March 3, 2012

Feminism in the 21st Century

February's belated End of the Month Controversy is brought to you by every rant that every person riding in a car with me has been subjected to through most of the winter.

The fact that feminism is a subject that can be considered controversial in this day and age, in this place in time, is downright absurd.

Since starting up my blog and becoming introduced to the mommy blogosphere, I have been continually surprised by the tenor of popular mommy blogs.

Ideas about "Biblical Womanhood," about "Traditional Family Values," and about the ideals of femininity and motherhood.

Yes, there is a niche for "Power Mom Blogs," but the vast majority of the mommy blogs I have encountered, and in the past nearly-two-years I have encountered A LOT of mommy blogs, tend to share an opinion of what makes a mother, and essentially a woman, a success.

I convinced myself that this Return-to-the-Dark-Ages mentality was a symptom of isolation.  That mothers across the country who were lonely and seeking interaction with like minded people had managed to use the magic of the internet to form ties and build relationships.

...and then the Republican race for the presidential nomination started.

I was aghast when pundits and church leaders began claiming that Michele Bachmann had no place in the White House- not because she's a crazy person, but because she is a woman.  And then I heard those words come from the mouths of women.

And something inside my brain snapped.
Anti-equality poster from 100 years ago

As I've said many times, I frequently feel that I'm essentially misogynistic.  I don't particular like most women.  I don't find that I have much in common with them, small talk and recipe swaps don't hold my interest.

I like zombie comics, science magazines, hard rock, and getting dirty outside.

I don't wear makeup, I don't go shopping just to go shopping.  I've never had (and never WILL have) my nails done.  I get a haircut maybe twice a year, max.  I don't diet.  I don't wear contacts.

In short, there are a lot of activities that are largely the purview of women... and nearly all of those activities leave me cold.  But I don't hate women.  In fact, I AM a woman, and I take a great deal of pride in that.

I revel in my own femininity.  I take pride in my wild, unruly (but I think quite lovely) hair.  I love to bake and sew, I have a soft spot for 90's era female vocalists.

I am a complete person, with individual flaws and desires and needs and abilities.

I am a skilled individual.

The fact that I am a woman is utterly irrelevant.  Or very relevant, but not in any way definative.

1979- Marching for the failed Equal Rights Amendment
So the idea of a "woman's place" just makes me sick to my stomach.

And now, since our president has decided to (finally) make himself the closest thing to a "Feminist" president that I have ever seen, every single person who opposes the president on the principal that they oppose the president has put themselves staunchly against women.

There are states trying to drive out the League of Women Voters.

There are states trying to drive out the Girl Scouts of America.

There are states eliminating programs that provide women with basic, non-reproductive health care services.

Rush Limbaugh is on his show demanding that women who want their employers to cover their birth control put up videos of themselves having sex.

The human uterus is being turned into the playground of reproductive rights politicking.

Anti-Obama legislators in congress are opposing laws to protect victims of domestic violence.

And all of it is being done in the name of "morality."

Because since the Bible and the Torah said so once upon a time, it is "moral" to treat women as second class citizens.

Because the height of feminine success is having a lot of babies, and "serving" your husband until you work yourself into the grave.

That is not a world I care to live in.  It's not a world I care to raise my daughters in.  In the world that I came to know and to understand, we had already fought these battles, and we had won.  We had marched in the streets, been arrested en mass, and clawed our way most of the way to equality.

Yes, women still earned three quarters of what men earned, women were still dramatically underrepresented in board rooms and government, yes women were still horrifically likely to become victims of sexual and domestic violence, but we were making progress.  And now we're just running backwards as fast as we can.

Whenever I hear a Congresswoman saying that women shouldn't have to vote, I want to scream.  Whenever some clown like Rush Limbaugh claims that a woman who takes birth control is by definition a prostitute, I want to start smashing skulls.  Whenever I'm told that I am a slut or a sinner for choosing when I have a baby, I want to commit truly violent acts.

And almost always, I want to commit those acts against other women.  The women who are complicit in their subjugation.  The women who stand next to their husbands, their "moral" politico spouses, and say nothing as their rights as human beings are maligned and ignored.  The women who say that other women should just stay with their babies and leave the thinking up to the men.

I do not think that men are evil.  I think that most people are stupid, and about half of all people all men.  But I think that any person who acts in their own worst interest is worse than stupid.  And any person who would attack another person, who would deny them their fundamental human rights, for a trait that they share with the "other," that person might just be evil.

Like the pastors who teach the children in their flocks to attack and abuse gay people, and then later are outed by jilted same-sex lovers.

Or "family values" politicians who have dozens of ex-mistresses, illegitimate children, and criminal activities on the side.

Or women, who claim that other women are somehow "less than" men.

Feminism isn't about women being better than men, it's about human beings being equal REGARDLESS of gender.

And the fact that that's a controversial idea in the 21st century...

That is simply unacceptable.

I think of the notes, written in the margins of my grandmother's high school yearbook.  She and her friends signed each others' pcitures with, "Eleanor for President!"

It was radical, at the time.

But they knew they were right.  They knew they were fighting a battle that they would inevitably win.  And now, I'm not so sure.  Now I worry about whether the unspoken emotion that is truly behind the anti-Obama fervor in this country, something that to me speaks much more about deeply rooted hatreds and fears rather than policy, is enough to make these women, these believers in a woman's "place," unite against their sisters.

1940- Eleanor Roosevelt and the Girl Scouts
Times are hard.  There is no doubt.  But no time is so hard that it necessitates giving up my voice, my personhood, or my freedom.

I might have friends who chide me for biting my nails, who tell me I need to "turn in my girl card" when I say I'd rather watch the Pirates lose than find out who's not getting a rose on the Bachelor, or who accuse me of not having any imagination or sense of romance for my hatred of Disney princesses.

But I don't care.  Their interests are their own.  Just as mine are my own.  And I'm not going to deny them any of their rights or freedoms because I don't understand what they're talking about half the time.

The same way I wouldn't try to deny the men I know any of THEIR rights simply because I don't understand day long pub crawls, or World of Warcraft.  Or, for a more direct comparison, because I haven't bothered to educate myself about prostate health, testicular cancer, testosterone imbalances, color blindness, male infertility, impotence...

We're all people.
99 years ago today

It's time to act like it.


  1. Great post, Lea!

    "Feminism isn't about women being better than men, it's about human beings being equal REGARDLESS of gender."

    Exactly! But the biggest problem right now seems to be that not even women know what feminism means anymore. And they are so busy fighting against each other, and putting each other down, (or fighting over what feminism does mean) that instead of making forward progress, we are moving backward. It is beyond frustrating.

  2. Elizabeth is right... sometimes I think the conservatives want to "divide and conquer". If they can keep women busy in-fighting, we'll be too busy to notice as they quietly pass laws taking away rights and putting restrictions on our body and reproductive health. My husband and I were just talking about how if the government and healthcare companies were talking about limiting Viagra or Cialis, there would be a huge uproar. There's still a double standard in this country, and like you, I am most frustrated by women who stand by and let it happen. Look... however other women find happiness and fulfillment is their choice - if they find it in a traditional role, that's fine with me! But when they seek to push their beliefs and lifestyle on other women is where I have a real problem. It makes me crazy too!

  3. Unfortunately, I have found that women are less likely to come together to support one another, as they used to do. Just as another astute commenter pointed out, women just don't know what feminism means anymore. I believe this is because of the media; it has a negative connotation, not a positive one. I wrote a long post about Rush Limbaugh's big mouth the other day. If you have the time, I would be honored if you were able to stop by to read and comment.

  4. Wow! I really identify with your blog. I was one of those deeply disappointed '70s feminists who tried (and failed) to get the ERA passed. The most discouraging part of it all was the women who wrote letters to the editor against the ERA. They just didn't want to become real persons; they were safe and happy as appendages of their husbands.
    And now recently, in response to something I wrote, a female blogger said: "I'm not a feminist. I just live my life the way I want to." I reminded her that one hundred years ago she wouldn't have been able to say that, and it was because of all the feminists [as you have so superbly illustrated] that she could now make the choices she has. Brava. I'm following.



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