Does Feminism Matter?
In theory, yes—and no. Women continue to shape the business world in big ways. That means many things.
Photograph by Luigi Ciuffetelli
We editorial staffers sometimes debate the merits of covering such things as a local woman making the cover of Playboy’s College Girls and a UD student who won $10,000 for being voted “hottest” by readers of a website. These things make headlines, but are they worth writing about?
Opinion is clearly split along the lines of age. Those of us over 40 are usually opposed to covering such stories. By writing about women who had achieved celebrity merely by being attractive, we feel we’d betray the spirit of the women’s movement. We were raised to believe that women should not be objectified, to consider that there were roles beyond wife and mother, to work for equal opportunities and equal compensation, and to believe women should be judged, like men, by their abilities and accomplishments.
That ethos informed us when we watched Anita Hill protest Clarence Thomas’ nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court and when we read Susan Faludi’s “Backlash.” It echoes still when we listen to threats to Roe v. Wade or debates about women in combat.
Staffers in their mid-20s argue that feminism’s pioneers fought for the right of all women to succeed on their own terms and to be themselves. If that means exploiting their “hotness,” so be it. That is, we are to suppose, their choice.
So why bring it up? Because the unwieldy issue of feminism is something we grapple with every time we debate whether or not to publish a story about women in business.
On one hand, we want to think society has achieved the ideals of the women’s movement. Such a belief would, of course, make our story moot.
On the other, we’re not naive enough to believe that there are equal opportunities for all, that there are no glass ceilings, that there are no gender biases in the world of commerce. After all, discussions about critical business issues such as family leave laws are driven by factors such as the sheer number of women needed in the workplace and by the simple fact that mothers who need or choose to work must be accommodated.
Women and men are different. Some gender roles can’t be changed. So working women still face longer odds. Even if things are easier for them today, they still aren’t as easy as they are for most men.
That’s not to say the women in this year’s story overcame near-insurmountable challenges. Instead, they are proof of a business world that is friendlier to their needs and goals—in part because women made the decisions that shaped that environment. We publish the story to show how things have changed, to remind ourselves that there’s always room to improve and, most of all, to recognize the accomplishments of some truly talented, motivated people.