4.19.2006

The F Word

There's been so much interesting discussion around these parts lately about feminism, and I loves me a good discussion. GGC calls herself a Masculist, while Kristen deems herself a Feminista. Blog Antagonist has suggested that all women are inherently feminists already and so the label is purposeless. Sweetney has offered up, from her own self-proclaimed feminist perspective, the very real prospect that the entire movement is in desperate need of an overhaul.

Damn you, all you smart women for bringing up important-like topics that suck me in. And here I just wanted to be funny.

Let me tell you a little about where I come from.

I am the product of a feminist upbringing.

My bedroom light switch cover, as the family legend goes, was a toy soldier and not a ballerina. I had baseball gloves and Matchbox cars and a smokin' pair of cleats that I wore every weekend to the soccer field on which I did cartwheels during halftime. I may have been a stinky fullback, but I was indeed a fullback. I also had a closet full of tutus, a doll collection from exotic places like You-go-slah-vee-ah, and an affinity for sneaking into my mom's bedroom and coating my lids with sparkly blue eyeshadow. I was encouraged to embrace both the feminine and masculine sides of myself, because all my feminist parents ever wanted for me were choices.

Yes, that's feminist parents. With an s.

Maybe he wasn't out there marching for women's rights or burning his...whatever feminist men might have burned in those days, but my dad supported all the tenets of feminism and equal opportunity for women. In my opinion, having a supportive, encouraging father is every bit as essential as having a supportive, encouraging mother. Perhaps more so. I still remember him telling me, "you can be anything you want to be. Anything at all. Just do it well."

I responded, "what about a fireman?" (This was before we knew from firefighters.)

"Then be a great fireman."

"Well what about the President?"

"Then be a great President."

"What if I want to be a bank robber?"

"Then be a great bank robber. And don't get caught."

I've described my mother to some degree in posts past, but she may be best summed up in a line from my cousin Lane this past week. Upon learning that my sister-in-law is pregnant with my mom's third granddaughter, Lane quipped, "Oh Aunt Nancy must be so happy. Now she can have her own women's movement right out of her home."

Like Lane, the first thing many people think of when they think of my mom is Feminist. Not in any sort of angry, man-hating way, although I do recall her having a woman without a man is like a fish without a bicycle T-shirt soon after her divorce. (Or maybe she just talked about getting one. It probably just stuck with me because I thought the slogan was funny.) No, I think people see her in the best possible sense of the term - enlightened, open, thoughtful, progressive. She's devoted her entire career as an educational consultant to creating equality in the classroom, and her nearly four decades as a parent to insuring that my brother and I are equipped to grab the truth and justice baton and run with it. While most family photos that grace one's living room are of weddings or babies or the snow on Christmas morning, the silver frames in my mom's home feature our family holding NARAL posters at a pro-choice rally on the Washington Mall. She is nothing if not someone who lives her values, and I've done my best all my life to emulate that.

But I think the real hallmark of my feminist upbringing had nothing to do with politics. It had nothing to do with wearing pants or eschewing skirts, playing soccer or collecting dolls. It had everything to do with my parents insuring that I found self-worth through my accomplishments.

And no, accomplishments did not include being pretty or having more Barbies than the other girls.

As my mother will tell you (and she'll do it in a way that makes her sound neither preachy nor judgmental--in fact, she'll have you nodding along and begging for more, all while passing you some homemade tabouli on a wedge of nicely warmed pita) we do girls a disservice when we tell them how beautiful they are. It's not that it's bad to be beautiful; it's that at the same time, we are telling their brothers, "I bet those sneakers make you run really fast." We need to tell our daughters that they can be fast too. And smart. And tall. And strong. I'm as guilty of this offense as the next person, and damn, I should know better. Whenever a stranger peeked in my stroller and remarked, "oh what a pretty little girl!" my mother's knee-jerk response was, "yes and she's beautiful inside too, and that's what's really important."

And yet my mother the feminist stayed at home with us until we were in school. She took her husband's name. She took her second husband's name. She refuses to color her hair, but she also refuses to leave the house without toenail polish on. She owns many fabulous earrings, the kind you'd sooner see in Barney's than in Woodstock. Which begs the question, what IS a feminist anyway?

I was raised to believe that feminists were pretty like Gloria Steinem and smart like Sandra Day O'Connor. They were the people who went to court to make sure that the girls' field hockey team didn't get kicked off the field when the boys' football team was ready to practice. They made sure that women knew it was not okay for their husbands to rape them. They spoke for those who couldn't speak for themselves, or those who didn't yet know that they even wanted to. The feminists were there for all of us. And sure, sometimes they were angry. Ghandi was angry too. Anger in itself is not a bad thing, especially when it's chanelled constructively and with purpose.

What I'm saying is, it never crossed my mind, not even once, that feminists were something bad. And so my main beef, and I think the point of this post, is that forty years after the movement went mainstream we're still compelled to describe the term with an asterisk.

I just did it myself, a few paragraphs back. I said that my mom was a feminist, but then reassured you that she didn't hate men. Need I also tell you that she shaves her legs? That she likes to cook and sew? That she owns heels? That she's not a lesbian? Yeah, sadly I do. And it freaking kills me. Because it's as good as every priest who introduces himself having to add, "but don't worry, I'm not a pedophile."

I stumbled on a blog recently where the term feminist is included in a list along with such other beauts as militant, wounded inner child, and of course, chip on my shoulder--as in, the author doesn't have one, and thus she is not a feminist. We've got the ever-offensive Pat Robertson telling us that "feminism encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism and become lesbians." And of course there's that bloated old windbag, old what's-his-name the lying sack of crap on the radio, who vomits out the term "feminazi" as a way of inextricably linking one of the most despicable and horrifying acts of genocide in the history of the world with the women's movment. How can that not make every woman on this planet sick to their stomachs?

Are there some problems with the movement? Of course. Are there some uncomfortably radical extremists in feminism? Sure. Were the women of my generation done a huge disservice by being fed the myth that we can do it all and all at once with no one's help at all? Certainly. Certainly times a hundred. I've even said it here myself. But to use a hackneyed creative analogy, it's better to get way out of the box and have to reign things in a bit than never to get out of the box at all.

And so I'm here to reclaim the term feminism. To help swing the semantic pendulum back towards the side of goodness and progress and light in an attempt to make it something positive again for my daugher and yours.

It's my obligation. After all, that's my family you're talking about.

__________

Edited to Add: I hope that if you've come this far with me, that you'll take the time to read the readers' comments. That's where the lecture ends and the discussion begins.

I am awed by the insight, the depth of thought, and the personal revelations of so many different women from so many different backgrounds. While some of us have conflicting takes on the expression "feminism" or on the women's movement as a whole, I think the readers here have demonstrated that we're perfectly capable of participating in a thoughtful, intelligent, no poopy-head calling trading of ideas on what can be a very heated topic. This is the best of what women are and can be. You've made me proud, my sisters!



66 Comments:

Blogger Refinnej said...

Well said!

I just realized my dad is a feminist. Wow.

4/19/06, 12:23 AM  
Blogger cameo said...

ditto! my dad is a feminist, as well. and so is my husband. as the mother of two boys (and a new daughter), i try to make a point of remembering that sexism isn't just oppressive to girls and women. in all actuality, it's oppressive to boys and men too. my boys wanted the new shoes and swore they made them run faster! but everyday i tell them they are beautiful. i tell them they are good people. i tell them they should get back into dance so they can travel the world and meet wonderful people. i tell them that the "flashy" polished, manipulated people of the world are usually not the ones with great substance. i tell them that real girls have hairy legs, pits, lips, chins, etc., and they see it with me all the time. i think what being a feminist is really about, apart from being an advocate, is being honest, being a realist, and remaining open, and communicating those qualities constantly. i love men. i love being a woman. and it's important for me that all my children love being in their own skin. and respect the person next to them.

4/19/06, 4:21 AM  
Blogger Pattie said...

Hmmm...well, I am very conscious of making sure my daughters know they can do anything they choose.
Your post makes perfect sense to me....COMMON SENSE. In any movement, there are going to be those radicals that give the rest a bad name. I think equal rights are important. I believe men and women should be treated equally. What bothers me is the men bashing. I don't care for that.
BTW, your parents sound very cool!

4/19/06, 7:36 AM  
Anonymous Kristen said...

I can't agree more with you ~ and I think that's what makes being a woman so fabulous. That we can shave our legs and wear kick ass jewels, but still get our hands dirty and run with "the boys."

When we "in-fight" (for lack of a better word), we give away our power. A united force is way stronger - we need to revamp the picture of a feminist in our heads now - for the sake of our daughters AND sons.

Epic, my dear. Simply EPIC.

4/19/06, 8:01 AM  
Blogger Kari said...

Wow, what a strong and well-written post. I love it.

I spent some time in college as a Women Studies major (although changed it later), so this post really hits home for me. I'd spend hours explaining to my male friends why being a feminist wasn't a bad thing. What was even worse was having to explain it to my girlfriends. It was hard not to get upset about it, especially feeling like I had no support. It made me very angry and I started to become the stereotype: angry and combative.

Maybe it was a stage I had to go through to accept the fact that women don't want to be grouped in that f-word category. I've thought a lot about why it's that way and I've concluded that, like the other F-word (fag), the word feminism turned into a bad thing to keep it from becoming a powerful thing. In other words, a way to keep us silly women from continuing the movement. After all, what women (or man) wants to be scorned for being a feminazi?

So I will join you in the reclamation of the word.

4/19/06, 8:22 AM  
Anonymous neva said...

now that was a shard of brilliance...

one of my goals, as a mother of sons, was to ensure my boys did not grow up with the misguided belief that people belonged in "catagories", separated, as it were, by lines of race, religion, or gender. i've had many moments where i knew i was successful in the endeavor, none more than when, upon moving, yet again, and informing the boys we were going to go meet their new pediatrician, having one of my son's ask, "what's her name?"

i love that you describe your father as a feminist. my husband most assuredly is one... and, if i've done my "job" right, my boys are, too. feminism is not an attitude limited to women. it is an ideal. that said, i look forward to the time when this "ideal" will be accepted/embraced by all and will, therefore, no longer require a label in order to distinguish it from any other fact of life.

4/19/06, 8:29 AM  
Blogger Marcie said...

That was a great post. I was raised by feminist parents and it was more by example than words. Maybe someday we can just be feminists without any explanation.

4/19/06, 8:37 AM  
Blogger Her Bad Mother said...

That was just so wonderfully, forcefully, said.

My parents were/are both feminists, in the best sense. My husband certainly is. I very much hope that my daughter will be. And if we ever have a son - him, too. What they all have, or will have (hopefully) in common is a feminism that embraces the masculine as well - that acknowledges that ours has long been a man's world, but that feminists don't need to reject men/manliness (whatever that means; I have my ideas; the relationship between manliness and ideas about feminine virtue is a chapter in my thesis. Sorry. Snore) in order to move freely, powerfully in that world, to find their place in that world.

Thanks for this. The discussion that swirls in this forum is far more thoughtful and stimulating than any I've encountered in the academy for some time.

4/19/06, 8:48 AM  
Blogger Fidget said...

Feminist has become akin to a 4 letter word. I'm not so sure it can be reclaimed without having to add things like "She shaves her legs and bakes too". The image presented for so long and the one that seems to persist in the minds of the media and the general public is of bra burning, man hating, hairy, fetus slaughtering mega bitch. I recently attended a NOW meeting where we were discussing how to make NOW a more approachable organization instead of one associated with the above image. Oddly I found that some people were resistant to shaking off the old image and being viewed more as normal women with opinions. I think that shaking that image is key to unifying women for the cause so that we may rise up with one voice, be heard and have it realized we are a force to be reckoned with.

4/19/06, 9:21 AM  
Blogger DaniGirl said...

Well said!

A week or so ago, I wrote a post about doing away with Mrs and Miss entirely, and just using a single honourific for all females, and I was stunned to see a few people say in the comments that they were "not by any stretch a feminist." How can you *not* be a feminist?

Born in 1969, I guess I'm a second generation feminist, and the simple fact that I've become a woman in a position of moderate power, financially capable of supporting my own family without sacrificing personal balance, is exactly what feminism means to me. I'm not rabid about my rights and choices as a woman, but there was never any doubt in my mind as a child or subsequently that I was capable of doing whatever I wanted and achieving anything I set my mind to. THAT's what feminism and equality mean to me. While I may gripe about it, while I might daydream of a sugar-daddy or a lotto win or some other magical force to take me out of the daily grind of the workplace, at the end of the day I can fall asleep each night knowing I have done right by my boys, by my husband and most importantly, by my own standards.

(Oops. Sorry. End rant.)

4/19/06, 9:31 AM  
Anonymous Amy said...

I'll be honest and say I was relieved to have a son because the thought of raising a well-grounded secure girl child with the importance society places on being pretty and conforming to the media's interpretation of beauty really frightens me. Reading this reminds me that I'm guilty as well of peeking into a baby stoller and saying things like "she's so beautiful" to the girls but not the boys and I had a minor in women's studies major in college! I would have never appreciated the complexity of this subject had I not been exposed in school. I was not taught about this at home. I hope your mom knows that you continue to disseminate what you learned from her- I'm going to be more aware of what I say in the future and I'm going to steal your mom's line about being beautiful on the inside too. Thanks!

4/19/06, 9:37 AM  
Anonymous reluctant housewife said...

Wow. You are so eloquent. I love how you looked at so many sides of a complicated issue without issuing blanket statements - brilliant!

Like many of your readers, I don't believe for a second that there are any women out there that aren't feminists - that is, that don't believe that they deserve equal opportunity and the right to make choices. It is upsetting when a movement is taken over by radicals and it screws it up for everybody.

The day that B. Friedan died, there was a discussion on NPR about feminism today, and while I found myself agreeing with most of the panel, I cringed at this one girl (and she was a girl - just 18 and who has a lot of living to do) who was so anti-man and anti- any woman who didn't agree with her choices that I could see why some women have renounced the feminist badge.

I am a feminist. And a masculist (my new favorite word). I love talking about this, so I'll stop my incoherent rambling now.

Keep us thinking, mom101!

4/19/06, 9:48 AM  
Blogger SheBah said...

Mom - I removed my posts as I felt they were a little harsh, but I would like to reiterate that feminism to me is about being treated with equality.

4/19/06, 10:05 AM  
Blogger Mom101 said...

Sexybeauty: any and all well-considered discussion is welcome and fwiw, I didn't think you were so harsh. Just passionate.

I'll have to come up with a thoughtful response to all the responses - they're so wonderful, they warrant it!

The only comment not allowed here is the spam for free Playboy that I just deleted, although I was tempted to leave it for the irony alone. Free porn on a post about feminism - brilliant.

4/19/06, 10:12 AM  
Blogger Lumpyheadsmom said...

I think by choosing to stay home with their children, our husbands are also an important link in the feminist chain. They are proving that the home is not the domain of the woman, that men excel as homemakers too. I hope their success empowers little boys to make that choice as well.

I know they're not the first men to stay home and raise their kids, but I think stay-home dads are still pioneers. I hope that's changing, and soon stay-home dads will be as common as stay-home moms. For now, though, I'm awfully proud of my husband for the choice he's made, for what it does for gender equality. I'm sure you're proud of yours, too.

4/19/06, 10:15 AM  
Blogger Blog Antagonist said...

Great post! Very thought provoking. I've read all the different views floating around out there lately, and I'm enjoying the different perspectives enormously. I though this was a great take on the positive side of feminism.

My Dad was a feminist too, it seems, although he would probably be shocked to hear himself referred to as such. But he had no boys, and so, he set out to prove that his girls could do anything and everything that boys could.

I think my Mom would also be surprised to hear herself referred to as a feminist, but never have I met a more confident, capable empowered woman than my mother. She modelled what others only paid lipservice to.

Again, great post. I really enjoyed it.

4/19/06, 11:14 AM  
Blogger Carrcakes said...

In continued service to feminisim, please submit this post to a mainstream media outlet. Brilliant! GMA and the Today Show need to bring this dicussion to light instead of pinning women against each other in the"Mommy Wars."

Thank you for putting words behind the different faces of feminism. We all have unique perspectives to bring to the movement and it was great that your post didn't isolate just one.

4/19/06, 11:45 AM  
Blogger toyfoto said...

This is something I haven't blogged about extensively because my mother-in-law (a feminist of the 60s origin) reads my rantings and I don't want to call her out. I have had issues at times with the word feminism because of the rift I see happening between women of her generation and women of mine. She is a fighter. She is woman who came of age in a household of strong women, encouraged to be both demure and assertive. After her divorce from my husband's father (a man who, she confided, she had reservations about marrying on the day of the wedding) she became what her son (my husband) believes was a man-hating feminist.
I know she looks at me (and women like me) as squandering the progress women who fought for equality have made. She winces every time she hears a girl child talk about being a nurse instead of a doctor. She commiserates with me about the fact that my newspaper has me doing "features" instead of hard news, unable to understand that I do what it is I love. In the field government affairs or other "hard" news areas I would be the fish on a bicycle.
When she asked me how she and her son, my then-live-in boyfriend, paid the bills, she was astounded to learn that we had established a joint account. She worried that I wouldn't have my "own" money. Her friend and she talked openly of how they and their significant others paid the bills separately and on a schedule that ensured an equal portion was shared. I couldn't think of anything I'd like to do less that worry if he was paying his fair share, especially since I knew I could trust him (her son).
I love his mother, and believe in my heart she is doing what she thinks is right, and she is still fighting the fire that needs to be tended. In this we agree. But this fight, as you so eloquently point out, is about encouraging women and men to be aware and dedicating to supporting each other's psyches and not the gender perception.

4/19/06, 12:03 PM  
Blogger GIRL'S GONE CHILD said...

Love what you have said here, Mom-101, and as I posted about masculism, let me also say that I agree wholeheartedly with you. I agree with strong women who stand up for goodness and progress without stomping men in their path. It's the hypocricy I loathe.

Fabulous post!

4/19/06, 12:12 PM  
Blogger wordgirl said...

**thunderous sound of applause**

You said it just the way it needed to be said. Neither of my parents were feminists. I wonder if I'd have accomplished more early on in life if they had been.

4/19/06, 12:12 PM  
Blogger Catherine said...

Carrcakes took the words right out of my mouth... Aside from the fact that you should be PAID for such an eloquent, thoughtful, well-written post, there are so many other people out there who could benefit from reading this.

4/19/06, 12:14 PM  
Blogger Wendy Boucher said...

Hurray for you. Wouldn't it be great if we all blogged about reclamation of the word, "feminist", to the side of good? I think I will. Thanks for a super inspiring post!

4/19/06, 1:10 PM  
Blogger Mel said...

My dad, on the other hand, is not a feminist. He's the original Marlboro Man. He married one of the stepmothers (oh, yes, there were a few) just to give us kids someone to cook meals and keep the house for us. Needless to say that didn't work out so well. And I sniggered about it for years.
However.
When it comes to his daughter and granddaughters - what's this? "Do whatever you want. You can do it if you feel like it." "I don't see why you couldn't get that (traditionally male-held) job down at the plant - give it a shot." "Why isn't Really Rosie playing basketball? She's as tall as you are and she's only 12." "You gotta get the Mack into sports. She's a tank. She'd kick butt."
See? Feminism is working, even though slowly, if an old welder like my crusty, hoary old man can change his views, if only in a small way.

4/19/06, 1:35 PM  
Blogger Christina said...

My dad is about as far from a feminist as you can get. Believes women should be subserviant to their husbands, should stay home and raise the children and do all the housework, etc.

Thank God I wasn't raised by him. I was raised by my mom, with the help of my two aunts and grandmother. All feminists. All strong women (one aunt has an MBA and is an executive of a publishing company, the other has a PhD and is a head librarian at a large university - both unmarried).

They made sure I realized my potential, and kept me focused on my education. Luckily, I didn't rebel too much, and their advice has proven to be priceless.

4/19/06, 2:05 PM  
Blogger gingajoy said...

this was one of those posts that made me feel GREAT about my feminist, blogging, badass self--and my sisters.

extremely thought-provoking and timely. whether we like it not, gals WE STILL NEED FEMINISM WITH A VENGEANCE.

i have been lucky enough to teach a few entry level gender's studies classes at my U, and believe me when i say that many of these students (freshmen) have not even any clue of inequities that occur in daily life--even while they do their fucking boyfriend's laundry for them on the weekends or worse, allow themselves to be psychologically controlled or physically abused. I've exploited this time for good old fashioned consciousness raising, and it's been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. This is not about teaching a doctrine of "man-hating" (though I am leery of defining any feminist in those terms, just as I am leery of making leg-shaving an issue, especially considering the state of my pasty whites right now) but about undoing the subtle cultural messages we receive on a daily basis (why do we only see women in commercials for washing powder? why do we rarely see them eat something other than a salad or a yoghurt? why the fuck ARE you doing your boyfriend's laundry?). And we have fun.

One of the things I love about the blogging communities I belong to is the way in which critique of images, ideologies, political standpoints is so pervasive--either with humor or with vitriol. If there is a cultural shift going on in how women communicate and chose to represent themselves, the blogosphere is a great place to see that trend emerge.

Now, if we could only get Good Housekeeping to take a closer look.

(raises fist, etc etc).

4/19/06, 2:23 PM  
Anonymous Melissa said...

Damm girl, that rocked. I will say, my mom was the same way. She was and still is a strong fierce independent woman. And it's ok. And she's not a lesbian or a man hater either. But she is a girly woman too. She taught me and my brothers that we could be anything we set our moms too. I can't wait for the day, when people don't have to defend themselves by their choices. Hopefully it will happen at some point in my girls life. Where it is ok for them to be a mom and a firefighter or whatever, and they don't feel they have to do one or the other. That they can find a perfect balance for them and not need to care what others think about it.

4/19/06, 2:26 PM  
Blogger T. said...

Wow, Mom 101! That post rocked. It is timely for me, as I am currently arguing with my mother about what it means to be a feminist. I am going to make her read your post and hopefully, with your words, she will finally understand my point of view.

This is me, kissing your feet. Thank you!!!

4/19/06, 2:43 PM  
Blogger Mrs. Davis said...

You make some excellent points, and I LOVE your description of your parents and family. My parents both instilled a lot of feminism in me, but they would shy away from being called feminists themselves, especially my dad.

My college years (at a Catholic women's college that had just gone co-ed a couple years before I arrived) and the years just after were really important times for me - when I went from "I'm not a feminist, but....." to being very near the radical end of the feminist spectrum, to settling into where I am now.

4/19/06, 2:44 PM  
Blogger Karen said...

Great thoughts. I think my dad may have been more a feminist than my mom, but he still had some old-school quirks: a woman should take her husband's name (neither my sister, nor I did...) and a woman should sit in the passenger seat if her husband is present.

When it comes down to it, there's a long way to go. And as the parent of a girl and a boy, I see that I have as much a duty to let him play with dolls as I have to let her play with trains.

That oversimplifies the matter, but what I think I mean to say is that the day it's not just the "women's movement" is the day when the real progress will begin.

4/19/06, 3:01 PM  
Blogger Jaelithe said...

Oh, I love this post! My mother was an English and Women's Studies professor, but she stayed home with me and me sister when we were little, too. So I'm a second generation feminist and a second generation SAHM, and I refuse to let anyone tell me I can't be both. Just like I don't let people tell me I can't be a feminist who shaves her legs and paints her nails and wears mini skirts with go-go boots to nightclubs, either.

It positively makes my skin crawl when I hear female friends and aquaintances say "but I'm not really a feminist" as though it were some evil word. I always counter with, "Do you vote? Do you like owning property? Do you want the right to get a higher education if you want, and work at whatever kind of job you want, and get paid fair wages for it? Do you want to have a say in the way your children are raised, and where they go to school, and who cares for them when you aren't available? Do you want to be able to divorce a man if he beats you?"

And of course I've never met a woman who could tell me she didn't want all of those things. So I always conclude,

"In that case, you ARE a feminist. Whether you like it or not." And if necessary I go on to detail just exactly how things were different before the women's movement, before the suffragists, etcetera. It's amazing how little today's women seem to understand about the history of their own gender.

4/19/06, 5:21 PM  
Blogger mothergoosemouse said...

I've been considering my comments all day, having read your post earlier this morning.

I dislike labels on principle; I find them constricting and subject to misinterpretation. I would no sooner call myself a feminist than I would call myself a mommyblogger (even though both terms, in their literal sense, are accurate). Applying a label implies a connotation that may or may not be accurate, given that the connotation varies based on the standpoint of the person using that label to describe me.

That said, I am proud to say that both of my parents encouraged me to pursue my interests, wherever they lay, and were confident in my future success. And I am proud that my husband is even more encouraging and supportive, of me and of our girls. He does an incredible job of balancing gentlemanly deference and unflagging confidence in my ability to kick ass and take names. My girls and I are extremely fortunate.

4/19/06, 6:01 PM  
Blogger Mel said...

Mother Goosemouse: good point.
My personal politics are such that I can't realistically be called any party name; the same applies to many of the principles of religion and also to any 'ism you could name.
But largely, it's hard to find a proper way to address a group of individuals, a target audience, if you like, unless you have a quote-unquote label to catch their attention. Broadly speaking I am a liberal feminist mommyblogger... and that's why I stopped to read. More narrowly defined I am none of these... but that is neither here nor there. And now I will go, pausing only to note that my sign-in verification this time was "MUTOC".

4/19/06, 6:13 PM  
Blogger Dawn said...

As a child of two feminists, I love you - and I don't feel the need to justify any sexual preference at that statement.

And the t-shirt I wore at age 12
"A Woman's Place is in the House
and the Senate"

4/19/06, 6:32 PM  
Blogger Lisa said...

Yeay YOU! Cool post.

You are Just like your mom... You've left me wishing you had written more.

4/19/06, 9:06 PM  
Blogger kim said...

You are a true feminist, someone that does not want to be defined or limited by gender. My niece loves sports and high heels equally, yet my daughter is a girly girl. All I want is for both of them to be respected and allowed to be.

4/19/06, 9:09 PM  
Blogger something blue said...

That was so thoughtful and I couldn't agree more. Thank you for the amazing words.

I think it's all about balance. Yin and yang.

I'm so happy that I was taught as a child that everyone is equal. Nobody is better than anyone else. It brings respect to our world.

4/19/06, 9:27 PM  
Anonymous sweatpantsmom said...

I was raised in a typical Japanese-American household. And while my parents were loving and always encouraged us to strive for whatever was in our hearts, I wouldn't say it was exactly a feminist environment.

That said, me and my sister and three brothers are definitely very liberal and possibly 'feminist' leaning in our thinking and in the way we are all raising our children.

Must be our early exposure to all those Partridge Family episodes. Where else would you find a single mom who not only sang lead vocals in the band but also drove the bus and found time to date the manager?

4/20/06, 12:02 AM  
Blogger scarbie doll said...

Wow. Awe-inspiring. I grew up in such a different background that this is amazing to me. Here is proof that all women are intrinsically feminist. (Myabe I should be posting this on my own blog. But here I go)

My mother came from Istanbul, Turkey. Though Armenian and therefore, not Muslim, she was raised with certain Middle Eastern values. She wanted to be an engineer, but was limited to a type of "finishing school" instead. Women in Istanbul became teachers, bank tellers, shop girls or mothers. Those were her choices. I was brought up in the household where the girls were told, "He doesn't have to. He's a man." Thankfully, my sis and I never had a brother.

Yet my appreciation of my female self was instilled by mother. Though she forbade me to play soccer because my legs would be bruised and I wouldn't be able to wear skirts to church (can you believe I had to choose between soccer and skirts?) she also taught me that women were smart, often smarter than men, contrary to what the world was telling me, she said. My father deemed the three of us "the Female Mafia" and let us rule the roost. Though one cultural message told us we were... I hesitate to use "inferior"... different, we were empowered in our home.

The strict restrictions on our lives as girls forced us to ask questions, challenge the system, push the boundaries. So maybe my mother was talking the Middle Eastern talk, but secretly shaping us to claim our roles as the strong women she saw in in North America, and could only dream of being as a young girl in Turkey.

Thanks for helping me to realize that. I never broke it down like that before.

4/20/06, 1:01 AM  
Anonymous chelle said...

Growing up my Dad taught me to be strong. That woman need to be independent educated and not dependent on men. I guess he was a feminist in his own right. He never really talked about equality rather that I could be anything I wanted if I worked hard enough. Now that I have a daughter I want the same things for her...Hopefully I can pull it off!

4/20/06, 1:05 AM  
Blogger Jess Riley said...

You are AWESOME and so is your mom. I didn't really know my mom was a feminist until she gave me a copy of OUR BODIES, OURSELVES when I turned 16. Then I started paying attention a bit more and thank goodness I did.

I often wonder if younger women have become too complacent about such things, taking for granted rights our aunts, mothers, grandmothers, and great-grandmothers fought hard to win. All the more reason to talk about it in forums such as blogs. Bravo, Liz. :)

4/20/06, 1:08 AM  
Anonymous roo said...

Hey! I'm a feminist, too!

4/20/06, 3:14 AM  
Blogger Clare said...

Brilliant. I love this piece.

Although having been nursed into adulthood by a load of militant separatist lesbians, I'm not sure it's OK to feel defensive if someone assumes that because you are a feminist you must also be a lesbian.

Militant and lesbian are no more terms of abuse than feminist is.

And what's wrong with hairy legs?

Sorry, I'm nitpicking. I still think the post is brilliant.

4/20/06, 5:34 AM  
Blogger Mom101 said...

Clare: I hate to pull the old "my best friend is a lesbian" routine, but I'm the last person to use the term as an insult. My only point is that you can't leap to any conclusions and certainly not stereotypes (however true they may be for some people) based on ones participation in the woman's movement.

I no sooner want the general population to think that feminism is a lesbian (or militant, or razorphobe) issue than it is just a women's issue.

4/20/06, 8:28 AM  
Blogger Marcie said...

Just one more thought. My Aunt is a lesbian and I've never heard her refer to herself as a feminist. She probably is, but she's many other things including a teacher and a farmer.

4/20/06, 8:46 AM  
Blogger J said...

I don't know when Feminist became a bad word. It's my word, and my husband's, and our daughter's. We think women are equal to men. That's what it means, right? Right.

4/20/06, 9:31 AM  
Anonymous madge said...

I don't want equality. I don't want to be treated the same as a man, I want to be treated better. What the hell can THEY do? We can make PEOPLE. Suck on that, dudes.

But seriously. I've been so conscious about NOT telling my daughter just that she's beautiful, that one day I realized I didn't say it enough. I spent so much time telling her how smart she was, that I'd forgotten to remind her that she takes my breath away. It's a delicate balance. My mother was so focused on appearance that I never trusted her on things that mattered. My Dad was the real feminist in the house. And thank GOD for him.

4/20/06, 10:38 AM  
Blogger sozzled said...

Amen! I think woman find themselves labelled so much more often then men.....and it keeps us at odds with each other when really we have vastly more in common than our differences. I am a prochoice christian homebirthing SUV driving feminist sahm. these are my labels but they are by no means "me". I don't know how we move away from this and simply live the button "I am woman...."

4/20/06, 11:22 AM  
Blogger Mom101 said...

Toyfoto: I am so pleased that this gives you a forum to speak your mind.

Your mil seems like quite the character! I think that in any movement, its members can be laid out in a bell curve. By definition, you need the extremists, the hard-core no grey area types in order to find that reasonable middle ground at the center.

I only wonder how she'd feel about men wanting to be nurses. I mean, someone has to do it, right?

And scarbie doll: Wow, what an amazing story. I think everyone here has their own post/essay/memoir/novel to write.

4/20/06, 1:28 PM  
Blogger J said...

Anyone remember when Hillary Clinton had to 'soften up' her image, away from being such a strong feminist to having a cookie recipe contest with Barbara Bush? That scared the hell out of me.

4/20/06, 2:04 PM  
Anonymous roo said...

Just the other day, my boss brought to work some chocolate-chip cookies she'd made from Hillary Clinton's recipe. They were pretty damn good.

4/20/06, 2:19 PM  
Blogger toyfoto said...

I keep coming back to read the comments. I love them as much as I love your original post. And yes, my feminist mother-in-law is really wonderful, and inspiring and intimidating. She is also one of the most thought-full people I have ever met. I love her more than she could ever know. I just think feminism is in constant flux, and women need to cut themselves some slack. Someone mentioned to me that it is the opportunity that should be available to women, what they do with that opportunity is a choice they should be free to make without reprimand from anyone. Thanks for the forum. Thanks for writing this, it has really got me thinking.

4/20/06, 2:46 PM  
Blogger Gurukarm Kaur said...

You go girl! As said ad infinitum, great post.

Gotta say though, you struck a very personal nerve for me in the paragraph about being valued for your accomplishments and not for beauty (or at least not only for beauty). When I was growing up, my mother and grandmother both always made a point of telling me "Pretty is as pretty does." Which I took to mean, in the time-honored low-self-esteem tradition, that I wasn't pretty, never would be, and oh, if I wasn't really perfect in all aspects, I wasn't really worth much either.

It's really a revelation for me to read your perspective on that question. If only I'd turned it around - "I'm valued for what I can do, not just how I look"... Wow. Thanks!

4/20/06, 4:18 PM  
Blogger Gurukarm Kaur said...

Oh, one more thought - speaking of time-honored traditions - "I'll never do to my daughter what my mother did to me (or her mother did to her, for that matter!)" : I've always tried to make sure DD knows how much I love her, how beautiful I think she is, and how smart and capable of doing whatever she wants as well. Seems to be taking - she's quite a hot ticket at almost 18! :-)

4/20/06, 4:21 PM  
Blogger sunshine scribe said...

Thank you for this post. Sincerely. Having read many of the femist debates on other blogs lately, your balanced perspective was much needed.

I am tired of defending myself for being a feminist. I am tired of feeling like it is a dirty word. I am tired of people assuming that I stopped shaving my legs when I left the ad biz to work with a feminist charity.

There are extremists in every movement and those are the individuals that get all the attention. Feminism is essential and it is about choice and inclusivity and equality. The issues that women face today are different than those that were fought for at the beginning of the movement. But there are still world wide inequalities and imbalances of power that are very present.

I was so inspired by what you had to say about your father. My dad is not a feminist. Not even close. He still is more proud that I was the prom queen than that I graduated at the top of my class in university.

My goal is to raise my son as a feminist and it has turned out to be harder than I thought. The images and messages he consumes in media, at school and even in children books do not illustrate the balance I'd like him to embrace. I look forward to this challenge and I thank you for this post as a reignition of what I believe.

4/20/06, 6:57 PM  
Blogger Jill said...

Thanks for the discussion Mom-101. Much more illuminating than the silly quiz bowl vs. danceline debate we've been having over on the husband's blog.
http://eric-whataworld.blogspot.com

I'll be back!

4/20/06, 9:51 PM  
Blogger Stephanie A. said...

Excellent, brilliant post. And I love that everyone is talking openly, without insult.

I have to say that through my senior year of college I was a hardcore feminist. Then a few things happened, one was that I moved to Paris to write my senior thesis on whether or not french women consider themselves to be feminists. The definition of feminism there is very subtle, and I have to admit that I kind of took to it. I feel like it softened me and strengthend me at the same time.

I do feel that women, regardless of what they think, need to ban together more. It often feels like it is easier to beat down another woman rather than have mutual respect for their different choices. This is probably my biggest pet peeve about women right now- lack of acceptance and empathy.

OK, I could ramble for days on this. But thanks for the post!

4/20/06, 10:44 PM  
Anonymous Izzy said...

Great post. As always, I can't collect my thoughts fast enough to post.I always have to think about the big topics for a while. Can I just say that I agree? lol

4/20/06, 10:49 PM  
Anonymous Kristina said...

Begin Ramble:

My FIL believe that women are weak and should listen to the men in their lives. My mother, a former Black Panther, used to be all about equality but somewhere along the lines she changed. She is more of the "boys-will-be-boys" thinking and believes that women should remain quiet when their men are running a muck (does that make sense?).

I am a full fledged feminist. I believe women should choose the lifestyles that are best for them but should do so without force or coercive behavior from men or other women. I believe that it is ok to be in competition with other women, but it is not OK to put another's choices down in order to justify your own. I beleive that women are just as strong as men and should be given the opportunity to prove that. I don't believe in typical male or female behavior as I find that to do so is to justify bad behavior.

My husband is not at all like his father. He believes that men and women are 50/50. He believes most of the things I do. However, we are about to have a little girl and I wonder how much of our beliefs will change...

OK, end ramble.

4/22/06, 1:27 PM  
Blogger a witt said...

I really enjoyed your post. Thank you!

I always felt that the way I grew up was pretty different, too... When my parents split up, I was 10, and there was no questions by any side as to who my brother and I would stay with -- my dad.

He was the maternal one: he had dinner on the table every night at six, did all the cleaning, laundry, had done all the shoe-tying and the snowsuit zipping. And lots and lots of worrying. Why was he like that? He was a New York Sicilian, older than anyone else's dad, and I don't really have an explanation as to his progressive attitude. He raised my brother and I just the same, with no qualifiers or fewer expectations towards me. My tastes have always been a bit more on the masculine side, as to clothing and sports (I'm a great baseball fan, too.) And yet, when I tell people any of this I still feel compelled to say, "um, and I'm totally straight and married." Or something.

Don't know why I'm spilling all this, but I feel that feminism takes myriad forms. It encompasses so many things, but they include my right to stay home or have a career. And my dad's right to do so as well.

I'm proud of the way I was raised and I hope to "pass it on" one day. I keep telling my husband if we have a daughter and a son, he had better teach them both how to pitch just the same.

Sorry about the long comment! Your story just pulled it out of me. I'll be reading regularly. :)

Gina

4/22/06, 4:15 PM  
Blogger Jozet said...

Wonderful post!

"It's not that it's bad to be beautiful; it's that at the same time, we are telling their brothers, 'I bet those sneakers make you run really fast.' We need to tell our daughters that they can be fast too. And smart. And tall. And strong."

Yes, yes, yes!

And almost as important as ascribing those positive personality characteristics to our children - saying them out loud - is to find ways to help children internalize and look to themselves, see those characteristics within themselves and not just as a reflection of what someone else thinks of them.

It's wonderful to have someone else tell you how wonderful you are, and I think that this sort of loving feedback and commentary are *vitally* important to a child. And just as empowering is when we allow children to come up with their own words and positive self-talk, encourage them to challenge themselves on their own terms as opposed to describing themsleves in comparison with others - whether other women or men, girls or boys.

"Do I look pretty in this dress? Do I look like Cinderella?"

Not only the "Yes! You are beautiful inside and out" but also occasionally the "How do *you* feel? How do *you* think you look? What does make you feel beautiful? What else? What else?"


"Is this drawing good? Do you like it? Is it the best drawing in the class?"

Not only the "Yes! You are very creative. I can see that you were working hard on it" but also the "What do you think about it? What do you like? What are you working on? Tell me about it."

A little Alfie Kohn, perhaps, but I just think that for me growing up, the constant comments and comparisons from others - "you are this, you look this way, you behave a certain way, you should look/behave a certain way" - with no balance also allowing me or encouraging me to come up with a positive description of myself beyond what others did or didn't say about me - sort of led me down this path of constant outward comparison, in finding my worth *only* in the positive comments and approval of others that "you are pretty/creative/smart", yet never really internalizing it, never having had the chance to.

Comparisons with others are inevitable. Outside commentary is inevitable. And I believe that they are very positive and motivating and give a child that first glimpse of herself, set the tone. However, for myself - and bringing this back to being a feminist/masculist - where I have thought about taking feminism/masuclism (?) to the next stage with my own children is in working on raising that level of internalization; to overcome any deficit, the likes of which I sometimes think is at the base of my own negative comparisons with other women - in "in-fighting" and with men; it is the pinpoint of many of my insecurities and where some of my "ugly" feminism comes from, the need to put down others - men or women - in order to feel powerful.

Novel over. :-)

4/29/06, 2:39 AM  
Blogger Suzanne said...

In one of those small world coincidences, I was looking for a NYC "mommy blogger" today as part of my internship, and I was delighted to find you. This is such a great post. Then tonight, I read your super excellent comment on Dana's obnoxious post about killing babies to harvest their stem cells, and I am even more excited. It's so great finding people who are on the same page as I am, especially since it seems to be page 1,297 in a book with 1,299 pages.

4/13/07, 1:20 AM  
Anonymous Jem said...

It was so good to read that, because I've always thought of a feminist as one of those out of control, "women are better than men" type things which is why I've never thought of myself as one. But I like feminists in the "women are equal to men" type way. I want to be pretty and I like colouring (fine, bleaching) my hair and buying expensive clothes. I also like doing "guy" things. Glad to see feminism in a new way.

Hope that made sense, I'm not as eloquent as you, unfortunately.

5/25/07, 3:24 AM  
Anonymous Bitsy Parker said...

Thanks for the provocative post. Have understood real feminism and am (successfully, I think) passing it on to my daughter.

My concern: too many women are leaving the workforce and not paying attention to politics. This 1950's flashback is dangerous. Don't get me wrong I do not mean to evoke the working mother-sahm discussion. My point is that women don't need to tune-out and get sewn up in the knitting trend and let themselves be pushed out of policy decisions. Dr. Laura is going to have us all under house arrest if we don't use our voice.

jus' saying...

9/3/07, 10:14 PM  
Blogger Just Seeking said...

It's so sad that we have to continue to have this conversation!
Now I have definitely lost a few brain cells since deciding to stay home fulltime with my kids, but I haven't lost my feminism. And I hope that's being "transmitted" to my children.
But what I'm wondering, is what happened to what was being called the '90s feminism? When I was in grad school in the early '90s I was hearing about a "new" thing called '90s feminism. It wasn't the hardcore, let's all go lesbian, beat people up on our way up the corporate ladder, screw men and definitely screw babies feminism of the 60's. It was a new and enlightened feminism. One that embraced and supported our challenges in the workplace but also respected and honored our ability to bring life---to birth babies and breastfeed and to stay home with them if we so chose. It was the new feminism that was celebratory of our traditionally female talents like sewing and knitting---this was the movement that made this trendy again.
Has this died? where has this '90s feminism gone?

10/14/07, 11:20 PM  
Blogger Sunny said...

I just started reading your blog. I like the way you write. This entry made me realize that my parents were raising me to be a feminist in a subtle way. I actually rebelled in strange ways to some of it, and excelled in other ways. I am a mom who also works outside the home, and sometimes feel like I can do it all. Other times, I think I am ok and I can just stop trying so hard to do everything. Other times I feel guilty.
I survived an abusive marriage. I think if I were raised any other way I might be still with him or dead. I think it is dangerous to swing to far in either direction when it comes to being a feminist.There is power in showing the world what we women are capable of. I think women should make the same income as men in the same fields. I also believe there is power in our job as mothers, and if we excel at that job, we can bring beautiful,confident,and powerful men and women into the world who will make the world a better place.

5/22/08, 4:55 PM  
Blogger help4newmoms said...

I hate that the word "feminist" has become a bad word. It seems lately, though, that society has made feminism synonymous with liberal. If a woman is not a liberal can she be considered a feminist? If all women can not be included, I fear the title will continue to preserve its present bad connotation and that would be a shame, because there is safety in numbers. Women need all the help they can get, especially Moms.

4/21/09, 3:49 PM  

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