The New Feminism

The Self Defined Woman.

It’s an interesting time to be a woman. Headlines suggest that despite all women’s progress, women still can’t win—she’s damned if she does, she’s damned if she doesn’t. Perhaps the time has come to shift from the “Branded Woman” to the “Self-Defined Woman.” In the 1950’s and ‘60’s, women were branded “housewives.” Today, a woman’s identity is centered around being a “mom”—a “stay-at-home mom” or a “working mom.” Perhaps it’s time the tide shifted towards women defining themselves on their own terms.

Women know we can be our own worst enemies, meaning the only people we are harder on other than ourselves are other women. The Gywneth Paltrow controversy this year comes at it from both angles—she came across as insensitive suggesting that it was easier to work a 9 to 5 job compared to be a movie star having to be on a set for 14 hours a day, yet she also got a lashing for her comments. Acknowledging this behavior, some women want to combat what has been termed “The Mommy Wars.” Last year the Connecticut Working Moms group started a photo blog to promote women going easier on each other. Others have written on how we should be careful not to set such a high bar for moms, what I might call “keeping up with the Moms’s,” rather than “keeping up with the Jones’s.” For example, Heather Havrilesky in The New York Times wrote a great article called “Our ‘Mommy’ Problem” and in it said, “The current culture demands that every mother be all in, all the time.” Our culture sets unrealistic expectations for what women should be for and to their children.

The other battle raging this year has been around being a “feminist” or not. Take the now infamous quote from Shailene Woodley, despite playing a powerful female role in Divergent, not wanting to call herself a feminist, implying that it was because she likes men. In contrast, Emily Watson, another woman in her cohort who has also played strong female roles, stepped up for feminism in her also now famous United Nations speech, launching the HeforShe campaign, championing gender equality. Other stars—from Beyoncé to Rachel Maddow to Amy Poehler—spoke out to take their respective sides, as well.

Instead of pitting women against each other or worrying about what to label or brand women, it seems it might be time for the Self-Defined Woman. As a start, this past year there was some thawing around the “do it all” female brand, with prominent, successful female leaders speaking out against the too high bar, from Indra Nooyi, CEO of Pepsico, to Shondra Rhimes of Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal fame. Other women are sharing their stories, as well, to start to shape a new dialogue on what it will take to craft a new story for women that allows for work and family, such as Anita Krohn Traaseth’s story in The Atlantic championing accepting “good enough” or Yael Chatav Schonbrun’s article in The New York Times that suggests “leaning in” to achieve personal fulfillment and happiness rather than mere career success. It’s about reshaping the dialogue to choice and what works for each individual woman.

Consumer Forecast: Help me define my own values and female identity.


Photo Credit: paultarasenko


Butler, Bethonie. “Is this what an anti-feminist movement looks like?,” The Washington Post, July 30, 2014.

Dockterman, Elian. “Shailene Woodley on Why She’s Not a Feminist,” Time Magazine, May 5, 2014.

Friedersdorf, Conor. “Why PepsiCo CEO Indra K. Nooyi Can’t Have It All,” The Atlantic, July 1, 2014.

Meltzer, Marisa. “Who Is a Feminist Now?,” The New York Times, May 21, 2014.

O’Keefe, Vincent. A Stay-at-Home Dad Reports on the Mommy Wars, Time, August 12, 2014.

Rhimes, Shondra. Commencement Address at Dartmouth University, June 8, 2014.

Robinson, Joanna. “Emma Watson Deliver a Game-Changing Speech on Feminism for the U.N.,” Vanity Fair, September 26, 2014.

Wallace, Kelly. “One way to end the ‘mommy wars,” CNN, May 30, 2014.

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