What is your reaction to the word "feminist"?
Are you put off, envisioning an angry, yelling woman? Do you feel a swell of pride? Or do you dismiss the label, passing it off as a relic of another era?
It is definitely a polarizing term, with young artists like Katy Perry and Taylor Swift stating publicly that they are not feminists. But if you consider it the definition of one who believes in gender equality, does that change your perception?
I have always considered myself a feminist. But I stepped into that moniker at a point in the evolution when it was easy and didn't require a great deal of me. I expected to be given the same treatment and opportunities as a man because that's what I had always known.
Then last week I watched a documentary that I had recorded called "Makers: Women Who Make America," and my perspective changed.
I really hate to admit this, but I think I was raised rather sheltered from the women's movement that was occurring in the '70s and early '80s. I was shockingly unaware of what exactly prompted it, who the players were, and what they did to get us to where we are now.
I knew the broad strokes. I knew about Roe v Wade. I saw that the Equal Rights Amendment was defeated. I've seen Ms. Magazine. I knew about, and benefited greatly from, Title IV. But I had no context in which to put these things to create the whole picture.
Holy cow! We certainly have come a long way, baby. In my lifetime, the position of women in this country has changed dramatically.
In a relatively short period of time, we as a country went from having a pervasive belief that women were not capable, should not be allowed, were thought to be lesser, to a country with strong female leaders, with great opportunity and options for women.
Women are no longer expected to stay home and take of the house and the children. But they can if they want. That's the difference.
I am of the generation that is reaping the benefits from all that changed. And I took it for granted. I simply did not appreciate that the fact that I can wear pants whenever I want, that I can apply for a credit card without my father or husband co-signing, that I can ponder any career option that appeals, go to medical school or law school if I desire, that I can write this column and regularly state my opinion about whatever topic I want. This is because the generation before me changed the landscape to allow it.
I wonder if Katy Perry realizes she probably wouldn't be able to shoot things out of her bra during concerts were it not for the feminists who came before her. Or if Taylor Swift knows that having the opportunity to publicly humiliate all the men she's dated through song is because the women's movement opened the door for her. Isn't this the definition of feminism in the new millennium?
March is Women's History Month. Regardless of your gender, or what you feel about the term "feminism," go to pbs.org or makers.com and watch the three-hour film. It's a fascinating slice of our country's history. It will give you a greater understanding and appreciation for the women around you.
I am not naive enough to think there is nothing left to change. But watching "Makers" made me proud to call myself a feminist and thankful that I live in this country.
Linda Stamper Boyne of Edwards can be contacted through firstname.lastname@example.org.