Why I Am A Feminist
1. Because the original goals of the feminist movement in this country have not been met. As I recall them, and my mother was one of those original feminists, the idea was that (a) women should be able to choose to work or choose to stay at home without any stigma on either choice, (b) women should receive equal pay for equal work, and © that which was traditionally considered "women's work" was undervalued by society. Society still undervalues "women's work". Furthermore, studies have shown that working mothers and stay-at-home mothers are each critical of the other's choice. This indicates to me that in general women are still not comfortable with making the work/stay-at-home choice.
2. Because women in developing countries are still mistreated.
3. Because there is still such a thing as female genital mutilation.
4. Because I went to a really hippie-ish liberal arts college with 300 students and still met 3 guys who said women shouldn't work. They made an exception in my case, because I'm "smarter than most women." I replied that I was also smarter than most men, but no one seemed to think that those men shouldn't work.
5. Not because I hate men, hate cosmetics (ha! I just ordered $200 worth of Bobbi Brown cosmetics yesterday), don't want to get married and have children, think there is anything wrong with women who stay home to raise their children, think there is anything wrong with working mothers, or any of the other negative stereotypes about feminists.
This list brought to you by my reaction to Kay Hymowitz's piece "The End of Herstory". In this piece, Hymowitz argues that the reason only about 25% of women call themselves feminists these days is that they have a negative view of feminism. Unfortunately, there are two aspects to the story, only one of which Hymowitz covers. It is true that only about 25% of women call themselves feminists these days, and younger women are less likely to label themselves that way than older women. But by the same token, younger women are more likely to have a favorable view of the women's movement than older women. This puts the lie to Hymowitz's thesis.
Throughout her piece, Hymowitz discusses "Feminists" and uses only the worst examples of feminism to label the entire movement.
Take the Feminist attitude toward marriage. When college women sit at the knee of their female elders, they may well read from the widely used textbook Women’s Realities, Women’s Choices. There they will learn that “the institution of marriage and the role of ‘wife’ are intimately connected with the subordination of women in society in general.” For the teachers, this attitude isn’t just theoretical. Daphne Patai, co-author of Professing Feminism and author of Heterophobia, books critical of the women’s studies industry, recounts a lunch with other female academics, at which one announces she is getting married. The response: shocked, dead, embarrassed silence.
I have considered myself a feminist since I was a teenager. My mother, as I already stated, was one of the original feminists. It is news to me that THE FEMINIST view of marriage is that it is "intimately connected with the subordination of women in society in general." Are there SOME FEMINISTS who believe that? Well, obviously there are. But THE FEMINISTS? I doubt you'd find anything like 25% of women who believe that. I doubt you'd find even 5% who believe that. Maybe 2.5%. So maybe 10% of feminists believe it, but that is hardly representative of THE FEMINISTS.
And here we come to the primary reason for Feminism’s descent into irrelevance. Whereas most young women will at some point want babies like they want food, for Feminists, motherhood is the ten-ton boulder in the path of genuine liberation. It mucks up ambition, turning fabulous heroines of the workplace—killer lawyers, 24/7 businesswomen, and ruthless senator wannabes—into bourgeois wifies and mommies. It hinders absolute equality, since women with children don’t usually crash through glass ceilings. They resist traveling three days a week to meet with hotshot clients; they look at their watches frequently and make a lot of personal phone calls.
Huh? No, really, just Huh? I don't even get where that comes from. At least Hymowitz had a book to quote from for her previous claim. Here there's just no back up whatsoever. How many women really believe that about having children? The Barnard Center for Research on Women co-hosted a conference last year on maternal feminism. Kim Gandy was one of the speakers. How anti-motherhood could THE FEMINISTS be if they are favorably addressing maternal feminism?
Feminists deal with the unsettling fact that, even after the revolution, women persist in wanting to be mothers in two ways. The first tack is simple denial. Amazingly, given young women’s preoccupation with how to balance work and motherhood, neither NOW nor the Feminist Majority, the movement’s two most influential organizations, includes maternity leave, flex time, or even day care on its list of vital issues.
Well, a quick trip to the NOW website indicates that one of NOW's key issues is Family. Clicking on the Family link takes you to a page discussing Family Leave/Work-Family Balance and Child Care. I think that covers maternity leave, flex time, and day care, no?
Little wonder that few women in their twenties and thirties seek to complete this so-called unfinished revolution. They don’t yearn for the radical transformation of biological restraints and bourgeois aspirations devoutly wished by stalwarts. Even those few who want more androgynous sex roles for themselves don’t wish to impose them on others. Yes, they took women’s studies courses—often only to satisfy their college’s diversity requirement—but they came away unimpressed. To many of them, Feminism today represents not liberation but its opposite: a life that must be lived according to a strict, severe ideology. The younger generation, on the other hand, wants a liberation “that isn’t just freedom to choose [but] . . . freedom from having to justify one’s choices,” as Jennifer Foote Sweeney has put it in Salon. In short, they’re ready to de-politicize the personal.
That might make sense, except that 84% of them view the women's movement favorably. That just doesn't jibe with "Feminism" representing "not liberation but its opposite: a life that must be lived according to a strict, severe ideology." Perhaps they recognize that the view of feminism presented by Hymowitz applies only to a small minority of feminists. I don't know why they don't consider themselves feminists. I also don't really care. It doesn't bother me that they don't. And I don't find Hymowitz's piece to be a study of that question as much as another attempt by her to bash "Feminism."