Wednesday, September 24, 2014

"I don't usually agree with feminism, but..."

So, a lot of people have been writing about Emma Watson's (awesome) speech about HeForShe, and starting with the preface “I don't usually agree with feminism, but...”

Why don't you agree with feminism? As Emma pointed out, the definition (says Merriam-Webster) of feminism is “The theory of political, economic, and social equality of the sexes.” It's hard for me to understand why anyone would be against the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes.

Some people distance themselves from the word “feminism” because they mistakenly believe it originated with the radicals we often associate with second-wave feminism. I reject the idea that feminism derives from and is inherently tied to its radicals.

The words “feminism” and “feminist” first appeared in Europe in the late 1800s, and in the United States in 1910. First-wave feminism was mainly about official discrimination, and the largest achievement of first-wave feminism was women's suffrage.

During World War II, women took over many roles that had traditionally been filled by men. As the war ended, there was a huge push for women to return to the home and to traditional feminine roles, in order to make room in the job market for men. Second-wave feminism emerged as a delayed reaction to this renewed push toward the traditional roles breadwinning head of home vs. subservient and domestic little wife. Second-wave feminism became more about unofficial discrimination. Yes, feminism has had its radicals. Like any group, the radical minority is always the loudest. That doesn't mean that the word “feminism” should be associated with its loudest members. Second-wave feminism accomplished many goals for which I as a woman am very grateful, including the Fair Labor Standards Act, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, more widely available and accepted birth control, “no fault” divorce laws, and Title IX.

I am a feminist. I am not a Bible-thumper, I am a Feminine Mystique-thumper. I believe women should have control over their own bodies and I support women's access to affordable birth control. I am against indoctrinating children to believe they should conform to traditional gender roles and stereotypes (or nontraditional gender roles and stereotypes. Anti-indoctrination is the key here). I chose to marry a man who doesn't fit traditionally masculine stereotypes, because I knew I wouldn't be happy with a man who was stereotypically masculine and expected me to conform to stereotypically feminine roles. I don't believe that all women should be stay-at-home moms just by virtue of their possessing a uterus, and I don't believe that all men should be the breadwinners. It was important to me, in choosing a husband, to marry a man who would be open to a nontraditional division of family roles if that's what we felt was best for us and our family. I personally do not feel that in my own life I could be fulfilled and satisfied by being a stay-at-home mom; I want a career. I am open to having children but do not intend to have them before I am ready. If and when my husband and I decide to have children, I intend to keep working and I don't believe that would make me a bad mother. I dye my hair and I wear makeup. I sometimes go for weeks (or even months) without shaving my legs. I love to cook and bake and do crafts. I hate housekeeping. I don't like kids indiscriminately. I have a large collection of high heels, even though I know they do terrible things to my ankles. I am outspoken and opinionated. None of those things makes me a bad feminist or a bad woman.

This is how I choose to live my life. Just because I feel strongly that this is the right choice for me, it doesn't mean this is the right choice for you. If you are a woman and, being aware of your options, of your own free will, feel that you will be happiest and most fulfilled by being a stay-at-home mom, that's great! If you feel you will be happiest by being a working mom, that's great! And if you are a man and, being aware of your options, by your own free will, feel you will be happiest and most fulfilled by being the breadwinner, that's great! If you feel you will be happiest by being a stay-at-home dad, that's great!

If I have children, I want them to know that they can be whatever they want to be and are willing to work to be. I want them to know that they can be as strong and as sensitive as they want. I want them to know that their value is not based on how they are perceived by the opposite sex. I both my sons and my daughters to have the same opportunities and the same freedoms. I want them to treat all others, male and female, with respect, compassion, and dignity.


Live and let live. It's really none of your business what other people choose to do with their lives. Our place is not to judge or make assumptions. Our job is not to lump people into categories and roles based on the contents of their pants. Our place is not to try to force everyone to make the same life choices we have made. Our place is to respect and help each other as we all work toward a common goal: happiness. That's what feminism, to me, is all about.