Challenging and changing the narrative around the word “feminism” is key to moving toward an equitable society, said activist Teresa C. Younger in a lecture on gender, power, and equality.
Younger, who is the president and CEO of the Ms. Foundation for Women, said that a poll conducted by her organization revealed that only 16 percent of people labeled themselves as feminist, yet 94 percent of people believed that everyone had the right to equal opportunities.
“Nearly every group I spoke to — black women, lesbian women, men — didn’t want to label themselves feminist, because they weren’t being invited to the table,” she explained.
She noted that seeing this made the Ms. Foundation for Women define feminism as the “social, political, and economical equality of all genders.”
Younger added that moving toward a post-feminist society first required moving away from a post-patriarchal era. Again, she explained that she used caution to define patriarchy before dismantling it, claiming that it was a vague and misunderstood word.
“The textbook defines patriarchy as the systematic consolidation of the majority of power in the world by white men, and exclusion from power is based on identities of race, sexual orientation, religion, and often immigration status,” she said.
Claiming to be an activist rather than an academic, Younger urged students to devote themselves to public service.
“Students ask what they can do, and I tell them to get involved in municipal, county, and state level politics; challenge the status quo; and push to make those around them uncomfortable,” she added.
She also praised the various campus initiatives like Princeton Students for Gender Equality, which ran a #MyFeminismIs photo campaign last spring.
The Ms. Foundation for Women started their campaign with a similar initiative, as well as other movements like “Let’s Talk Feminism” and ended up reaching out to over 135 million people with videos featuring feminists of all races, colors, genders, etc. to emphasize intersectionality.
Younger revealed that only 7 percent of philanthropic dollars go to women, of which the majority goes to research and awareness on breast cancer.
“We need to hold philanthropic organizations responsible,” she explained, adding that while women held close to half of all non-profit board positions, non-profits worth over $25 million had mostly men on their boards, while those worth less than $1 million had more women.
Younger was named one of the 50 Most Powerful Women in Philanthropy by Insider Philanthropy,
She raised the question of what “women’s issues” meant, saying that most people named abortion and pay equity as “women’s issues.”
“Yet when we ask people about the issues that affect women, we receive at least fifteen answers, ranging from healthcare to transportation to education. We work on these at the Ms. Foundation,” she explained.
Ms. Foundation for Women applies the lens of race and gender to several issues, including working with Native American women living in reservations on issues related to rape, promoting conversation and dialogue on young parenting and teenage pregnancy with young Mexican women, and running workshops to teach women of color to write op-eds that have been published by news outlets including TIME Magazine and The Huffington Post. She added that the organization had already committed $29 million to women of color, money that came from women for women in their communities.
The lecture, titled “Dismantling the P-word: Moving Toward a Post-Feminist Society,” had about 40 people in attendance, only four of whom were men. It took place in Robertson Hall at 4:30 p.m., and was sponsored by the Wilson School.