feminist, as much as I call myself someone who is dedicated to empowering women and girls.

Hmmmm … pretty weak response, I thought. I was ducking the question.

Then I realized that this young woman’s inquiry deserved more.

So I shared about how I didn’t use the word feminist to identify myself because it had a connotation that I felt would close off receptivity to my writing, and therefore to what I was trying to accomplish. I said that I felt that the words “feminism” and “feminist” still had a man-hating interpretation, and that’s not what I represented.

Sadly, this is the story of many women who have shied away from calling themselves feminists.

Maybe you too?

Over the next year, I was able to look at that young woman’s question more deeply. After some soul searching, I came to the realization that a major factor contributing to me not wanting to identify as a feminist was not solely the “man-hating” interpretation, although that mattered. It was more the fear of having to let go of the patriarchy.

Let me explain.

I thought that if I called myself a feminist, my whole identity would change. I thought that I would have to relinquish all that I benefited from and appreciated in our current system, most specifically my education, my mainstream professional network and my family.

I’ve luckily had some sensed knocked into me since then. While there is a letting go of some of the old, familiar ways — which I might mention, in most cases, keep women back — there is also a much simpler way to look at all of this:

Do you believe women and men should have equal rights and opportunities?

Today, I proudly call myself a feminist. I have no fears about it. It’s sometimes hard to believe that it was just a few years back when I waffled on this question.

What about you? Do you consider yourself a feminist?

For those of you in the Los Angeles area, I’d like to invite you to an awesome event where you can let the F Word hang out. It’s literally called “The F Word Event.”

The F Word Event is a space where women and men can come and listen to a group of inspirational women in the community tell stories of triumph, success, confidence and growth with one common theme…FEMINISM!

It’s being hosted by my friend and colleague, Emmy-award winning documentary director Sarah Moshman. Do you remember me sharing about The Empowerment Project? Sarah directed that. She is where it’s at.

Come join us to redefine feminism and own it!

Tickets are $10. Reserve your spot here.

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Tabby Biddle, M.S.Ed., is a leading voice and advocate for advancing women’s leadership and the human rights of women and girls. She is the author of the #1 Amazon Bestseller, Find Your Voice: A Woman’s Call to Action. Watch her recent TEDx talk on Activating Women’s Leadership.