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Thursday, February 14, 2008

The Feminist Bone

Love is in the air in Playmobil Land and it's time for a polyester bride Valentine's Day post. For those who wish to skip the story portion, children and plastic weddings are mentioned in the beginning...

It's a pretty fancy time right now at our house. Every morning, all of our Playmobil unicorns as well as some princesses line up in rows and my daughter solemnly marries them off like a miniature, Jewish Sun Myung Moon. There are the usual festivities that take place at all weddings or commitment ceremonies. Dancing. Passionate kisses. Sometimes, one of the princess brides falls down in a heap on the play table and moans, "I don't want my wedding to be over. I still need to be a kallah*!" Who wouldn't want to be eternally locked inside the ritual of the unicorn wedding?

The wedding is an affair compiled by three separate Playmobil sets. The princesses come from the Queen's Court. A few brides as well as the carriage that brings them to the massive ceremony is from the Wedding Set. Of course, every wedding needs a good space--one that speaks to the love of the bride and the bride (as well as the other brides and unicorns all being married at the same time by the toddler rabbinate)--and the chosen space is a rustic farm with ducks and chickens and two cows--one who happens to be a "Daddy-Mommy" according to my daughter, a strange hybrid cow that is male but lactates--and a rabbit who shares the same name as my husband. Three sets, two hearts (times 12 additional Playmobil figures), one lavish affair.

I have to be honest, no matter how many times I sit through it, I still get a kick out of watching the wedding. I like listening to her tell the story of their love and watch the brides dance. When the ChickieNob gets excited, she does this thing where she jogs in place, gasping out the story. To be fair, the unicorns love each other so intensely.

Plus, I love that we have raised our kids to be Pat Robertson's worst nightmare. It was a goal of mine to raise them with infinite possibilities and a healthy vision of diversity in the world. And I think the proof of our success is in the Daddy-Mommy-male-lactating cow as well as the mass wedding. Her world is really large right now and it will get smaller with time, but I'm glad she's starting with an infinite space to whittle down rather than a small stump of creativity.

We were at the toy store and I offered to buy them each a new Playmobil set. New guests for the wedding. My son ditched the Playmobil to get himself a tiny model of a Mini Cooper--his favourite car of the week--adding that it could help drive guests to the wedding. My daughter latched onto the "housework" set, a smiling plastic woman with her hair back in a pony tail that comes with an ironing board, iron, washing machine, vacuum cleaner, and laundry basket. The ChickieNob rarely attaches herself to anything and usually walks through toy stores without asking to take anything home. But this time, she sat down on the floor, hugging the set to her chest and quietly insisted that she could. not. leave. without. it.

She cared about it a lot so I bought her the set. This set came on the heels of the last Playmobil purchase, the mommy-and-baby set with changing table and stroller and tiny bottles and teddy bears. Her little mother walks her baby back and forth in front of the dollhouse, pausing only to feed her other child. It's an idyllic 50's life.

Josh was horrified when he came home and saw the second purchase. "This girl isn't going to have a feminist bone in her body."

These are the things my daughter loves without prompting: weddings, brides, flower girls, ball gowns, princesses, brooms, swifters, vacuums (as long as they're not on), dresses, stockings, party shoes, high heels, nail polish, necklaces, and clean laundry.

It brought up the idea of feminism--what is feminism and is it anti-feminist to want to do laundry and iron and stay home with a child? Is thumbing your nose at the hard work of your female predecessors to choose the life they specifically fought to get you out of the ultimate anti-feminist statement?

And his admonishment brought up my own insecurities in the choices I made--things I have been thinking about since reading Peggy Orenstein's brilliant Waiting for Daisy, which brings thoughts concerning feminism to a head. Am I setting a good example for my daughter in terms of being a powerful, positive woman? Am I working too much on one end? What does it say about me after all of my education and strong female role-models and women's studies classes that my greatest desire was to be a stay-at-home mum and fold the laundry? I take such a large portion of my self-worth in the job I do within the home--cleaning, cooking, raising the kids.

But, at the same time, in keeping completely honest, when I left work to become a stay-at-home mum, I also missed the structure and purpose that work brought to my life. For someone who didn't care about career, I became somewhat depressed when my day was exactly what I wished for--diapers, binkies, and bottles. I started setting up projects for myself. I purchased a culinary textbook and worked through all of the lessons. I planted a garden. I started volunteering and joined boards. And then I took on freelance work from home and started tutoring a few hours a week and wrote the blog and researched the book.

And somewhere along the way, all of these small things came together to essentially be a job. A career cobbled together from sustainable living and board functions, but a career nonetheless that gave structure to my day and gave me something to talk about with Josh that extended beyond the kids. Because when I talk about the book, I am talking about my ideas and my beliefs and how I see the world and when I only spoke about the kids, I was only speaking about others. If that makes any sense.

But, in the same breath, I have never worked as hard on my career as I have to reach motherhood. Nor have I had the commitment to career as I have had to motherhood. Walking away from my career brought about a modicum of discomfort, but death seemed like the only viable (hmmm...perhaps not the correct word to couple with death) option to a lack of motherhood. Motherhood--reaching a stage of parenting--was my career choice in a sense, even if this career does not bring with it the respect or acknowledgment that my other jobs bring.

There are writers and philosophers who believe the term anti-feminist is used solely to silence any debate within the topic and remove voices that may call into question a rigid view of feminism. There are others who would look at my life and scoff at calling myself a feminist, reminding me that the ability to choose is not the definition of feminism. But those latter people always make me feel as if choices are being taken away from me--except this time by women instead of by men. And the former group make me feel as if this argument works too broadly and dismisses the idea that there does need to be a definition or everything becomes feminism.

I was watching the Colbert Report this week and Eleanor Holmes Norton (I love this woman so much--she needs to run for president) was speaking about her support of Barack Obama. Colbert questioned why she wasn't supporting Clinton and Norton said something to the effect of "I'm a feminist and I'm a civil rights activist...I went with the best candidate." Meaning, the impulse is, as a feminist, that one should support women. Her pause in the middle of the sentence made me believe that she probably struggled with this decision as well as how the decision affects her own definition of feminism. Is she a feminist if she doesn't give her vote to the woman?

Obviously, a person should support the best candidate, but is that one of the impulses of feminism--to elect a female president simply as support to women, getting women in office. Back in 1992, Dianne Feinstein had the famous quote: "Two percent may be good for fat in milk but it's bad for women in the United States Senate." And no, that was too big a discrepancy in terms of male to female senators. But at the same time, is it the best person for the job or are women expected to want to elect other women? Can a man represent a woman just as well as a woman? Is it anti-feminist to not support the first woman seriously being considered for president?

Can you tell that I struggled with this question myself?

What is feminism to you? Is it possible to want to be an eternal bride or mother and be a feminist? Is it possible to want to forgo career or does a woman need to be autonomous to be a feminist? Is motherhood a job or simply a default lack of position?

* The Hebrew word for bride.


K @ ourboxofrain said...

I've always thought myself less of a feminist and more of an anti-sexist, for lack of a better term. In my view, rigid sex typing gives men an equally unappealing set of choices. Whenever we have women's fora at my firm, I find myself arguing for the men -- while the "mommy track" may seem unappealing, at least we have the choice to get on it. I have less of a problem with it taking me longer to make partner should I choose to go part time than with my male colleagues never being given a choice. Are there employers who offer a daddy track? The social (and business) pressure on men to be breadwinners and not caregivers is so strong that it fills me with pity for those men who would rather opt out. For me, it's about choice, but it's also about compromise and about partnership, both in the world at large and within families.

As for voting, I'm with Eleanor Holmes Norton. Going with my earlier anti-sexist notion, I think a candidate's sex should be largely irrelevant to my decision, except in as much as it informs their style and their views in such a way as to make them, in my view, a better candidate. Being a woman is not a plus to me in and of itself. The 2% is, however, problematic, in as much as it reflects the fact that for many people it's a minus.

Heather said...

I think part of being a feminist means that you believe a woman can do anything you set your mind to. You can have any job you want. If you want to be a mother, be one. If you want to be an astronaut, be one.

I'm struggling with the voting idea too.

alison said...

You and the ChickieNob make me miss my own Barbie weddings of yore. How fun they were...

Anyway, I'm someone who wants to have a career outside the home, as well as a mom and a wife, but I don't consider myself a feminist for wanting to do so. My greatest hope, if I ever have a daughter, is that I will be able to show her what it means to be a caring, strong, independant woman, with strong values and morals. Feminism is a blurred line at times, and it's hard to say "this is feminism" and "that is not feminism". You have created such a great balance (from the snapshot you've given of your life) of family and personal endeavors. I think the ChickieNob will see that her mom is a great woman who created her own joy because it was right for her. Whether the term "feminism" applies to you or anyone else is really a moot point if you're living the life that's right for you.

Samantha said...

I don't think feminism means that you should always vote for the female candidate, it means you should consider the female candidate in her own right, and not say things like, "I wouldn't vote her. She reminds of her mother." I feel for the woman running for president because of the number of people who have decided to judge her based her dress, how she's too calculating, decided to stay married, or especially that mother comment. There are plenty of people who are choosing to vote because of true ideological differences with the candidate, and that's fine. But seeing the scrutiny the woman's been put under shows to me that we are NOT there. So I also respect women who do feel like we should push harder to vote for her because she's a woman, because there are so many people out there who are providing thinly veiled reasons why they don't want a woman in office.

Anybody who doesn't think there isn't a glass ceiling should have been sitting in on this reference check I was doing. The reference (a man) was talking about his employee (a woman). When asked if there were any problems with her employment, he answered, "Well, she had the baby." And I work in a women's profession!

kate said...

In a way, I think it is thumbing your nose a bit, but not in a bad way. And what I mean by that is that we are saying "Thanks, wofem predecessors, for fighting so hard to get equal rights for women, but some of us? Well, some of us want to be traditional anyway." And that may not make sense to some people, but to me, feminism IS about choices. So much of the more radical contingencies of early feminists acted radical because ideas about women were SO entrenched in our culture that women truly did not have the option of doing anything but staying at home, raising the 3.2 children, etc. And I could see how, for some of those women, that (in their view) taking a step back is just so offensive. But again, to me, feminism is decidedly about the options.

And you can very much be a feminist and do very, very important work raising your children to be feminists. According to the Baha'i, women are the first educators of their children, from as far back as the womb, and therefore, if a choice must be made, then educating your daughters is far more important than educating your sons. And that is one of the most incredibly feminist views I've heard from any religion, and it really appeals to me.

As far as candidacy, I just simply haven't jumped on the Obama bandwagon yet. I don't believe that he is the best candidate (nor do I believe that he represents any part of black america- an impression I got from my co-workers at the black college where I work- so the "civil rights" tack is right out, at least for me), but ultimately, if that's who we're stuck with as the Dem party candidate, I will weep a little, but buck up and vote for him anyway. And most of my weeping will be done for the fact that it has been my opinion for as long as I've had a political opinion that women are far worse off than men of color. And that women who are strong, and smart and great leaders are threatening to most of the population (men and women), and that America is simply not ready for a woman leader. And that pisses me off.

When I hear people calling Clinton or Obama the "better candidate", I often wonder exactly what they mean. They are very similar in their policies, with Obama leaning a bit closer to the right than I am comfortable with. Does that make him the better candidate? Is he a better candidate because he can whip the crowd into a fervor? Is he a better candidate because he is younger? Or is he the better candidate solely because he IS more centrist, and thus might possibly eke out a victory over McCain? Or... is he a better candidate because he is male, and secretly, that makes us all more comfortable with him as the leader of America?

Anyhow. What a dilemma.

I would say in response to your final point:
We, as a culture, had a long, difficult debate as it regards affirmative action. Was it rigth or wrong to give preferential treatment to a person solely based on race? And what most people argued was that any racially disenfranchised group did, in fact, deserve an extra leg-up in order to even the playing field. My beef with affirmative action has long been that it does not typically take gender into account, and that I feel that gender is a bigger disadvantage in many ways than race is. So, yes. I feel like if Clinton is more or less equal in all ways (except that she is a HAIR more toward the left), then it is anti-feminist to vote for anyone other than her. If there are concrete reasons why you feel it is disastrous to place this person in a leadership position, then sure. Balance your feelings with those of the greater needs of a more gender-balanced country (though I would say that one might consider examining why one feels that this woman would be such a disastrous candidate- and I would be surprised if a real reason beyond, "she won't win the general election(because she's a woman)" could be found, since she and Obama are so similar...).

Feh. You've made me think too much this morning. Too tired to be this involved in a detailed thought! Curses!

Apparently, I'm all crazy about Hillary. I didn't realize I was that cuckoo for her, but I guess so.

Stephanie said...

I completely agree with K @ ourboxofrain. I believe choice is the key and I'm so happy to have so many choices.

You ask some tough questions Mel!

I think reproducing as a whole could be considered a biological default. As teenagers prove everyday, it often happens without much consideration.

That said, I think motherhood should be considered a seperate category. One that requires a concious decision. Some women may not give much initial thought to it but there's usually a choice to parent. As we infertiles are aware, motherhood is not a true default position.

As for the vote, I believe it would make for a hollow victory to support the less qualified just because of gender or race. It's self defeating to turn real issues and hard work into an afterthought.

I'll get off of my soapbox now!

luna said...

so many points here...

I'm in the camp that firmly believes feminism is about having the freedom and power to make those choices yourself. you're talking about a decision to walk away from a career to sustain your home and raise your children with conscious values and the freedom to become the people they choose to be. this I think is different from another stay-at-home mom who may not necessarily make that conscious decision or impart those values. does that make sense?

and I'll add that I have a wonderful and rewarding career but I'd give it up in a second to be a stay-at-home mom. does that conflict with my feminist values? I don't think so. I think traditional societal expectations about women are what gave rise to the movement to begin with.

as far as the political realm, I want to live in a world where a woman or an african american can be president without a thought to race or gender -- where the traditional white male patriarchy is turned on its head by the notion that others might be more inclusive, where eradicating poverty rather than enriching yourself at the expense of others is a real objective. (in truth I'm more of a progressive than a liberal.)

I'll vote for the best candidate that offers a chance of reflecting my ideals in office (but he dropped out-- see, I was gonna vote for the white guy). I think it's too simple to vote for a woman simply because she's a woman, and so on. I mean look at clarence thomas! women's issues are important to me, but I vote with my brain and not my vag.


Dianne/Flutter said...

bI view myself as a feminist, but I was a bride and wanted to be a stay at home mother. I think being a feminist is having a voice and using it. Standing up for yourself and other woman for equality and opportunity.

Mel, I think you can hold strong to your title of feminist. You do more for a community that is very filled with women than I know. Being a great Mom is essential in my opinion. You are doing your part for the future of putting great people into society.

And yes, I believe your daughter can be a bride and a mother and be a feminist. Just like her Mom.

Erin said...

I view myself as a feminist, and I firmly believe that feminists fight for rights to have choices other than staying home full-time--IF we don't want to. It's not fighting to replace that option and say that women CAN'T do that, it's fighting to open up more options and say that women don't HAVE to do that. I really believe it's about having the choices and that which choice is largely irrelevant--as long as we exercise that right and aren't forced into something that we don't want to do. I only think it's antifeminist to tell all women that they should stay home simply because they are women and that's "their job". It's not at all antifeminist to want to stay home and provide a good, strong household for your family!

As far as voting goes, I will vote for a candidate based on their views and how they match up with their own rather than looking at gender (or race) first and then their views. However, if I feel that two candidates' views are equally acceptable to me and one is a woman, I will vote for her over a man because that's an extra point in her favor, albeit not a political one.

loribeth said...

I've written about feminism in the past on my blog. I am proud to call myself a feminist. Things are still not perfect for women today, but I am old enough to remember when they were a whole lot worse, & the struggle to gain some of the rights that younger women today take for granted.

To me, feminism means ensuring that women have the same rights and choices that men do -- that they are not constricted merely because of their gender.

I most certainly believe it is possible to be a feminist and a stay-at-home mom at the same time. To me, feminism is all about being free to choose the option(s) that are best for you & your family -- not conforming to someone else's idea of what you should or shouldn't do, because you are a woman -- & respecting the choices that others make. Not everyone will be happy (or can afford) staying at home with kids; not everyone is happy in the working world. I don't believe it has to be a black & white sort of thing, or that once you make a choice, you have to stick with it forever. I do agree with some of the other commenters that those choices should be conscious, informed ones.

Personally, I think working part-time is an ideal situation, if you can swing it financially & with your employer. I wrestled with this issue while I was pregnant. I had always thought I would be a stay at home mom when the time came, but the reality was (a) we needed my income, (b) I felt that my parents spent too much money on my education & I had invested too many years in my job to just up & quit, (c) I worried about being able to get back into the workforce when I wanted to & (d) I realized I would probably go stircrazy being at home fulltime anyway. I talked briefly about sharing a job with a colleague who was heading toward retirement & thinking about easing her way into it; the whole topic became moot when I lost the baby.

Being Canadian, I don't have a say in the U.S. election. I would have a tough time deciding, were I a Democrat. The idea of the first woman president thrills me, just as much as the first black president. Either way, it's progress! Witnessing the first woman Canadian prime minister (Kim Campbell) was a thrill, even though she fell into the job (the sitting PM resigned & she became PM by gaining leadership of the majority party in Parliament) & was defeated in the general election held a few months later. Overall, though, the person has to be the best candidate for the job.

Jen said...

I just wanted to say thank you for your kind thoughts... But I am staying out of this discussion!

Southern Comfortable said...

Wow! A lot to think about today.

First off, just to respond to Kate's comment that Obama is further to the right than Clinton: Actually, it's the opposite. Obama was recently determined to be the most liberal Senator in the entire Senate, based on 99 key votes. He is a wonderful speaker and is very inspirational, and his message of hope is broadly appealing. But when you get down to brass tacks, to the extent there is any difference between Clinton and Obama on policy, he is the slightly more liberal choice. Hopefully this link will work, if you'd like to look at the vote ratings:

On the feminism front, I don't know what to call myself. I obviously believe in equal educational opportunities, career opportunities, and so forth for men and women. I'm sure there are a lot of self-proclaimed feminists out there who would refuse to grant me the title because I oppose legalized abortion. I also believe that there are legitimate, innate differences between men and women that go beyond our plumbing and arise from the fact that we were created to complement one another, not to be identical—and this would also exclude me from the “feminist” club in many circles.

I think part of the problem with modern feminism, though, is that it denies that there are real differences between men and women and devalues the feminine. You see this in the work of the Linda Hirshmans of the world, who seem to think that educated women are wasting their time and doing women a disservice if they choose full-time at-home motherhood. I’m so pleased to see that the commenters so far seem to disagree with Hirshman and, like me, fall into the camp that believes feminism is about giving women opportunities, regardless of what we choose to do with them.

As a counterpoint to the typical definition of “feminist,” though, could we say that it is "feminist" to celebrate the feminine? To recognize the beauty and dignity inherent in traditional "women's work"-- raising children, creating and keeping a comfortable and welcoming home, nourishing our families, being our children's first and primary educators? In the same way that it was wrong for men to prevent women from voting, owning property, receiving an education, or holding a satisfying job, I believe it is wrong for narrowly-defined "feminists" to devalue the calling that many women feel toward home and family. I feel like that’s what Hirshman and others like her do when they insult smart, talented women who have a choice—and choose at-home motherhood over career.

I wonder whether those of us who battle infertility are more appreciative of motherhood because it doesn’t come easily for us. Perhaps that’s what makes us unwilling to insist that working outside the home is the only responsibly feminist thing to do. We know that many women love their careers and want to continue them as they raise their children (or have financial or other reasons to work outside the home), but we also understand when a mother decides to forego career to devote herself completely to the child(ren) we all struggle so hard to have.

Jess said...

Katd just had a post about this.

I'm sort of the worst feminist ever. For some reason "feminist" makes me think of butch women who pump their fists in the air and scream about woman power and don't shave. I know. I know. It's just the way it seems.

I WANT feminism to be about choice. About being able to be whatever you want. Because I can respect those fist-pumping-no-shaving women. I can respect the career woman. But I also don't like being looked at as less of a woman, or like I'm taking away what others worked for, if I don't WANT a career or don't WANT to work outside the home.

I sort of think that if feminism MAKES you do anything, it takes away the point. I mean, wasn't it all about not being a slave to the home? Well, what if you want the home, and are a slave to the job?

Which, in my opinion is a major downfall of the feminist seems like when women went to work, nothing was really gained because the cost of living just adjusted to a two working person household, therefore rendering it almost impossible for many families to even HAVE the choice to have one parent at home, which is SAD. It's just MY OWN opinion, but there does seem to be a lot more issues with teens now that there's not a parent at home to give them more attention and keep them in line. Could be a connection, I think. Does every kid need that? No. Do some? Yes. Is that what I want to give my kids? Yeah. If I wasn't lucky enough to have my income not matter (we both owned the business, so when I left it didn't actually cut our pay) would I have been able to leave my job comfortably? Probably not.

However, I never gave a damn about the job anyhow and am certainly happy and blessed that my husband runs my business now. Screw the job. People often say to me, "Oh, but you're so SMART, why didn't you finish college??" and I'm like, smart? Hello, I dropped out to run a business, then figured out how to get my husband to run it FOR ME and more efficiently at that, and therefore making more money while being at home with my kids. Who's smart now biotches?


As for Hillary, I may just need to roll my eyes and bow out on this one. It seems loaded. I may be a WOMAN but I'm still a republican! (OOOH, did she just admit to being a republican? She better RUN! :) hehehe)

Lori said...

Two points:

1. I want to model that it's better to care about my own opinion than about others'. *I* am the one living my life, reaping my rewards and paying my consequences. I couldn't give a rat's patoot what "society" thinks of me as a work-at-home mom. I'm happy. My kids see me living up to my own standards.

2. The idea that one should vote for a woman simply because she's a woman is insane, as evidenced by this thought: President Britney Spears.

People -- you gotta look at the whole package! (and I don't mean THAT package!)

Heather said...

I just emailed you back...but then I got to thinking...

Are we considering this so deeply because she is a woman and so are we? Is the black community having these same questions about voting for the first black president?

Lindsey said...

Feminism to me is about having the choice, not about which choice you make.

It's a good post, and an excellent point.

Rebecca said...

Great discussion...brings back a lot of memories from some years back with a good friend of mine.

I've always considered myself a feminist in the respect that we should have the same choices and opportunities as men when it comes to education, careers, etc. I don't think any less of any woman who chooses to be a stay at home fact I quite envy them. I would love to be a SAHM like my own mother was, who was the most influential feminist figure in my life. It was her CHOICE to stay at home and raise us herself (instead of relying on fact, she ran a daycare out of our home for many years so she could stay home with us), to be our primary caregiver, the home-runner if you will. She also handled and still handles all the finances of the household, and while we all knew Dad made the money...Mom controlled the purse-strings. All major decisions were and still are collaborative efforts. It's all about give and take, I think. That being said, if my husband and I were in the position for me to be a SAHM, I would choose that over any prestigious, high powered, high salaried career you could offer me. In my opinion, motherhood is a job...the most important job. It's definitely a hard one, a thankless one, but it's also the most rewarding one (from what I hear anyway...LOL). I think sometimes we get too caught up in labels anyway. If I want to work 40 hours a week while my husband stays home with the kids, we should have that choice. And if I want to stay home with the kids while my husband works, I should also have that choice. It doesn't make me less of a person...any less intelligent...any less socially aware or less of a contributor to soceity. I think a lot of hardcore feminists lose sight of that. Yes, thank you for fighting for our right to make the choices we've made, but I don't for one second want anyone to condemn me because I didn't make the same choice they did, or would have.

Tara said...

I think that being a feminist in today's world means that you can be whatever you want to be. That includes being and eternal bride or mother or the first female president of the united states, then that's what it is.

It is being happy and content with who you are and what you choose to be.

annacyclopedia said...

I left my job 5 months ago because I was incredibly burnt out. My experience of having a career was overall pretty negative, except for the money, and I've had lots of opportunity these past months to think about how I can still be a feminist when all I want to do right now is have a baby and iron my husband's shirts.

For me it comes down to a question of sustainability - spiritual, emotional, psychological, and environmental. Having a full-time job, a marriage, the challenge of trying to have a baby, aging family members, a house and garden, friendships, the most lovable nephews on earth, my own growth and development - all requiring care and attention - just wasn't sustainable. I just couldn't do it all and still be happy. I couldn't even do all that and be any kind of sane.

Feminism to me has always included a broader goal of trying to change the world to make it better for everyone. That includes creating more options for all of us to do more of what brings us joy and meaning, and less of what merely allows us to participate in a consumer culture. It means creating a more sustainable way of living for everybody.

Raising children and nurturing a family is some of the most joyful and meaningful work I can think of, yet it brings little to no financial reward. If feminism doesn't have a broader view than the mainstream society of what constitutes success and achievement, it seems to me like it stops offering an alternative, and instead becomes another expression of the culture I think it should be trying to change.

p.s. I’m a brand new blogger as of today, and I want to thank Mel for posing such beautifully complex and challenging questions and getting discussions like this started, and also thanks to everybody who participates in these discussions. I feel like I’ve finally found my people and it’s really wonderful.

Denise said...

My personal definition of feminism is women having the right to choose what they want out of life. It doesn't have anything to do with discarding the notion of traditional female roles, unless that is what is right for you. A woman who embraces the traditional female roles can be just as much of a feminist as the bra-burning career woman who never wants kids or puts her career first.

I am also struggling with the voting issue. It does feel wrong to not vote for the first legitimate female presidential candidate. And our country is quite behind the rest of the world in having a female leader, which is a little disturbing. But at the end of the day, I still feel the most qualified candidate should get the job.

Definitely a bit of an affirmative action dilemma.

(and btw, thanks for your kind words this week)

Bea said...

I wouldn't vote for anyone just because they were a woman. I'd have to be satisfied that they were a reasonable person for the job. It may sway my vote at the margin, though.

As for your definitions, I always thought it was about choice. As long as your daughter understands she is welcome to play with the trucks or footballs, too, I can't see a problem with her choosing the princesses. Same goes for your son.


Beagle said...

My def. is supporting a woman's right to equality and choice. If that choice is to be married and raise children then it's anti-feminist to look down on that!

I also think it is every citizen's responsibility to vote for the best leader and while I would love to see a woman in that role, it can't be just any woman.

I am surprised that so many are advocating voting for HC JUST because she is female. In my mind she does not stand for feminist ideals anyway. I would see Obama as more feminist because he treats his wife as an equal (from what I can see). Hilary has endured infidelity with a smile pasted on. She stood by her man while he lied to an entire nation. What message does that send about women's equality?

(Not to get all political here . . . just the humble opinion of a woman not even eligible to vote in this election anyway!)

Kami said...

I think choice is the key too. I have seen studies that indicate the happiest moms work part time. Of course, I think the happiest anyone would be working part time.

My only concern about the current candidates is that maybe, just maybe, Clinton is in a now win situation - to feminine and she is weak, two masculine and she is power hungry. I think we still perceive women as less qualified in general. I would hate to see her lose based on biased perceptions and that is why I am leaning toward Clinton over Obama. Maybe she is the better candidate - we just can't see it.

msmiranda said...

My last post was about feminism and the whole SAHM mom thing, so this has been on my mind a lot. I'm glad to see that the respondents here do not buy the Hirshman line -- that was the topic of my post. Her views really rile me.

I won't even get into the whole Hillary versus Obama thing here. Suffice it to say that I wholeheartedly reject the notion that I have any obligation whatsoever to vote for Hillary simply because she is a woman and I am a feminist.

Julia said...

I think feminism is about *free* choice. If the choice is to stay home because you are making less than it would cost to get decent childcare, that is not what I see as a win. If the choice is to not go to grad school because the husband doesn't want to be doing so much childcare in the evenings after work, and the wife won't have time to study without that support, that gets my feminist heckles up. If the choice, however, is to stay at home because that is truly what you want to do, I say go for it.
I am also going to go out on a limb and suggest that the attachment to housework is not so much unprompted as a result of her watching you do it and apparently enjoy it. Why wouldn't she think it's about the coolest thing she could be doing? Doesn't mean she won't find other passions that are less home-centered.
I have to say, though, that I once heard something come out of my daughter's mouth that made me redefine how I describe myself. I used to be in life sciences. Now I am in science teaching, including research into the same. But I was careless once and told my daughter I used to be a scientist. Bad mistake, I realized, when it came out of her mouth later, in response to hearing about something scientists had done. My mama used to be a scientist. Ok, hold your horses, baby. I don't want you to ever think your mom couldn't be a scientist any longer. So I redefined-- I am still a scientist, I said, but now instead of studying how living things work I study how people learn. Works much better for both of us. I guess my point here is that if you are worried about this, it might be important to talk not just to Josh about your other projects, but to the kids too. Mommy is writing a book about and for the people who have had a lot of trouble getting to parenting. Mommy helps this great organization and that. Mommy's world is very big, and she still loves to fold laundry. (BTW, I am folding six loads worth tonight. Find it satisfying, and watch TV while I am at it. Wanna come over?)

Aurelia said...

I haven't read all the comments, but I guess I think it would be more feminist if the Chickienob knew about ALL the things you do, like the writing or the book, and had a little kiddie laptop to "imitate" mommy.

Cause that's all she's doing. And if she only sees you cooking and cleaning, that's what her view of you will be, and really you are so much more.

So many women in the 50's were the core volunteers that kept political parties and charities and schools afloat, but no one talks about it. Cause they didn't.

As for the election, there is no question for me that Obama is the flash in the pan candidate that always fails. After 20 years of politics from the inside and out, I simply know that he will be absolutely terrible. As the Texans say, he's all hat and no cattle.

I haven't voted for women in the past who were not with my party, or in line with my political beliefs, because voting for a woman who doesn't help other women is just pointless to me. That said, if a woman can win, and she's good, I'll pick her in a heartbeat. Frankly most local candidates are pretty much the same when it comes down to it, and women get a hell of a lot done when they are a critical mass.

Most of the male politicians sit around and talk a lot, but do not do freaking much. The status quo suits them fine.

Vacant Uterus said...

You said everything I want to say about feminism but so much more gracefully. Lord, I wish I could write like you.

I don't think it's anti-feminist to stay at home. I never have and I never will. My mom stayed at home with my brother and me most of our lives. She tried going back to work when we were in gradeschool, it was horrible for everyone, so she quit and came back home. We loved it. We were so glad to have her back. As a young girl, it never occured to me to think that she wasn't strong or couldn't make her way in the world because she chose to come home that year. I knew my mom could take over the world is she so desired. She just happened to desire me more.

I say vote for the best candidate for the job. Voting for a woman simply because she *is* one won't help women in the long run. If we vote for Hilary simply because she has a vagina and then (G-d forbid) she really screws it up, that just makes everyone think women can't do the job. I'd rather see a competent woman in office sixteen years from now then an inadequate one there today. (I'm not saying Hilary's inadequate, just using her as an example.)

Not on Fire said...

The problem with the question "Are you a feminist?" is that you first need to define what it means. Does it mean "equal pay for work of equal value" or "equality under the law"? If so, then yes, I am a feminist. The media, which is always attracted to extreme stories, has filled our ears with stories of strange ideas and has made it sounds like there is a monolithic feminist movement with set ideas and rigid rules. Nothing could be further from the truth but it does not sell newspapers. I think that feminism is about choice. It is about choosing who you are based on your own interests and abilities. I think that a real feminist would be happy that you are happy.