Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Feminism: The new "F" word.

Yahoo's decision to ban telecommuting triggered a debate over feminism and a new world order. Apparently, I was not alone when I predicted the ban may create a major setback to working parents everywhere. But the debate has created divisions with some women questioning Yahoo's chief, Marissa Mayer's feminism. Now the question is: is feminism the new "f" word.

How a decision to revoke a privilege turned into the feminist argument is questionable. Marissa Mayer's announcement was a setback to women because she potentially robbed them of the opportunity to be productive members of the workforce. She did have her reasons, although I doubt any of them had to do with an anti-woman agenda. In fact, something tells me she may have chosen to apply the ban indiscriminately out of fairness.

You see, the role of fathers is changing. The new generation of men want a more proactive role in their children's lives. Denying them the right to work from home discourages this goal. Had the ban been applied exclusively  to working fathers, it would have encouraged unfair employment practices. How does a manager decide who is better qualified to work from home and stay with the kids? What Marissa Mayers avoided was a potential reverse gender disparity issue. She refused to elevate the needs of one gender over the other, which is what women's rights advocates have been fighting to contain. And if you read Marissa's responses to questions on feminism, she alludes to the term as being ideologically restraining. She has a point.

Which brings me to the next topic: is feminism the new "f" word? It has been for some time. Unfortunately, the struggle for women's rights has somehow turned down the wrong road. Advocates bent on pushing women's agendas have been unjustly mischaracterized. They are tired and worn down by the long fight for equality since the 1920s and they want to see considerable change and they want to see it now. You can't fault them, but the criticism against feminism is understandable, especially when we turn on one of our own.

Marissa has a huge challenge ahead of her. The world is watching her and she is operating in a man's profession. I wish she would reconsider her position and lift the ban, but that's not possible right now. She has a point to prove: that she's not a complacent, emotional woman who caves in to criticism. What she needs right now is our support, "our" as in all women. Because feminism is about empowerment, not judgment. And it definitely should never come with an "us-vs-them" mentality. She should not have to exclude one gender to accommodate the other. We need to stand together- past, current and future generations- supporting each other's rights to choose. As it should have always been.

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