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It’s fashionista to be a feminista

My Sense and the City column in today’s Sarasota Herald-Tribune (all photos courtesy of Cliff Roles Photography:

The Women’s Resource Center of Sarasota recently held its 4th Annual Frances Kraaymes Lecture. This year, the event was a panel discussion on “Men, Women & Relationships,” moderated by Dr. Willa Bernhard, who posed questions such as, “How have your relationships with the opposite sex changed since your 20s?”, and, “What has affected the balance of power in your relationships?”

I was one of the panelists, and while I can’t claim the professional bona fides of the others

Larry Egar, Nancy Schlossberg, Lauren Alston, Larry Thompson, WRC's Janice Zarro, Willa Bernhard, Jon Yenari

Larry Egar, Nancy Schlossberg, Lauren Alston, Larry Thompson, WRC's Janice Zarro, Willa Bernhard, Jon Yenari

– author Dr. Nancy Schlossberg; Ringling College of Art and Design President Dr. Larry Thompson; local physician Dr. Jon Yenari; the Honorable Larry Eger, Public Defender; and mental health therapist Lauren Alston of Coastal Behavioral Healthcare — I still had plenty to say about how physical attractiveness, financial ability, sexual viability, and aging can tip the balance of power in personal relationships..

Totally enjoyed meeting Dr. Larry Thompson -- he's down to earth and very funny.  Charming guy.

Totally enjoyed meeting Dr. Larry Thompson -- he's down to earth and very funny. Charming guy.

The discussion was lively: opinions flew, and amid a lot of straight talk and good humor, the panelists shared personal experiences and perspectives about male/female roles, communication, child-rearing, money, housework, even online porn. It was a refreshingly frank conversation, slightly rare in Sarasota, but judging by the audience response, very welcome.

I learned a lot from the panelists, and I’d like to think I shared something as well. For example, after I commented that one of the reasons U.S. women continue to struggle for power in their relationships and within their communities is because they’re still earning under eighty cents for every dollar a man earns in comparable jobs, one panelist stated that he wasn’t aware of any such discrepancy. I muzzled my impersonation of Scooby-Doo’s quizzical woof of disbelief –“Huhrrrr?”, but wondered how anyone in the working world could be unaware of the pay gap between men and women. (To learn more about the Paycheck Fairness Act, visit www.whitehouse.gov/issues/women.)

panel-group

Another interesting point was raised when one panelist said the word “feminist” was irrelevant in his work and home life because he’s already so egalitarian that self-describing as a feminist would be moot. I’ve heard that argument before – that women have come so far, there’s no longer a need for either sex to carry the “feminist” calling card.

The word has always carried a lot of “angry-female” baggage, exacerbated by Rush Limbaugh’s coinage of the term, “Feminazi.” I’m a feminist and don’t mind saying so, but in the past decade, fewer and fewer of my friends use the term. I’ve got girlfriends who pay half the mortgage and expect their husbands to help change the diapers, and men friends who gladly let their wives bring home the bigger slice of bacon and want their daughters to have every opportunity to grow up to be President, but in both groups, many say, “I wouldn’t call myself a feminist.” As if it’s a dirty word.

But judging by the comments made by my fellow Kraaymes panelists, there’s a new breed of modern-day feminists out there — the men on the panel talked about how they share responsibilities and chores with their wives, and the women talked about how they contribute their fair share financially to their relationships –even if none of them used the dreaded “F-bomb” to describe themselves specifically.

So, taking a page from the Limbaugh playbook, I’m coining my own term to describe anyone who believes in the “social, political, and economic equality of the sexes” (that’s the definition of feminism, by the way). This new word isn’t really new — it’s just the Spanish word for feminist – feminista. But just like the Italian word “barista” turned coffee servers everywhere into über-hip coffee designers, I’m betting “feminista” will finally make it fashionable to be a feminist. And in any language, I’d call that fabulous.

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Posted on March 17th, 2011Comments RSS Feed
6 Responses to It’s fashionista to be a feminista
  1. Maureen Maguire
    March 17, 2011 at 9:55 am

    Loved reading about the above seminar and wish I had been there! I embrace the feminist label though most of my peers do not. That might have something to do with why there isn’t equal pay YET. Also might account for inadequate insurance coverage and availability of birth control and preventive health care for women, little support in the workplace for families/children, inadequate early childcare and school hours not coordinating with work hours when at least 70% of mothers work outside the home, and recent attempts by newly elected officials to take even more of all the above away. Sad.

    Reply
  2. Thanks Maureen — for visiting my blog and for sharing your thoughts. It was a VERY fun and interesting discussion. Sometimes those things can be a bit “stuffy” but the panelists and the moderator were so relaxed and humorous. It is sad, though, in a way — a lot of women (and men) don’t know how many inequities still exist. Viagra, for example, is a paid health care expense by most plans, but birth control pills (and other bc options) are not covered under most plans. Isn’t that crazy?

    Reply
  3. John W. Perkins
    March 17, 2011 at 11:08 am

    Say, who’s the hot babe next to Dr. Larry Thompson ?

    Reply
  4. Not so hot MC! :) Thanks for reading JW!

    Reply
  5. “You want to just have an issue ‘talked over’, speak to a man. You wish to have something ‘done’, speak to a woman!” – Margaret Thatcher…

    Daniel

    Reply
  6. I know a lot of men who get things done and a lot of women who talk too much about doing what should be done! but still, great quote. thanks for sharing, Daniel

    Reply

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