Feminism is Choice


A friend sent me a link to this piece in the Huffington Post titled “Tough Gals: Do They Still Exist?” The piece is a jeremiad against the supposed “girliness” of today’s women and how we’ve all apparently abandoned the precedent set by our tough, bitchy, bra-burning feminist foremothers:

Women are girly. Again.

Don’t believe me? The proof is in the blogosphere: Women who blog about cupcakes! Women who blog (okay, rant) about gardeningHello Kitty, and knitting! Even BUST magazine is sponsoring a Craft Fair in NYC. Women who blog about cats! And then there are cats who blog, but let’s not get into that just now. Don’t get me wrong, these are all lovely blogs, smart and entertaining. And some blogs, like the wonderful Jezebel, keep us on our toes pointing out what a long way we haven’t come, baby (like in this piece on how female superheroes are sexualized). But.. seriously… cupcakes?

To be frank, this article is so stupid that I was almost reluctant to even respond to it. (My first reaction was, who pays someone to write this shit? And then I remembered that HuffPo doesn’t pay.) Really, there’s so much wrong with it–a false dichotomy (be a feminist OR be feminine), the judgment of lifestyles that differ from the author’s, the assumption that there’s only one way to “do” feminism, and not to mention some good ol’ misogyny–that is, the idea that women are only worth the air they breathe as long as they act like men.

I could respond to this with abundant examples from my own life–the fact that I actually (shocker) enjoy cooking, cleaning, and doing my hair, the fact that some of my best memories are of taking care of my younger siblings, the fact that I knit, crochet, and sew, and…I am still a feminist. Don’t believe me? Take a look at my love life. I can barely date anymore because most men I meet piss me the hell off with their sexism.

So yeah, I could use myself (and my friends) as a counterexample easily enough, but I’m not even gonna go into detail about that because it’s unnecessary. The larger problem with this article isn’t that it doesn’t even begin to describe any of the women I know, it’s that it doesn’t even begin to describe the feminism that I know.

Feminism was (and still is) a response to two basic tenets of human society–one, that women are inferior to men, and two, that there is a right way for women to live. For centuries, this “right way” consisted of what we typically associate with oppression of women–having to stay home to cook, clean, and produce/raise babies.

In the mid-20th century, feminists obliterated this ideal. Or at least, they set us on the path to obliterating it. But the woman who wrote this HuffPo article, like many other so-called feminists–I say “so-called” because I don’t think they really represent feminism–seem to want to replace one ideal with another.

Repeat after me: feminism is choice. There can be no feminism without choice, just as there can’t really be choice (at least, not for women) without feminism. The minute you start dictating how a woman needs to behave in order to be worthy of your respect, you’re destroying decades of progress. Whether it’s that she can’t have too much sex or that she can’t cook and knit her own clothes, you’re still imposing an ideal on women. Women who have different personalities, backgrounds, and ideals than you do.

The comments on this article are awesome because they’re full of women talking about their lives and what they like and what they do, and basically demolishing all of the author’s assumptions. Take this one:

I have guns; a pink .22 and a purple .38 among others. My husband and father made dang sure I could protect myself and my kids when alone. I’d shoot first and ask questions later. I love cupcakes, gardening, knitting and just being a holly homemaker. Having a husband who deploys leaves me to my own devices often enough and screw Army strong I am my own breed of tough. Dare I mention the 3 children I delivered without an epidural? I can fix a flat, change my oil, bake bread from scratch, and sew my own curtains. I have degrees of my own, but being with my children and showing them to be tolerant and productive men in this world trumps proving I’m “feminist” Yes, i get to have my cake and eat it too!

Who’s a bad feminist now?

The author of this article is, in fact, an even more egregious sexist than most of these college guys I’m always bitching about, because she actually believes that the things our culture labels as “feminine” are inherently worse than the things it labels as “masculine.” To get all jargony on you, that’s called “internalized sexism.”

Feminism is not a convenient ideology for you to use to get people to live their lives in a way you approve of. That’s patriarchy. We don’t need more of that.

Comments

    • says

      Thank you! And I read that post and really liked it. Clearly knitting and feminism aren’t as mutually exclusive as some would like to believe… :)

  1. says

    Gosh, if NOT baking cupcakes were enough to make one a feminist, then we’d be having a massive feminist revolution right now.

    When I was hired for my present job, I was discriminated against in terms of salary based on my gender. Only with help from an older female colleague (who had suffered from sexual harassment at work for 16 years and was fed up with institutionalized sexism) did I manage to correct this injustice.

    This is what feminism needs to address. But, of course, it’s easier to police people’s baking practices instead. This allows one to avoid any real activism.

    • says

      I was SO hoping you’d leave a comment on this because I figured you’d have something awesome to say about it, and I was right.

      If you ask the author of that article, she’d probably say it’s your pesky femininity that’s to blame for your unfair salary. Too bad we can’t all just transform into men! Then all these problems would be solved.

  2. elizabethmatter says

    I couldn’t agree more. I think half the reason feminism alienates people is because people perceive is to prohibit the things they enjoy and their lifestyle choices! An ex-housemate of mine once feared admitting to me that she wanted to be a housewife and mother because I was, in her words, “a bit of a feminist”. I explained to her that all that mattered to me was that it was her choice, but how many other young women out there think feminism isn’t for them because they don’t want to be shoulder-padded businesswomen or butch lesbians? In addition to my main wordpress blog, which often deals with feminist issues (when I’m posting that is), I also have a crafts blog. Do the crafts cancel out the feminism? What about my film blog – is that masculine enough for HuffPo?