Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting drew a backlash when she said she never gave much though to feminism, having benefited from the activism of feminists who came before her.

The “F” word is so misunderstood

SHARE The “F” word is so misunderstood
SHARE The “F” word is so misunderstood

The “F” word has gotten another celebrity in trouble.

I’m talking about feminism, of course. (That wasn’t the word you thought I meant? Get your minds out of the gutter, people!)


This time it’s Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting, star of “The Big Bang Theory,” and her thoughts on that “F” word.

Cuoco-Sweeting is on the cover of the February issue of Redbook, which hits newsstands Tuesday. As publications often do to drum up interest, some of Cuoco-Sweeting’s comments in the Redbook interview were released early, setting the web world in a spin and forcing the actress to offer an apology — all before any of us even saw the entire interview.

The one question put to young female entertainers in interviews these days is this: are you a feminist. By the way, this is not a question I’ve seen asked of their male counterparts, which goes to show why feminism remains something worth embracing. (What? You think a male can’t be a feminist? Then you don’t know the true meaning of the word. But I digress.)

Anyway, here’s what set off the online outrage: “It’s not really something I think about,” Cuoco-Sweeting told Redbook, when asked if she’s a feminist. “Things are different now, and I know a lot of the work that paved the way for women happened before I was around. . . . I was never that feminist girl demanding equality, but maybe that’s because I’ve never really faced inequality.”

Given her age (29) and success, I’m not at all surprised Cuoco-Sweeting feels that way.

She’s like a lot of young women. They have had the same opportunities as their male counterparts in all parts of their lives, whether on the soccer team or in acceptance to college. (Cuoco-Sweeting’s per-episode salary on “Big Bang” has been the same as her male co-stars since the beginning. Just like them, she’s making $1 million an episode right now, according to news reports.)

Her comments reminded me of a conversation I had with two younger co-workers. The male asked, innocently enough, if I had ever faced any inequality. Before I could answer, my young female co-worker lashed back at him, saying of course I had not.

But I had to set her straight. Actually, I told them, as a child I could not be an altar server at mass or deliver newspapers. No girls allowed. Only because I forced the issue was I named the sole editor of my high school paper (previously, if a female held the post she had to have a male co-editor). At an internship during college, I wasn’t allowed to work nights; too dangerous in that quiet Downstate town. (It was OK for the male student.)

After college an editor liked my work, but he wouldn’t hire me because he worried what a young single woman would do in her free time. (If I’d been married then . . . ) So yes, there were times I faced inequality. My young female co-worker was shocked; she thought those things happened long ago. I bet Cuoco-Sweeting would be surprised, too; I’m probably around the same age as her mom, so “those things” happened quite recently.

If anything, it’s up to those of us who know how things have changed for females, how new and fragile this all is, to speak up. We also must let the younger females and males know it’s OK to be a feminist. It just means you want equality for everyone, regardless of gender, and who could be against that?

Email: sueontiveros.cst@gmail.com

Twitter: @sueontiveros

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