Personal Feminism

“There was a time that my angry Feminism got in the way
of my even wanting to dress up and look like a woman.”
-Emma Thompson

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.

12 thoughts on “Personal Feminism

  1. Well said.

    “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.”

    This absolutely drives me nuts. Why is it, when we want to make our own decisions that we are called ignorant. I choose to be a mother. I choose to stay home with my daughter. Why is that so bad?

    I have heard that one of the goals of the feminist movement is to basically make a man out of me. Of course they would never come out and say it like that, but essentially that is what it is. This does nothing to help women succeed. In my opion this only worsens the situation.

    Just like you, I want to make my own decisions and be respected for them.

  2. Thanks for saying everything I’ve always wanted to say but never bothered putting into words.

    I don’t like describing myself in any sort of politically loaded terms. I find it hard to believe that anyone can actually identify along any sort of party lines. I tend not to trust people who do, in a way.

  3. Wow, I’m in awe. I fel like someone really understands the thoughts that go through my head. I have yet to properly express my feelings about being an LDS woman who is exceedingly happy with my position, but constantly told I am “opressed”. You hit the nail on the head and I am so very greatful. It is a relief to not feel alone on something so very crucial.
    Now if only I could find someone who felt that way about politics….

  4. So well written and stated. I actually forwarded it to my mother and sister both ardent femnists.

    I was raised by a single mom who really did advocate femnism (not to mention she is a Sociology Professor). I grew up with some really strange notions about men and how they related to me. Because as a woman- they were all realative to me and my gender, never the other way around.

    I think for me feminism is about empowering myself to be the best I can be in whatever capacity I can. I also think this notion applies to men, I think we should all strive to be the best that we ourselves can be and not let anyone (regardless of gender) get us down. I do not believe that society or men are out to get us as women- although I think in some ways the more we push for what the femnists title “equality” the more backward we get in some ways. A book that really helped me is “What our Mother’s Never told us, why happiness eludes the modern woman” by Danielle Crittenden. Sorry for being a blogjacker….thank you for your willingness to write and share!

  5. It’s nice to see a woman come out and say what I (a man) have long suspected, namely that feminism misdescribes the female psyche.

    My father was not, as feminists would have it, some bullying patriarch determined to bash my mother into biological and domestic servitude.

    As regards biological servitude: my parents were married for six years before my mother became pregnant. That pregnancy permanently derailed my father’s ambitions to complete his medical studies (and he blamed me for it), but my mother was pleased as punch at having a child. I’m sure she set out to get pregnant despite his wishes. He would have known about fertile/infertile periods and definitely had enough self-control not to have sex while she was fertile (he’d already managed it for six years). She must have lied to him about her periods in order to get pregnant. She wanted to be a mother.

    As regards domestic servitude: I remember my mother always criticizing me for my untidy room and accusing me of expecting her to clean it up — but after (typically) 15 minutes of complaining she would clean and tidy it herself — WITH A GLINT IN HER EYE. On one occasion I told her that the reason she (and not I) should tidy up my room was that she enjoyed it. She smiled at me as if to say “you perceptive little bugger”.

    So my own close first hand experience suggests that women need to be needed, enjoy taking care of (“mothering”) others, and like to complain about “having” to do so. They enjoy the complaining because (1) it serves as a release for the displeasure they feel at the arduous aspects of the task (2) it reinforces their feeling of being needed (3) it raises their status to that of the martyr-victim to whom all must be eternally grateful, apologetic, and submissive.

    Real women are not Rambo’s with tits, they are more like Marie, Raymond’s mother in the comedy series Everybody Loves Raymond.

  6. Anonymous-
    WHAT ON EARTH?! That is a pretty gross general view of woman. I would hardly say that all women are as you describe (or even a vast majority). There are probably some women out there who fit your description…but a vast majority who don’t.

    You describe women as manipulative by nature- OUCH, I take personal offense to that. I do not agree that manipulation is a female trait, it crosses gender lines.

    I am really surprised no one else has posted in response to your comments…

  7. Dear heather h,

    Your statement that a vast majority are not manipulative is as much a generalisation as you accuse me of. Am I supposed to accept your generalisation, just because the alternative hurts your feelings? That’s certainly what Marie would want me to do.

  8. Eww. Uh, dude? Did you even read what I wrote? To say that you completely missed my point is the understatement of the year. None of what I say fits in with your warped and cruel view of women.

    Is this a joke? Were you trying to be a mysogenistic throw-back? Your gross generalizations are unwelcome.

  9. i know this post is REALLY old and no one will probably even read this but the fact that comment after comment left me, mouth gaping, aghast about the terrible misconceptions that people actually hold as truths…Have any of you even read any feminist texts? Specifically any third wave texts? bell hooks, kathleen hanna, jennifer baumgardner, robin morgan??? ALL of these FEMINSTS (and more not even mentioned) advocate equality for ALL, not just for women…Clearly stating that there is an inherent hypocrisy not to mention, futile, selfish, and just illogical to assume that as an equal society, we as women need to be manly, or reject men, or we, as women are better…Never. Bust or sassy magazine…familiar with these? They pride themselves on embracing feminists of all shapes, sizes, lifestyles as well as all those other stereotypes you may hold about feminists (i.e. haircuts, clothes, etc.)
    This probably won’t mean anything to you, many of you seem to have made up your minds…but just know that feminism is about embracing EVERYONE!!!Sometimes I wish there was a new term for the idealogy this has helped me and so many other women…

  10. Rachel- this is an old post, I have indeed read your thoughtful comment- (and delered the offensive annonymous who commented before you- my blog, my perogitive- and one I don’t exersice at all often)

    I can’t speak for the women who commented before you, but as for me, yes, I have read the “third wave” as well as both Bust and Sassy magazines. Things are better- adn I admit that I reap a lot of the bennefits of the work from the women who came before me.

    Things might better than they used to be, as far as misandrist attitudes, but the above post was simply a relation of my actual experiences in my life. Unfortunatley, I still encounter, especially at online feminist groups, a terrible alienation of things masculine- and a general trend of “agree with me or I will attack your intelligence”- not always, but too often.

    Perhaps you’re right- we need a new word. I suspect your point of view and mine are not so far appart- yes the shaddow of the hardlines still falls over where we stand.

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