Year of the Feminist

The March Girls
The March Girls

2017 Is the Year of the Feminist

First-wave feminism, second-wave feminism, third-wave feminism?

I didn’t know what any of these things meant in the ’80s when I was pushing open doors demanding to be hired as a female bartender who refused to work in a leotard. Just about all of the female bartender help wanted ads in the ’80s started with “Must wear leotard,” which meant you’d be bartending in a stripper bar.

I didn’t know what any of these things meant in the late ’80s when I demanded to be hired as a cook in a professional cooking world that wanted nothing to do with vagina.

I didn’t know what any of these things meant when I opened my own catering company in New York City, defying all the naysayers who said things like, “Women aren’t any good in business,” or who later came in looking for Chef Rossi the Italian man and to their horror found Chef Rossi the Jewish woman.

Two decades after the first time someone called me a feminist (it was meant as an insult), I talked to a gal pal about the history of the movement.

“The very fact that there’s a negative connotation to the word ‘feminist’ is the reason we need feminism.”

I had to admit that I had felt insulted by the word that first time, but then there were a few other adjectives involved.

“First-wave feminism is the suffrage movement. Second-wave is what happened in the ’60s and ’70s when women were burning their bras and marching for reproductive rights.”

A high point for me in the “women’s lib” era was when tennis player Billie Jean King whupped the ass of that loudmouth Bobby Riggs. I thought Billie Jean deserved a parade; the kids in school just made fun of her looks.

At 9 years old, the message I got was that women’s libbers were unattractive ladies who couldn’t get a man and were therefore mad. … Really mad.

I was mad, too, but not because none of the boys liked me. I didn’t give a hoot about that. (Still don’t.) I was mad because I wanted to grow up to be a cowboy or the president. I was told that my choices were limited to housewife, secretary or teacher. (Good teachers are my heroes, but that’s beside the point.)

Jean added, “Third-wave feminism started in the ’90s. That’s when it became okay to be a feminist and wear lipstick, or not. It also opened up the conversation about gender.”

“That’s when we got riot grrrls!”

“Yes, ma’am. We also got Anita Hill.”

“and Buffy the Vampire Slayer!”

My two favorite feminists are Gloria Steinem and Buffy.

We’re now in the fourth wave.

I’m not sure how future feminists will sum up the fourth wave, but I’m certain it will start with the power of social media.

2017 will surely be regarded as one of the most powerful years in the fight for women’s rights.

Huge surges forward are always propelled by great wrongs dragging us back.

2017 started with the inauguration of a sexist predator who bragged about grabbing women by their genitalia. He lost the popular vote by about 3 million to Hillary Clinton but still won the election.

Seeing the least-qualified candidate in history win against the most-qualified candidate in history, who happened to be a woman, after a campaign that was profoundly sexist, not to mention racist, was insult to injury.

On the day after the inauguration came The Women’s March. Millions of women in more than 600 marches in Washington, New York City, Chicago and towns and cities around the United States and around the world marched for women’s rights, human rights, reproductive rights, with many of them (most) also voicing their horror over the new president.

The Women’s March was the biggest one-day protest in history.

Toward the end of the year came the “Me, Too” movement when thousands of women spoke out against their sexual abusers.

Heads did roll, or rather quit or got fired. Powerful men were forced to resign. The “Me, Too” movement did not happen soon enough to prevent millions of women from being raped, abused or sexually harassed, but at least it did happen. It is happening.

As 2017 nears its end, the Merriam-Webster dictionary announced its word of the year for 2017.

That word is feminism.

Merriam-Webster’s definition of feminism is: “the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes" and “organized activity in support of women’s rights and interests.”

I haven’t figured out whether I qualify as a second-wave feminist or a third. I think I’m a hybrid. I was a teenager in the end of the second wave demanding a future that had been designed for men. I was a young woman in the third wave who decided to stop asking and just take it.

I’m a Gloria-Buffy feminist. Being called a feminist is not an insult. There is no better compliment than being accused of fighting for the rights and equality of women.

Women are increasingly refusing to back down and having the audacity to show their power. Maybe next year’s word will be “bitch.”

I proudly proclaim to one and all: Feminists are here! We rise over fear! Get used to it!

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