Phooey on caricatures of feminists; the bra burners, the armpit hair growers, the man haters. Phooey on awkward moments in feminism's history, like Betty Friedan warning the National Organization of Women that it faced a "lavender menace" -- 1970s speak for the lesbians are taking over. Phooey on those rubber-stamped feminist choices we are expected to make or risk being kicked out of the Club: pro-choice position on abortion, few children, if any; education and career before -- or maybe instead of -- marriage and family.
Phooey phooey phooey on the litmus test for any feminist worth her salt; she needs a man for absolutely nothing but her own pleasure because she can provide everything she needs for herself.
Phooey on all of it. You had your day, feminism. Thank you for the vote, the pill, and lots of other cool stuff, but you're all about a backward-looking, negatively-framed experience of womanhood. Feminism is, at its core, a philosophy of injustice perpetrated on women because of their sex.
Men were the enemy for a long time, but we've won. We now have the advantage in college admissions, college degrees, and human resource policies. We have the same sexual freedom as men. Our power can even derail a presidential candidate who has the nerve to maintain a list of the best of us to choose from in a binder on his desk.
It's time to pass the baton to 21st Century Women. 21st Century Women bring the best of feminism forward and leave the worst -- the victim mentality -- behind.
Feminism's primary aim was to prove that women are no different than men. The 21st Century Woman recognizes and celebrates differences between the sexes, accessing a great deal of power in the beautiful, feminine, nurturing aspect of her nature. Because she is no longer trapped in the false reality that men and women are the same, she is free to be uniquely female: powerful and vulnerable. It's the vulnerability that feminism stole -- the ends justified the means -- but the 21st Century Woman reclaims both aspects of herself.
If you're anything like me, you feel a little torn about leaving feminism behind, maybe a little guilty. We inherited all these wonderful benefits and now we're kicking feminism to the curb? And yet there's something about the word, the label, or the history of the movement that is a turn off to most women; only about 23 percent of us are willing to identify ourselves as feminist.
To make the most of what feminism has done for us, we need a new concept of womanhood going forward -- 21st Century Women.
21st Century Women:
• Take interest in the larger world outside ourselves and our families;
• Educate ourselves on topics important to our lives;
• Step outside the echo chamber where everyone agrees with us politically, spiritually, and economically;
• Examine ourselves and our beliefs with an openness to ever Truer North as we encounter it;
• Consciously choose our course in life, and when that course goes awry, re-chart it; and
• Take responsibility for our lives, our choices, and our actions, never labeling ourselves as victims.
We are not the same as men, and men are not our adversaries.
Now the only adversary we have is the voice inside our head. The voice that says we're too fat, too aggressive, too passive, too bitchy, not as pretty, not as rich, not as happy, not as popular as the next gal. The same voice that's in every other woman's head. We all -- and here I'm going to invoke Iyanla Vanzant and call a thing a thing -- just want to be liked. It's what we wanted when we were three, thirteen, thirty, and fifty.
It's a reality we can't ignore and yet we can't let it rule. The hallmark of a 21st Century Woman is to choose the life she wants, and if we're too concerned with getting approval from the outside, we stifle what makes us unique. We need to figure out what we really want.
Some of us want to be barefoot and pregnant for twenty years, some of us want to fly jet planes, some of us want to wrestle gators, some of us want to teach ballet, some of us want to bring home the bacon, of us some want to fry it up in a pan, some of us want to marry women, some of us want to marry men. It doesn't really matter what anyone else wants; it matters only that we seek our own True North.
When you know who you are and know what you believe -- and why -- you're rock solid. You can disagree without becoming disagreeable. You can hold to your religious or political beliefs in the macro yet have compassion and empathy for loved ones in the micro. You can ponder different points of view because your goal is True North, not fitting into a warm bath of approval. If you find more truth in a new idea or point of view, you can let it in.
In short, a 21st Century Woman is whatever she wants to be. Go get'em, Tiger!
An expanded version of this article appears in three parts on donnacarolvoss.com:
• Feminism, You're Fired!
• What Is a 21st Century Woman?
• The Bridge From Feminism to 21st Century Women