In 1987, Peg Yorkin, Eleanor Smeal, Katherine Spillar, Toni Carabillo and Judith Meuli came together and launched a global women’s rights organization for a new era.
30 years later, the Feminist Majority Foundation has established itself as a leading force around the world for gender equality: They have testified before Congress and won cases before the Supreme Court, protected abortion providers on the ground and through legal battles, led the push against the Taliban, fostered feminist leadership through the Girls Learn International and Feminist Campus programs and launched campaigns to secure political victories for women across the country. (They even took on publishing Ms.!)
In the modern era, FMF’s work fits into a larger constellation of feminist activism. But when the organization launched, it wasn’t just their groundbreaking demands for women’s equality that faced challenges. It was also their name.
“We needed a name,” said Spillar at the organization’s 30th anniversary celebration. “A 1986 Newsweek/Gallup public opinion poll showed that a majority of women in the United States self-identified as feminist. So we thought it would make a good name. We were indeed a feminist majority! Yet, for more than a decade, supporters and even friends urged that we change the organization’s name. They argued the word ‘feminist’ was too controversial and would drive away support.”
Times have changed, and so have our cultural attitudes toward the word “feminist.” 60 percent of women and one-third of men identify as feminists or strong feminists, according to a national survey released last year by the Washington Post. Celebrities and record numbers of women across the U.S. have proudly claimed the label as their own.
For their 30th anniversary, FMF this week brought together feminist celebrities, activists and movement leaders for a celebration in Los Angeles. Alysia Reiner, Monique Coleman, Sarah Silverman, Dolores Huerta, Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin, Kamilah Willingham of The Hunting Ground, Amy Brenneman, Wendy Davis, California State Controller Betty Yee and girls and young women leading the fight for women’s rights joined FMF staff and board members in remembering 30 years of all they accomplished while “proudly using the ‘F’ word.”
“I could never have imagined the impact we would have,” Yorkin said at the event. “I also never imagined the challenges we would face. Or that 30 years later, we would still be fighting for some of the most obvious and most fundamental of our rights.”
As we face historic challenges, the “F” word remains the rallying cry we need to protect and expand on the progress of the last thirty years. And as the FMF moves forward in their historic fight for women’s rights and equality around the world, they will also continue proudly flying the feminist banner.
In honor of their anniversary, the FMF has launched a social media campaign encouraging self-avowed feminists from all corners of the nation and the globe to share their feminist click moments and what feminism means to them with the hashtag #UseTheFWord.
Why do you #UseTheFWord? Tell us in the comments! (And on social media!)