"So I wonder, how can I be a feminist that espouses choice for everyone, if deep down I feel like my choice of selectively rejecting certain feminine traits is "better"? There's a whole lot going on here in this here brain of mine."And my favorite blogmale DuWayne writes in response:
"It's not the underlying reaction that's a problem. It's when assumptions are made and accusations are made that it becomes a problem. Feeling like she made the wrong decisions, that the decisions were not really "feminist" decisions is just fine. But turning around and accusing me of trying to subjugate my children's mom, or accusing her of bowing to the whims of the patriarchy, would be entirely unreasonable and ultimately antithetical to the notion of feminism."I love my brilliant blogpals. :) And so the inspiration for this post was born.
I hesitate to call myself a feminist because the term implies that I value women's issues and rights over that of men. You should be able to tell by now that this is not the case.
But what is feminism, really? The problem is that there are many contemporary variations of feminism. From Transformations: Women, Gender & Psychology by Dr. Mary Crawford (UConn):
"Socialist feminism emphasizes that there are many kinds of divisions between groups of people that can lead to oppression. Socialist feminists believe that acts of discrimination based on social class, race, and gender are equally wrong. Moreover, it views these forms of discrimination as inseparable.Woman-of-Color feminism, or womanism, began with criticism of the white women's movement for excluding women of color and issues important to them: poverty, racism, and needs such as jobs, health care, good schools, and safe neighborhoods for all people.Radical feminism emphasizes male control and domination of women throughout history. This perspective views the control of women by men as the first and most fundamental form of oppression.Liberal feminism is familiar to most people because it relies on deeply held American beliefs about equality -- an orientation that connects it to political liberalism. From this perspective, a feminist is a person who believes that women are entitled to full legal and social equality with men and who favors changes in laws, customs, and values to achieve the goal of equality....It emphasizes the similarities between men and women, maintaining that given equal environments and opportunities, they will behave similarly.Cultural feminism emphasizes differences between women and men. This perspective stresses that qualities characteristic of women have been devalued and should be honored and respected in society.Global feminism focuses on how prejudice and discrimination against women are related across cultures, and how they are connected to neocolonialism and global capitalism."
Dr. Crawford continues:
"However, feminist perspectives share two important themes. First, feminism values women as important and worthwhile human beings. Second, feminism recognizes the need for social change if women are to lead secure and satisfying lives. Perhaps the simplest definition of a feminist is an individual who holds these basic beliefs: that women are valuable and that social change to benefit women is needed.....Therefore, perhaps the simplest definition of feminism is one proposed by bell hooks (1984): It is a movement to end sexism and sexist oppression.Feminist perspectives in general can be contrasted to conservatism. Conservatives seek to keep gender arrangements as they have been in much of the recent past, with males holding more public power and status and women being more or less defined by their sexuality and their roles as wives and mothers."
This last paragraph is where many of us start to have problems. If we believe that it's just fine for a woman to express her feminine sexuality, to be a wife and mother, to be a "girly-girl" - then how can we be a feminist? And if we don't believe that those things are just fine, then how can we be a feminist?
The real issue that I choose to focus on as a feminist is the freedom of choice. The freedom for a woman to choose how and when to express her sexuality and to what extent it defines her. The freedom for a woman to choose career over family or vicer versa as it suits her needs and goals. The freedom for a woman to choose to wear high heels, lipstick, and get breast implants if it makes her feel good about herself.
But because I value equality of ALL people, I (as I said earlier) hesitate to actually call myself a feminist. Therefore, I prefer to consider myself a humanist: someone who firmly believes in the inherent equality, worth, and value of all people, regardless of sex, gender, race, social class, age, etc.
With respect to PhizzleDizzle's comment, it can be difficult not to look at stereotypical "girly" choices with disdain. With respect to DuWayne's comment, it can be difficult not to look at stay-at-home moms as having sacrificed their own fulfillment in order to fill a traditional role in the home.
What we have to remember is that the most important element here is that of choice. If a woman chooses motherhood over her career or vice versa, that's fantastic. Because she had the option. If a woman chooses to be a "girly-girl" and decorate herself with pink and bedazzles or dresses in man's clothing and plays football, that's fantastic. Because she had the option.
It's not about agreeing with, liking, or disliking the choices another person makes. It's about respecting the fact that they made a choice for themselves. That, in my opinion, was what the women's movement was meant to achieve before it became a convoluted mess of contradictory beliefs.
Here's a controversial analogy for you: abortion. I am pro-choice. Period. That means that I believe a woman has the right to have an abortion if she believes it is the best move for her to make given her life and circumstances. I would never, ever, ever vote to have that right taken away.
I, however, would not judge a woman whose religious or personal views led her to decide that abortion was not an option, and chose an alternate path whether it involved raising the child herself or giving it up for adoption. The freedom to choose abortion also MUST include the freedom to choose NOT to have one.
Likewise, the freedom to choose a career must also include the freedom to choose NOT to. The freedom to choose to subscribe to feminine values that include motherhood, fashion, being a stripper or an escort, whatever, must be supported as well.
So for PhizzleDizzle - it doesn't matter whether or not you agree or like women who are girly. Don't feel guilty for "throwing up a little" in your mouth when you see frighteningly pink images of little girls' rooms. The important question for you to ask yourself is whether, if your daughter wanted to surround herself with the color pink, Barbie dolls, and little girl make-up, if you would allow her to make that choice for herself. If the answer is yes (despite your vomit), you are a feminist (just not a radical one).
For DuWayne (and you already know this) you are not a misogynist unless you create an environment in which it is impossible or otherwise incredibly undesirable for the mother of your children to choose anything other than staying home with your boys. If the man makes more money than the woman, has more job security, both partners want the children to be raised by their parents instead of daycare, and both partners agree to the solution - that is a feminist act as long as she has the choice.
Remember in an earlier post I said I would continue to emphasize a certain point? Here it is again:
We must ALL be FREE to be who we ARE. Period.