Feminists and strong women. A picture is worth a thousand words… Or not.

In my work environment we have frequent discussions about gender and computing, and what it means to advocate for women in technology. We use words and expressions like “feminist” or “strong woman”, perhaps assuming that we all have a similar definition in mind.

How do we, as a society, represent in our heads these terms? I do hope it is not with images similar to the ones you may find linked here. While the text made me laugh (perhaps not to cry), it also made me reflect on our choices for representing these words and expressions. Many others have previously considered and acted on this, as did Women of Color in Tech.

Feminism has been defined in different ways, arguably because of some people’s perception of the term “feminist” as negative.”Man-hater”is sadly still used too often as a synonym in feminist forums discussions. Only a couple of days ago, Senior Trump aide Kellyanne Conway came up with a definition that many found very questionable.

2000px-igualtat_de_sexes-svg

The Women’s March in the US has been raising very interesting debates on the definition of feminism that we find in the dictionary: “the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities.” While many agree on this, the differences arise from the interpretation of who is included as women. For a number that seems to be increasing, here “women” refers to the LGBT+ community as well, and they particularly emphasized the T is often excluded: transgender women are women too and “one who does not fight for them cannot be called a feminist; it is not possible to cherrypick your feminism”. Similar arguments are made for feminist activists to consider women who are not white or heterosexual to be included in their activism.

What about the definition of “strong woman”? How would you describe one? Do we unconsciously use traditionally masculine traits to refer to this strength? Or do we see it in attributes less often associated with men? What do we value in professional women?

I’ll bring up this discussion at work and hope to be able to do the same here or in other circles!

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