I’m a Sexist Who Wants to Change
Do you remember where you were when you found out Donald Trump would be our President?
I remember. I think I’ll always remember. Just like how I’ll always remember my first day at a new high school. On both occasions, I was afraid of the unknown. I didn’t know what the next day would hold, let alone the next year.
I certainly didn’t think I’d be here one year after the election — launching a business called “Little Feminist.” Especially since I barely identified as a feminist a year ago. Here’s what happened:
The election of Donald Trump made me realize that I am a sexist.
Hillary Clinton’s concession speech made me realize I was part of the problem. So many times I had said to friends and family “I’ll vote for her, but I don’t like her,” without ever thinking to myself “but would I find her unlikeable if she was a man?”
I didn’t think I was a sexist. I’m all about breastfeeding and babywearing. I read Lean In. I became a Silicon Valley executive, of whom only 11% are women. I am aware of how our society calls bossy women bitches, while bossy men are called leaders, but it wasn’t until the election that I saw how ingrained misogyny was in me.
I started noticing how often I assume a man is the breadwinner of his family or how often I judge a woman who knows what she wants as unkind. I realized that I let people walk all over me because deep down I believe being accommodating is my only way forward as a female leader.
So, post-election I began wondering, how old was I when the seed of misogyny was planted in my malleable brain, and what would have happened if I learned to challenge gender norms earlier in my life?
As if on cue, my mom, downsizing from a house to an apartment, handed me three boxes of my most beloved children’s books. Going through those boxes quickly proved that I (that all of us) have been surrounded by sexism and racism since birth. Did you know of the children’s books published each year, just 31% have female central characters, and in the last 5 years only 13% of children’s books feature a person of color?
I know that women and people of color are vastly underrepresented in media, but I’m not sure I grasped it’s full effects until Donald Trump became President.
Everyone told me not to build a “feminist” company, here’s why I did it anyway.
Two weeks after the election I quit my job, inspired to build the book club I needed as a little girl. When I was thinking of a name for the book club, I remember searching the definition of “feminist.” Merriam Webster told me that a feminist is “a person who supports the equality of the sexes.” That sounded like exactly what I was after.
So I created the first version of littlefeminist.com, and I asked my favorite entrepreneurs for feedback. Their feedback was unanimous: “great idea, but you should stay clear of the word ‘feminist.’” My husband, and childhood best friend agreed, saying that to them, a feminist looked like a man-eating, stay-at-home-mom-hating, white woman.
“Hmmm…okay,” I thought to myself, “why don’t I see what people on Facebook think?” And then I hit a live wire.
The message came through loud and clear: for many people feminism means much more than its definition. For a month, I was afraid to go any further, fearful I’d offend more people.
It was actually a definition of another word, that got me going again. A friend told me that courage meant being scared of something and doing it anyway. So I started asking myself: why I am so scared to align myself with feminism? Does it mean man-hating to me? Most importantly, do I have the courage to call myself a feminist regardless of its connotations?
I am a feminist, and I am scared to use the word, especially in a new business. I’m not sure when and how the definition of feminism got co-opted, but I’m taking it back. Let’s all be feminists because we believe all genders are equal, if not for our generation, than for the next one.
If you want to raise little feminists, then check out Little Feminist — a children’s book and activity subscription box that focuses on diversity and gender equality, teaching 3–7-year-old girls and boys (yes, boys can be feminists too!) empathy and perseverance.
We are intentionally launching a year after the election of Donald Trump.