On feminism

by , under personal

(Apologies in advance- this covers a lot of stories and I have a lot to say. Also, this is my 100th post on this blog. Yay!)

Picture by e-magic at Flickr.
Click for the original!

There have been a number of links that have made my head spin today. To start off with, cartoonist Barry Deutsch posted a checklist about Male Privilege that clearly sprang from Peggy McIntosh’s essay on white privilege. It was linked to on Blag Hag by Jen McCreight (which is how I found it), who later lamented that some of her male commenters had completely missed the point.

Before you click on either link (which I do recommend for anyone- male or female), you have to understand what is meant by privilege in this context. It does not mean being handed everything on a silver platter. Nor does it include major events like the recession/depression- where jobs were lost mostly by class level. Privilege refers to a series of societal behaviors that are accepted and not intentional that separate one group from the other. There isn’t usually a lot of mustache-twirling by a villain, intent on keeping someone down because of their race, gender, sexual orientation or class. But it happens.

Most of the male commenters seem to take affront to the piece. It’s not intended to chide men into feeling guilty, but rather to point out that society expects certain things of women because of gender roles. And yes, a lot of them made assumptions. Some read too much into the list, and one guy tried to say that gender, race, religious issues aren’t issues at all- that the only issue is the separation between the wealthy and poor. (To him I say that you’re entitled to say that you feel that class separation is a larger issue, but don’t say that other issues don’t exist because you think that something else should be tackled first) Most seemed to ignore that the author, Barry, was a man- and referred to most of the sentiments as feminazi sort of ideas.

Speaking of radical feminism, there was another piece that Jen linked to which also made me headdesk. Literally. I banged my head on my laptop keyboard, which produced a lot of spaces and some keyboard mashing. “8 ways that Facist Feminists are Ruining America’s Women.” In short, fascist feminists want all of America’s women to have sex casually, have abortions all the time and so on and so forth.

In any movement, there are some who are extremists. Look at political parties. You have super liberals and uber-conservatives. Conservatives who seem to believe that a woman’s place is pregnant and in the kitchen, even if that baby was the product of rape or incest. (Sorry, there was a Tea Party individual who said that she wouldn’t condone abortion even under those circumstances- rant for another time, I think)

I am pro-choice. I’m pro sexual liberation. However, I would never have an abortion myself and I’m about one of the most traditional women there is out there so far as dating. I chose to be a stay at home mom over working. But you know what? I know that my choices aren’t right for everyone. I will fight for women to be able to make the decision that’s right for them, even if I wouldn’t make that choice myself. That is what feminism is about.

Feminism is not about those 8 points at all. Those 8 points were written by a conservative woman who, like other conservative women with a voice choose to echo the sentiments of their party without even thinking about what they’re saying. Sorry, Cassy Fiano. She’s probably a wonderful person, but at the same time, she’s someone who has decided that as a twenty-something year old with a limited viewpoint that she knows what is right for every woman out there based on the opinions that have been decided by conservative MEN. Older, mostly-white men. Sorry GOPers. While there are indeed conservative women, you cannot convince me that they are creating the policies. I’m not a conspiracy theorist, but that’s just not the way that politics work. Moreover, she started her piece by saying that because we already have it better than most of the women in the world, we shouldn’t want more for ourselves.

As someone from the First World, we should want more for ourselves. Why? We set the example for the rest of the world. Where does the US stand so far as women’s rights? We’re woefully behind. Yes, we have laws that protect women from being discriminated against, but we don’t have policies that allow women to take control of their reproductive rights and careers as women. Many nations in Europe give the same parental leave rights to men that they do to women- giving a family the option of whether or not the man stays at home with their newborn or the woman. You know how far along we are? We say that women can’t be fired during the 12 weeks they’re allowed by law to take off of work. We don’t require for those 12 weeks to be paid- that’s a decision for states to make. Most don’t. In some you can claim state disability (like in CA) and in most, you have to have had private disability insurance first. In the United States, we don’t have affordable child care- which is what leads a lot of women to stop working and become stay at home mothers. And as a society we expect them to. Outside of my work (which was a female dominant scenario, and mostly working mothers), I got nothing but suggestions from strangers and well-meaning friends who told me that I should be a stay at home mom since it was what was “best” for my boys.

Ultimately it all comes down to freedom of choice. Feminism isn’t about saying that all women should live one way. It’s that women should be allowed to make the same choices that men do. We should be allowed to stay childless if we prefer to be. We should be able to have casual sex in the same manner as men do. Nobody says that’s necessarily the best way to have it, but we shouldn’t be judged simply because we’re women and it’s not proper for a woman to do that. It’s about being able to choose how we live our lives without the expectations and limitations that we put on women. That’s feminism.