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Tuesday, October 24, 2006

The "F" Word

I posted this entry over at the Philosophy Blog War, so if you like it please vote for it here. Thanks!

When I was a young, perky college student, one who believed in the potential for good in the world, I believed in a thing called "Feminism." In fact, I was proud to call myself a feminist, even though I was not a die-hard (read bra burning, combat boots wearing woman who was filled with hate for all things male), I did believe that women have systematically gotten a raw deal. When I was in my early twenties, I also believed that I could do something about it by supporting other women who also proudly identified themselves as "feminists."

Now I'm not so sure.

It just seems to me that the current climate involves feminists attacking other women for their personal life choices, ie stay at home mothers vs. Mothers who work outside the home. There seems to be this condescending attitude by feminists aimed at SAHMs because by staying outside of the corporate rat race these women are somehow not living up to their potential. After all, why wouldn't a mother want to "have it all?"

In my experience, staying at home to raise your children is looked upon as a cop out, as not "real" work and I think that much of that stems from a mother's work being unpaid. But just because a SAHM's work isn't figured into the GNP doesn't mean that is isn't work and that she isn't making a contribution to society. Of course, proponents for SAHMs have their own views on the subject - mothers who are at home with their children 24/7 are often elevated to sainthood, while mothers who go outside the home to work are accused of leaving unnecessary emotional scars on their children for selfish, personal reasons.

This is where my problem with feminism comes in . . . Shouldn't feminists be working toward the equality and liberation of ALL women instead of attacking one another for the choices they make?

When I was that young, perky college student I thought feminism was about choice. The idea that as a woman I should have the right to decide what direction my life would go and not be hindered by sexism for any reason. Yet, that's not what I see today. I see two very different viewpoints, in direct opposition with one another, both calling themselves feminist.

While I understand that quite a few sacrifices were made by women that came before us so that we have the opportunities to vote, to work outside the home and receive (almost) equal pay, to change the image of women from a species completely dependent upon male assistance for survival - Weren't those women making all of those sacrifices so that today's women had a choice to make, whether it be paid or unpaid work, and not feel like another lifestyle is being forced on them?

And yet while I write this I realize that I may be adding to the difficulty faced by women in these times. After all, by calling into question the motives and viewpoints of other feminists, aren't I contributing to creating that wedge between the different factions? Aren't I doing the dirty work of those who like to see dissention in the ranks, in so far as it protects their standing in the world?

What's a girl, er woman, to do?

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At 10/24/2006 10:53:00 PM, Anonymous Bean said...

Hey Nancy, welcome to the phi blog war :) I'd like to think that the attitudes you're talking about aren't particularly widespread. I'm pretty isolated from any feminist elements in my community (and I'm not a mum) but it's pretty sad to imagine that's a widely held opinion among women. Perhaps it's the only way they can justify their own choices?

At 10/25/2006 06:27:00 AM, Blogger MuseinMeltdown said...

I would just be happy if somebody could define what "having it all" actually means.

I have spent years trying to do everything I possibly can in an ever decreasing amount of time - to no avail.

So I think with the benefit of hindsight the "having it all" is the love of your children, security of a Partner you actually are friends with, having a roof over your head and food on the table... the rest such as the internet is just bunce...

Good piece of writing though my friend, very thought provoking..

At 10/25/2006 06:32:00 AM, Blogger TerraPraeta said...

I think that the polar extremists of feminism are vastly more visible than their moderate compatriots -- but I hope that they are still a significant minority..

This same extremification seems to be happening on all political levels, particularily in the US


At 10/25/2006 07:02:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

A Really enjoyable post and welcome to the phi blog war.

To me, the issues you raise are so widespread and very established in our post-modern society, however, I feel they are misplaced. You have identified a crucial point in all this so called 'feminist' debate and that is equality. Most people in today's world have a neo-liberal view of equality which basically means if you have it, I should have it too!

I think equity would be a better word to use instead of equality as it has a more appropriate meaning. Equity means that we all have access to the same oportunity and those who are struggling get some assistance to get there. Here in Australia it is a common concern among the 'white' population the indigenous peoples get extra assistance for education. What they fail to understand is that without that extra assistance, in general, the indigenous peoples can never reach the same level of education that the 'white' people enjoy.

People who call themselves feminists should have a look at the works of De Beauvoir and then Irigaray. I'd emphasise the works of the latter as most would find it more appealing in today's world. Irigaray directs the reader to a better understanding of what feminism is and what women, and men, should be trying to achieve.

At 10/26/2006 03:32:00 AM, Blogger Ron Amos said...

Nah.. you aren't causing trouble, maybe wasting your time but not
causing trouble. I have found it's really difficult to promote
the individualist ideal, that of the freedom to do one's own
thinking and to make one's own choices.

When you are under constant pressure of home, family and your own
need to cover your survival expenses, you can be so busy just trying
to stay even that you don't have time for reflection or for doing
things differently from how you have always done them..

At 10/26/2006 08:47:00 AM, Blogger Linus said...

Let me just say that I am so GLAD I stumbled upon the Philosophy Blog War! You all have brought up some very interesting points and given me lots to think about. (Since I am a writer, I was especially appreciative of Simon's idea that I use the word "equity" rather than "equality" in describing my vision. He's absolutely right!)

So thank you everyone who has already participated. I will definitely be around for a while.

At 10/26/2006 08:47:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just left a very long comment and somehow it got lost.

Probably for the best. I heard my own arguments and rallying cry for the protection of women's rights (don't interpret that as a single issue poster cause- I'm talking about the right to wear miniskirts if we want, and show off our hair).

Anyway- welcome to the war (it's my first time out)- thought I'd say I'd bookmarked your blog weeks ago- before I knew about the war, so, funny to find it now again, but not a surprise.

At 10/27/2006 03:33:00 PM, Blogger Linus said...

Ron ...
I was just rereading your comment and I would agree that many people are consumed by just keeping their families fed while they work extra hours to do so. And there is a cynical part of me that believes that's how the corporations and the politicians and the wealthy want it - because if you have no time to think about your life, you have no time to question your position in the world and demand it improve. After all, wealth is a finite thing. If the middle and lower classes started to accumulate more or demand more equitable distribution, it could only come from one place - the small circle of people who have already amassed the majority of it. And you know they're doing whatever they can to keep their share of the pie.

At 10/28/2006 12:12:00 AM, Blogger Tracie said...

A very interesting post. It seems to me that women can be their own worst enemies.....the idea in the comments to use the word equity really struck a cord in me. Women should be able to make up their own minds about work situations without being criticized by other women.


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