I’ve heard a lot of women, young and old, utter the words,

“I’m not a feminist.”

That statement, particularly from women, always leaves me a little flabbergasted. I find myself wondering how a woman could claim she’s not a feminist; How a woman could claim she doesn’t care about equal rights for herself and her fellow women?

My quick answer? I think the word feminism comes with so much baggage. People assume that to be a feminist you must align with a certain political party; you must own a pink stocking cap and drive a Subaru with a #nastywoman bumper sticker. The world thinks if you’re a feminist – you’re an angry, bra-burning man-hater. The word “feminism” has been taken hostage and being used against us; It’s being used as a weapon to scare women (and men) away from the fight for gender equality. It’s become a tool to divide and deter us.

We have to change the narrative around feminism. We have to attach the word feminism with the fight for gender equality again. But we also have to stop condemning the work for gender equality that women (and men) are doing that maybe doesn’t align with our own version of feminism.

Here’s what I mean…

My version of feminism means working with men to help them see and understand the everyday, unconscious biases that women face in the workplace. I help them identify opportunities to correct those biases or create better systems to ensure that the bias is less likely to interfere in workplace decisions like hiring, promotion, performance evaluation, succession planning, leadership, training opportunities (you get the idea). I see men as our partners in the fight for gender equality. I believe that most men come from a place of good intention, but are generally unaware of what women encounter every day. Some feminists, however, view men as intentional actors in the suppression of women and fight diligently to overcome male dominance.

My version of feminism understands that the idea of gender equality is complex and that there is loads of intersectionality that impacts the common goal of equal rights for women. I work every day to understand the unique challenges that women of color face. I read regularly to understand how we can make the fight for gender equality include individuals who don’t identify on the gender binary. Some feminists, believe the simpler we make it, the easier it will be to overcome. They’re less concerned with the complexity and intersectionality and more concerned with more women (and any women) in leadership in our country.

My version of feminism is helping women advance in leadership. Yet, there are hundreds of ways to be a feminist and hundreds of ways to fight for it: Perhaps your version of feminism is fighting to build a consent culture and address sexual violence. Maybe it’s being a stay at home mom and raising your son to respect women as equals and teaching your daughter self-confidence and that she can be anything she wants to be. Maybe it’s working to address human trafficking. Perhaps it’s attending a march or protesting in the streets. It might even been running for a political office.

Our condemnation and/or criticism of other versions of feminism doesn’t unify our power. It divides it. We have to start embracing the work that we’re all doing as positive movement forward. When we fight each other, we only reinforce negative messages about feminism and women.

We have to support, encourage, and embrace all the individuals working to move gender equality forward. 6+3=9. But so does 4+5 and 8+1. The outcome is all the same, how we get there is irrelevant.

Your feminism may not be my feminism – and how we approach creating gender equality looks different for each of us. In the end, equality is the goal – let’s all work to get there.

until we break more glass…