Saturday, June 11, 2005

Am I a feminist?

This is a question that's always kinda bugged me. I grew up in the 70s and 80s which is a period during which things had changed a lot and continued to change for for women. Quite a few of the women of my generation flat out rejected the label feminist because the connotation that came along with it was less than positive thanks to: an appearance for the demand of quotas, Take Back the Night Vigils which implied all men were rapists or potential rapists (they really got out of hand in the early to mid-80s), & seems to find overt sexism in almost everything with some "cult of victimhood" that rears it's ugly head in many minority populations in which almost everything is perceived as the nefarious result of "the man keeping us down" and, in my opinion, undermines the advances a group has made/could make.

Many of us were sandwiched between "old school" parents, primarily our mothers, who honestly could not understand why our immediate and primary goal from the time we graduated high school was not to find a husband and become a full time mother, and the women who came of age in the 60s & early 70s. Many of those girls did graduate from college, get married & have children; some continued to work and some decided to be full time mothers. What was most important to us was that the decision was generally made by the woman herself (in the cases it wasn't solely her decision, the deciding factor was family finances, not an overbearing husband or societal expectations). It wasn't that we didn't realize the great strides that came from the woman's suffrage movement (we did) or that we didn't think women had as much right to access of education and the jobs they were qualified for & capable of performing (as well as the money that went with it), it was more that we perceived a hint of what we felt was female chauvenism and way too gynocentric. As such, we considered ourselves more humanist than feminist since the former seemed a more rational, egalitarian approach while acknowledging that there are some inherent differences between the sexes and that the majority of determinants that should affect decisions are those related to the particular individual(s).

In all fairness, skipping college was never an option for me (despite not being able to afford it). My parents raised me with the expectation that I would go to college right out of high school and earn a degree. Needless to say, being raised that way, I could never quite grasp why my mother didn't understand that I fully planned to utilize my education in my career as well as my life (maybe she thought that by sending me to college she was ensuring I'd get a husband that was "better educated" and had better earning potential). For me, I went to college for two reasons: to get an education and to be prepared for further education that would ostensibly lead to a fulfilling career (note to all Biology majors with no interest in Med School kids not majoring in Business - get a second degree in business). Now I admit I'm different than many women (heck, I'm different than pretty much everyone) in that I never saw myself trusting anyone enough to "fall in love", did not think I'd make a particularly good parent, and planned on being married to the lab (when I ran screaming from academic politics, I just became a workaholic as a surrogate to being married to the lab). I'm not single and child-free because I'm making a "feminist statement" about being independent. I had no real interest in marriage and family until about 5 years ago, which is about 2 years after I was finally comfortable about my ability to support myself (when you grow up with the financial instability that I experienced, you develop a real fear of not being able to support yourself and bigger one about the possibility of having to be able to support others if you did have a spouse/children; this is what I, sexistly, refer to as "the man stress" - for the record: I do not like the man stress one bit).

So now, as the country goes to hell in a hand-basket, and all sorts of "non-traditional" attitudes are being blamed for ther downfall of civilization just because they are "non-traditional" (the ancient greek men took young male lovers and the bible has references to homosexuality and civilizations that embraced orgies,etc. - but only the fundagelical accepted tradition is "traditional"?), I'm starting to wonder about the label "feminist" again.

To be perfectly honest, I started to wonder where I fit in when I saw a (much appreciated) link to my blog from Amp under the heading "blogs discussing feminsim." I never really thought I discussed feminism (though I do post about issues feminists care about) or that my attitudes were "feminist" in nature. I think I tend to take a rational, occasionally well-reasoned, common sense approach for the most part. I pretty much think I see the same approach by Lindsay, Amanda and a host of other female bloggers that I hadn't noticed were labeled as "feminist" (I'm a little slow on the uptake sometimes). Then I checked out Feministe (the blog title clued me into a "feminist" approach/agenda), and found Lauren to be as rational and steeped in the facts of a given situation in her approach to topics as the other female bloggers I enjoy reading. This made me wonder if, maybe, I am a feminist.

The whole idea was blown out of the water when I caught one of those News Magazines that did a story on career women who decided to leave their jobs to become full time moms. During the program, they interviewed a feminist (whose name escapes me) that essentially derided the decision of these women as an affront to feminism and implied they owed it to women to follow a path different than the one they freely chose.
I known successful women who've done this, usually because they find their toddlers to be signicantly more mature than their co-workers, though occasionally they do this because they just want to enjoy being mommies before their kids start mouthing off. Let's just say I found the feminist's comments offensive, counter productive and completely moronic and her vision of feminism to be just as bad as male chauvenism. This, unfortunately, seemed a bad flashback to the feminism I remember from my childhood and adolescence.

Not too long thereafter, I commented as much when Jessica decried Barbara Ehrenreich's assertion that, what she considers a "feminist consciousness" is equally productive to advancing feminism as labeling oneself a feminist. Most of the comments were thoughtful (except ohsusannah's hysterical reaction to my concern about the automatic use of the "woman as victim routine" as a statement implying that a woman who is raped is just playing victim). In a nutshell, I'm basically with LAMom who said:
"It's difficult because a lot of people (myself included) aren't sure exactly what qualifies one to be considered a feminist.

If I believe in equal pay and career opportunities, zero-tolerance for rapists and domestic abusers, greater respect for all the unpaid contributions that women make, breaking free from the sadistic beauty standards that are pushed on women and girls, full insurance coverage for contraceptives, equality in education and athletics, honor instead of ridicule of female anatomy and physiology, and equal political representation..."
So where, exactly, does that leave me?


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Anonymous said...

Men stood alongside women in the UK when advocating equal rights.
Please reflect;Do you consider it
just a teeny weeny bit selfish not to consider others rights as well,all I see is women wanting this and that and mens lives going down the chute with hardly a mention.

Ol Cranky said...

Do you consider it
just a teeny weeny bit selfish not to consider others rights as well,all I see is women wanting this and that and mens lives going down the chute with hardly a mention.

I'm afraid I don't understand your comment at all. What have I stated here that is "selfish" and inconsiderate of the rights of others? How are men's lives going completely down the chute and, in making this statement, are you implying that women having rights is somehow to blame for this? You need to provide greater detail for me to understand and respond to your comment; additionally, you need to tie those comments into what I've said to explain what it is you want me to reflect on.