Hey, all! What better way to celebrate the beginning of October than with the September Blog Exchange? This month’s exchange is a series of debates between pairs of mom-bloggers: you kind find the full list HERE, at MotherhoodUncensored. And if you’d like to participate next month, send an email to kmei26 at yahoo.com.
My debate partner is my good friend Julie of Mothergoosemouse – she’s challenged me to a duel on feminism (actually, Kristen assigned us to duel on this subject, very possibly on the basis of random selections made by her daughter Q). Her argument – against the label ‘feminist’ – is below. You can find my side of the argument – for feminism – over at her place.
I see feminism as having two distinct and separate definitions – as an ideal and as a movement. First, the classical definition – political, economic, and social equality – pertains to feminism as an ideal. I believe in this ideal – not just for women, but for all people (otherwise known as humanism). In this case, under this definition, I could be considered a feminist (although I’d still cringe if you called me one).
But it’s the other definition of feminism – as a movement – where I part company with the sisterhood.
Beyond the tired old bra-burning, man-hating, so-called “feminazi” stereotypes that have prejudiced many against the feminist movement, my disillusionment with the movement stems from two areas, the first of which being the judgment leveled by feminists against choices made by other women. Choices that they believe undermine the movement.
Yes, I’m in favor of political, economic, and social equality – equality of opportunity, not equality of results or equality of representation. That is, an approximate 50/50 breakdown of men and women may exist in society, but I don’t expect a 50/50 breakdown of men and women in other demographics, such as medical students, elected government officials, and Navy SEALS, to name just a few. Having the opportunity doesn’t mean I want to take advantage of it. And even if I want to take advantage of it, I may not be qualified.
Apart from those relatively exceptional examples given above (exceptional because only a select few men and women even consider pursuing those opportunities), women face choices every day. Choices that are difficult enough to make based on our own circumstances and preferences without concerning ourselves with what others might think of them. Making a choice that is different from another woman’s does not mean I am undermining an entire movement. And if it does, it’s probably not a movement that interests me.
My second objection to the feminist movement pertains to advocacy – specifically, that as a woman I should act as an advocate for other women. Instead, I work for change on behalf of my own choices. I don’t presume to act on anyone’s behalf but my own.
When I was in second grade, I wanted to participate in the spelling bee sponsored by the local newspaper (leading to the Scripps National Spelling Bee). Participation was limited to fourth and fifth-grade students. I asked the principal to allow me to participate, and she opened up the bee to all students, regardless of grade.
Was I an advocate? I suppose some would say so, given that not only was I granted the opportunity to participate, but so were my classmates (and future students in the lower grades). I think it would be more accurate to say that I was an advocate by example.
But I didn’t seek out a perceived injustice and act on the behalf of others. Nor did I consider the participation constraints to be discrimination. I don’t jump to the conclusion that simply because an opportunity is not yet available to me, it’s because I’m not wanted.
I do know that there is much anecdotal and statistical evidence that gender discrimination persists, despite the advances made toward political, economic, and social equality. But I don’t feel it’s my place to act on behalf of other able-bodied and able-minded women – women who may not want me to act as their advocate (and likewise, I don’t expect anyone to speak for me).
Nor do I look for discrimination where it may not exist; rather, as Stephen Covey stated in his Seven Habits, I seek first to understand, then to make myself understood. Doing so increases the strength of my position, whereas assuming that I have all the facts before speaking may very well dilute the strength of my position.
In addition to the points outlined above, I dislike labels that signify membership of a group (and imply acceptance of all planks in the platform of the group). And those are the reasons why I do not consider myself a feminist – either as part of the feminist movement or as an ideal.
As of yesterday, there were over 60 contributions to theChanging the World, One Blog at a Time list. You all rock. I have more links to add, and will keep adding as you send them in. I’ll post the list on the sidebar (along with the Babies and Eros list, which I am still – still! – adding links to) on Tuesday.