Marissa Mayer: I Don't Think That I Would Consider Myself A Feminist

The comments came as Yahoo is still reeling from the CEO's change in policy over working from home.

For a moment on Thursday, watchers of the fallout of Marissa Mayer's announcement of the change in Yahoo's work from home policy were briefly distracted by the CEO's take on feminism. Mayer was recent featured in a PBS/AOL documentary (filmed when she was still at Google it appears) Makers: Women Who Make America, from which this soundbite was taken when she spoke about feminism:

"I don't think that I would consider myself a feminist. I think that, I certainly believe in equal rights. I believe that women are just as capable, if not more so, in a lot of different dimensions," she said. "But I don't, I think, have sort of the militant drive and sort of the chip on the shoulder that sometimes comes with that. And I think it's too bad, but I do think feminism has become, in many ways, a more negative word. There are amazing opportunities all over the world for women, and I think that there's more good that comes out of positive energy around that than negative energy."

Other notable soundbites from the documentary, which aired earlier this week on PBS (and are posted here) included Mayer talking about her proudest achievement (Google) and her take on life-work balance. "For me work is fun and fun is work. I work a lot. I work really hard. I still am able to do some cultural things and things that are fun outside of work. But interestingly, those things for me, more often than not, have connections back to work. Now I'm really involved with Google Doodles, the fun logos that appear on our homepage. I don't worry about balance. I worry more about being inspired and being passionate about what I'm working on."

What do you think about Mayer's remarks? Tell us in the comment section.

[Picture by Flickr user tixx]

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23 Comments

  • Alexis_in_LA

    How refreshing. I've heard related comments from MM before and was so pleasantly surprised to hear a competent professional woman talk about good ol' fashioned hard work. I myself have made it to a successful place in my field (a traditionally male-dominated one at that) and never once woke up in the morning thinking I should thank a "feminist" for what I had accomplished. I just got up and did my thing. I'm not sure where this instant connection has come from of immediately connecting a successful (or just plain employed) woman to feminism. Or other people bashing a professional woman for NOT thanking feminism. Seems a little like bullying. Or being militant.

  • Rhonda Marable

    It would have been more refreshing for her to reclaim feminism from the stereotypes associated with it or understand that she could stand apart from those that are active in a movement, which is what I think real feminists are, and those that support the principles, which it sounds like she does.

    A lot of factors go into people's success and it's very short-sighted and more than a little arrogant for you to pretend that feminism is not part of the reason why your hard work is respected or allowed. There are a lot of things and people you need to thank for where you are, not the least of which is whatever or whomever taught you your work ethic. Maybe you feel like people are asking you to grovel. You shouldn't...but you can thank feminism, the civil rights movement, patriotism, humanism, and a lot of other isms and movements for making it possible for you to rise above what is still an unequal situation that some are still fighting to change....humility is attractive on everyone. 

  • Alexis_in_LA

    Rhonda ... it's not arrogant at all for me to have a different belief than you may have or anyone else for that matter. It's a different belief, we've had different paths and mine doesn't involve making an Oscar-thank you speech to every -ism in the land for my contributions to my workplace. And no, I don't feel like anyone is making me grovel. 

    I know in my heart who I am and what I've been through in my life ... I have often thanked the person who believed in me enough when I was in college to offer me my position to build my career upon, who saw something in me that said I was more than capable to be part of their organization. And because I came to my position and my work duties without asking, expecting or demanding special treatment because I am a woman in a male-dominated industry, I received their respect ten-fold. I think I would have been horrified to discover I was brought in to fill some quota for female staff.

    My approach is to lead more by example than by my word. I didn't have to thank feminism each week at work to make sure I was seen in the eyes of my colleagues as a woman (or otherwise) who had struggled to get there. I knew I had. My work (and yes, work ethic) spoke for themselves. And no, life is not fair, life is still not equal everywhere we'd like but please don't label me as arrogant or imply I lack humility over a response to an article when we know little more about each other than our user names.

  • Rhonda Marable

    Leading by example is not a problem and I would be equally as horrified to find out that I was brought into a position to fill a quota, any quota. But don't confuse Mayer's distance or your own distance from real results of several people's efforts as a valid reason for underplaying them and overplaying your own. This was not about you being arrogant as a person, this was and is about the self-aggrandizement of your statement. That's clear. But again, it seems like you've been pressured to grovel since you keep going back to exaggerated thanks. Who asked for an Oscar thanks? Who asked for it every week? Who told you to or wanted you to wake up in the morning and thank feminism? Who even asked Mayer to "thank" feminism? 

    This was about exactly what you said, leading by example. Mayer unfortunately exemplified an ignorant, stereotypical bias against feminism that was disappointing and irresponsible.She claimed the negatives were committed by "some of them" but still effectively lumps all of us together in one militant, chip-having group like everyone's been doing for decades. You speak of not demanding special treatment, but "special" circumstances call for changes, call them what you will. It's not special treatment to desire not being fired from your job to have a child, recover, and come back. It's not special treatment to demand that women be considered for employment despite the fact that they MAY have children and MAY leave (as though only women would choose to leave a job for their children). I'd consider wanting to build a nursery next to my office special treatment, but Mayer did that. That's fine, it's her prerogative and her company. But you and I disagree that it's refreshing. You make it seem as though "competent professional women" go around claiming feminism and demanding thanks to a feminist all the time. If that's what you observe, please share some links with me.

  • greymoon

    So she doesn't feel she's a feminist yet she believes in equal pay for equal work. What is there about believing women should be treated with as much respect as men that could be described as "militant"? Believing that women should have equal rights to safety in the workplace is not a militant stance. Believing in "balance" between work and life isn't a "woman thing" it is a human thing. Maybe Ms Mayer is not a feminist because she is not human. Apparently her job leaves her happy and fulfilled. Does she actually believe that a dishwasher or ditch digger working for minimum wage feels the same way? Feminism isn't against anyone. It is against inequality.

  • Cynthi

    Marissa Mayer’s comments about not considering herself a feminist and implying that feminists have a “militant drive” and chip on their shoulders, shows her lack of understanding of feminism.  There are so many levels between “I do not consider myself a feminist” and the “militant drive” of which Mayer speaks.  However, like many “-isms,” feminism is multi-dimensional, multi-faceted, and often seems multi-directional.

    Although, Marissa Mayer may not want to label herself a feminist, I suspect she understands what it is like to “fight” to be heard by people who bring their biases and perceptions of her and her capabilities, especially early in her career.

    One hopes that she learns more about feminism, the history of women rights, and that her views will evolve and the next time the question is asked, it will reflect her new understanding. Or, it will not.

  • Edward Ramirez

    You have to remember though, feminism was born out of the ignorance of men, ''Militant drive'' could've merely been her way of saying, why should I give a crap about biases? or the fact that uneducated tools (biased males towards females)  like to downplay women. In other societies it's much more evident, but in first worlds, it's phasing out quickly. Trust me, when the idiots cease to exist, -isms will to.

  • Cynthi

    You might want to brush up on world affairs, "ancient" history and the history of psychology.  Idiots have always existed and I suspect always will.

  • Equus014

    Spoken like a woman who can build a nursery next to her office. Is she letting others, now that they can't work at home and have to pay for an additional 50+ days of child care per year, use these facilities or bring in their children? By having her child close, she's at least proving it won't be a distraction so why would working from home?

  • Stephen Heraldo

    The unfortunate thing about her statement is that she has the stage and opportunity to reclaim and own the true definition of being a feminist. She believes that men and women should have equal rights plain and simple. To acknowledge the negative connotations masks her true feelings. Don't completely throw her under the bus, because her actions still outweigh anything that she says.

  • Awscott

    Sad, sad, sad person! I work to live, can't wait till 4pm and I can go home and do the things I really like doing. As for 'working from home' Managers in my company use it as a 'scive'..an excuse as well when they have a cold, we can't do that...we have to have an interview about why we were away for a day! Democracy in work?..."my ass"!

  • km2012

    There are especially amazing opportunities in the "world" for women in India, South Africa...anywhere with a a dangerous rape culture. Give me a break. Women are second class citizens almost everywhere still, and that is a feminist issue. 

  • km2012

    Honestly - F YOU. I'm sick and tired of women like this saying they're not feminists or associating feminism with a militant drive to subjugate men or something stupid. I thought Mayer was smarter than that. I guess not. 

  • WRXx

    I was skeptical at first but I'm becoming a pretty big MM fan. She's continually showed she's tough, smart, and unafraid to challenge popular norms. Staunch feminists have transitioned from progressing women's rights to an increasingly extreme wacko group that whines at every perceived slight and pushes a ridiculously selfish agenda. Girls and boys alike need more role models like MM.

  • queercred

    I think that it's disappointing, as well as absurd, to hear her say that she can't consider herself a feminist because of the negative connotations surrounding the word--that attitude is what gave the word a negative connotation in the first place.  People saying, "Well, if feminism means THAT, then of course I'm not a feminist..." when feminism /never meant/ those misconceptions.  You shouldn't abandon a movement just because its enemies try to redefine it.  That defeats the purpose, and defeats the movement.  But I think if she doesn't understand these concepts, then, no she can't rightfully call herself a feminist; she doesn't understand the meaning of the word.

  • Jlarkin54

    Ms. Mayer was also born in 1975, a decade after the girls in my freshman class at Woodside High School in Woodside, CA were "allowed" to wear pants to school. I'm sure Ms. Mayer has had to overcome many things, but she should be thanking the "Feminists" who made it possible for her to vote, own property, and oh yeah, work.

  • greymoon

     ...not to mention a job that both pays the bills and fulfills her and, yes, gives her balance , whether or not she realizes she has it!

  • Mariapowers

    I think that Mrs. Bogue nee Mayer doesn't understand the word feminism. Perhaps if she did, then she wouldn't be so quick to state that she isn't one or to state that there's plenty of opportunity for women. It is one of the ridiculous statements made by the privileged few to convince themselves that they are "special" and "deserving" and if others don't achieve the same, then clearly that is their fault.