Do you ever lie in bed at night, thinking about all the things you want to say, and coming up with clever and creative ways to say them? Clever ways that utterly vanish when the real opportunity to express yourself actually presents? I’ve been doing that a lot lately, and while I want to blame it on the pregnancy and my hormones, I honestly think this problem has plagued me my entire life. I am sooo glib, sharp and precise in my mind, and so often muddled, distracted and unclear in real life. Not fair. So lately I have been thinking about Feminism, and how I really feel about it. Lets hope, since this is on “paper”, my clarity will be somewhere in the middle of my fantasies and my unfortunate, bumbling reality.
The first time anyone asked me if I was a Feminist was at a natural foods store where I worked in Santa Cruz, California. I was 18. She was a co-worker of mine, and I was standing behind the bakery counter, making Chai tea. Somewhat off-guard, I looked up and said that, no, I didn’t consider myself a Feminist. The verbal beating that ensued was shocking; she berated me for my position, belittled my intelligence, and basically concluded that I was repressed and misinformed, and once I loosened the shackles of my bondage, I would see things as she did. How’s that for a start? In a nutshell, this is, even today, my complaint about modern Feminism.
There was time, not too long after this incident, that I would have answered the above question very differently. Perhaps it is a right of passage for many young women- I can and do only speak for myself. There was a period of years where the message of modern Feminism was very bright in my sky, and I subscribed to many of its popular ideals (and magazines and authors). But slowly, as I became more aware of my own heart and found the courage to look at how I really felt deep inside (rather than subscribing to a particular social movement’s cannon), my point of view shifted. And when it shifted, I again found myself maligned and belittled by a movement I thought was there to embrace and empower me to do exactly what I was trying to do- Make up my own mind. Herein lies the problem. Because the opinion I began to form was not in direct line with the party-line ( for lack of a better word), I was again labeled misinformed and repressed. And this made (still makes) me very angry.
Other than the above dichotomy, one my biggest contentions with modern Feminism is the very-pushed idea that men are less than women. Books and magazine actually try and seriously contend with the idea that men might not be necessary (other than for reproduction) at all. I am expected to take this as serious academic discourse? The idea that women are somehow superior to men is not progress- it is running in the same ditch the other direction. Belittling men diminishes us all, and as the mother of sons, I will not abide by it.
Another big bone I have to pick with the Feminists is the bright and shiny banner of “The Right to Choose”. Heads up-This one is very personal to me. Now, the right to choose implies someone actually choosing- having several options and making a well-informed and thoughtful decision. From personal experience, I know how slippery and sketchy this idea is in reality. When I was very young, I made some astoundingly poor choices and ended up pregnant. I want to make it perfectly clear that I am not blaming anyone for my own actions, but I also want to make it clear that vulnerable and frightened young women can be and are taken advantage of under the banner of “choice”. When I went to the doctor- when I went a family member, when I talked to a counselor, what was repeated over and over, was how lucky I was that I lived in this age when woman could have a safe and legal abortion. Repeatedly, I was told how simple and easy “it” was, how empowering this would be- yes, someone actually said that to me. NO one, not one counselor, doctor or friend said to me that I could make a choice other than the one they were offering. I was told that at 8 weeks “it” was not a child, but still just a lump of tissue. That was an outright lie, I now know. I also know that I am not the only frightened and alone young woman who was pushed through something she may not have really wanted in the name of “modern progress” and Feminism. Everyone was so careful to protect my “rights” as a modern woman, no one stopped and looked at the scared girl.
Which leads me to my real question. Is modern Feminism really serving women, real women with real lives, or is it merely serving it’s own agenda? Am I a Feminist? Not on your life. Do I believe that men and women are created equally? You better believe it. Are we the same, able to do all the same things on an equal and level playing field? Nope. We are inherently different, but neither is superior or better than the other- different but equal. My husband and I will never be an equal match in physical strength, nor will he ever be the artist I am. We each compliment and compel the other, amplifying and complimenting and lifting, where I am weak, he is stronger, where he struggles, I lift him up. We are Equal, but we are not, and never will be the Same.
The world is not perfect- I understand that there are women who really do need help. But don’t help and then expect or even demand that those women then fit into a proscribed political or world view. Help with the idea of freeing people to make up their own minds and hearts, even if it doesn’t fit with the very doctrine that freed them. I don’t need the ERA, or Ms Magazine, or Gloria Steinem or Betty Freidan to tell me how or what to think. And I am not interested in riding a pendulum that swings too far to the left or the right- I will stay right here with my own heart, kindly and thoughtfully making quiet decisions for my life. That is feminism to me.