Sunday, January 17, 2010

Hmmm... Feminism

Now that I'm no longer working the insane hours of retail at Christmas (did I mention I had to be at work at 4am?! OUCH!), my brain has started functioning again. As a consequence, I've been throwing around an idea in my head, a little internal argument that I can't solve on my own. Here's the question:

Has modern feminism gone too far? Has it not gone far enough? Has it gone in the wrong direction?

To the last question, I can answer a resounding "YES!" The other two... well, I'm still working on those.

Are we, as women of Western culture, better off because of feminism? Yes and no. I'm glad that I'm not (usually) talked down to because I'm a woman. I'm glad that I can earn a decent wage, that I'm seen as an intelligent, competent person. I'm not anyone's property, I can vote, I can run for office, and I can have and defend my own opinion. Those are all great things. But I think we'd all agree that something has been lost.

First, I think that feminism, in its way, devalues the contributions to society that are (primarily) made by women. So many feminists that I've encountered want to be seen as the same as men. Gosh, I don't. I want to be a woman, but with the same rights as a man. Can I have it both ways?

Did I lose you back in that last paragraph? Feminism devaluing women? Yeppers. Happens all the time. How many times have you heard someone say, "Does your wife work, or does she stay at home with the children?" (Let one of those blockheads stay home with my brood for a day, and they'll see WORK!) or "Girls can be anything at all when they grow up. They can be pilots, or Senators, or mechanics, or doctors." Umm... where is MOTHER in that laundry list? Well, okay, sometimes it gets tacked on those sentences. Usually like this, "Girls can be anything at all when they grow up. They can be pilots, or Senators, or mechanics, or doctors. Or even mothers." Gee, thanks. Even mothers, huh? Wow. What a wonderfully glowing accolade for the job on the planet that keeps the human race alive. You're welcome, by the way.

Oftentimes, feminists discourage femininity. It is implied to be equal with weakness. Subservience. Timidity. How many times do you think of a strong, modern woman, with intelligence and strength - and then picture a woman with a child on her lap, reading a story? Or sewing? Or knitting? Or cooking a meal for her family? Intelligence? Strength? Child-rearing? KNITTING? Oh, the horror of being a feminine feminist!

Shallow-minded feminism (which is the most common kind, I'm afraid) tells women that to be valued, we must be like men. Not "equal to" men. Not "have the same opportunities" as men. But we must be as men.

And how, pray tell, is that feminism?

It's just the same tired devaluing of women, in new clothes. Now women aren't seen as stupid or without ambition, unless they choose to stay home and raise children. Please don't misunderstand my motive, here. I'm not bitter. Not in the least. Just callin' it like I see it.

I feel a bit cheated by feminism. The illusion of "having it all." It's just not possible. I'm not trying to fight another skirmish in the Mommy Wars by pointing this out, but working 40 hours outside the home, raising children, and trying to keep a house (and make it into a home) is not something that can be done well. By anyone. Something has to give. Eventually, that house of cards comes down, either in a big crash, or a slow slide. But come down it does.

There is a widespread idea that feminism created a perceived need for two incomes. As more women started working outside the home, prices rose as a reaction to households having more disposable income. As a consequence, when some families kept to the one-wage-earning-parent model*, it becomes challenging to "keep up," further entrenching each side of the debate of wealth versus family. (Keeping up is another post.)

And we don't even need to talk about reproductive "freedom." How many women have been coerced into abortions? How many women are taking harmful pills or injections that override their bodies' natural functions, in the name of "freedom?" How many women are raising children on their own, because they tried to be like men and see intimacy as no big deal, and just a physical act? (Please understand that I know all men don't think this way, but this is the way society conditions us to see a man's point of view.) How many men and women are living together, with children and without marriage, because marriage is seen as something outdated, only needed by insecure, grasping people who need a piece of paper to seal a commitment?

I'm grateful for feminism. I'm grateful for the opportunities bought for me by the sacrifice and insistent voices of so many women. And I think it's gotten off track. Or maybe it was wrong at its start: I can't tell you, I hadn't been born yet. But I can say, with honesty, that mainstream feminism is broken, and entirely too man-centric. It focuses on making women like men. And I think that subverts what should be the bedrock of feminism: women are valuable as women. Not because we wear dresses or perfume or makeup (though those are very nice perks) but because we are strong, we make unpopular choices (like giving up a career bought by years of education to kiss sticky faces and get stains out of laundry), and we are unique. And we are not men. (Let's face it girls, the men are better men than we'll ever be. Thank God.)

*see, the feminist in me won't even allow that this sentence would be better served by coming out and saying the father works outside the home!


Patty said...

Perfect Loni!

Amy said...

I agree with you completely!!