Feminism and Motherhood

“Don’t call yourself a feminist.  I hate feminists,” said my college friend with disgusted horror.  A boy at the table said, “Yeah, call yourself an equalist, someone who stands for the rights of everyone.”  I was confused; did I not work my ass off for four years get scholarships and an entrance into an university?  And I find people like this here?  I looked over at my best friend, who shrugged and started bobbing his head to music only he could hear.  By the rhythm, I guessed it was Spice Girls and realized he was not going to come to my aid, not because he agreed with the other two people at the table but because he didn’t want to waste his time on petty arguments when he could think of something happy.  (Please don’t confuse this with stupidity.  My friend is wickedly smart, an environmental scientist, who could solve math equations that took three pages to solve.  He just finds political talk boring, except with me.)

I sigh and turn to the boy.  “You don’t believe in equal rights, so don’t get cocky.  You don’t believe in gay marriage or any gay rights because they’re ‘special rights’ (Yes I did use my fingers for the quotes).  You’re homophobic and suppressing issues.  We all know it.”  With that said, I turned to my girl friend.  “I guess you’re right, feminists are pretty scary.  They’re women who think for themselves.  But isn’t it nice to go to college and have a career?  Isn’t great that we can have our own bank accounts and houses?  Gee, it’s swell that our husbands don’t have the right to beat us?  And I love wearing shorts and jeans, don’t you?  (yes, she was wearing jeans.)   So you might not like feminists for some crazy belief that they hate men or are dikes, but without them, we would not be here.  I gotta get to class.” 

I was reminded of this conversation as I read some blogs were women wrote that they didn’t consider themselves feminists but Sarah Palin motivates them.  Well, I’m glad they found some woman to motivate them.  Lucky for them, none of the liberals are going to be pissed off that Palin is a working mom, or that she had a child so late in life or that her teenage daughter is wrong to be pregnant and even keep the kid, or that Palin is a faminatzi.  Because that’s feminists have fought for those choices.  They keep fighting for choices for both men and women.  And also lucky for the newly realizing conservative feminists, no one is going to call them men-haters because they like a female politician.

But back to motherhood.  My mom was a feminist and her mom and her mom.  Actually, there hasn’t been a weak-willed woman in my mom’s side in living memory.  And my dad, well, he did marry my mom, but he was a feminist too.  And the stories I hear of my great-grandma, well, she was steal and silk.  My mom made sure us kids understood the value of choice and that we couldn’t judge anyone.  It wasn’t our job.  She raised us to love justice, hate injustice.  She was like every other mom out there, wanting her kids to be better than she and her husband.

As for me, I’m a mom of two boys (so far).  I, who taught her favorite babysitting charge that boys were bad.  I, who wouldn’t date in high school because “boys are like apes.”  I who claimed the only uses for a guy were killing spiders and sex.  What do I teach my boys of feminism?  Well, first I’ve got to stop making all those jokes about men.  But I grew up with brothers, so I know their inner workings.  Second, I have to show them what is expected of them as men.

I have to show them that it’s ok for guys to do work in the kitchen and go to dance class.  I have to show them that you can watch football and take care of children.  I have to show them that we respect people’s feelings and opinions.  I have to show them that it’s ok to cry, it’s ok to be strong. it’s ok to kick someone’s ass who’s being an asshole (when the need arises).  I have to be a strong woman, illustrating that women can fix a sink and dinner, wear make-up, or choose not to shave her legs.  I have to teach them to include everyone and not to make fun of someone who is different, whether she’s a girl or he’s a different religion.  I have to teach them that relationships are important and your partner’s feelings are just as important as theirs.  And finally, I plan to scare them with the thought of teenage marriage if they get a girl knocked up and she decided to keep the baby.  I have to teach them there is nothing they can’t do.  Every night I pray that they will be smart, strong, sweet, and the good guys.

I stay-at-home with them, and that is my choice.  One day I’ll probably go back to work, which most stay-at-home moms have to work at some point or another.  That will be my choice too.  That’s what feminism is really about: choice.  It’s working so everyone has a choice in their own lives, just like democracy. 

In the end, we’re all trying to make sure that our kids are better than we are.  My boys have dozens of various balls and a kitchen.  They have arrows and swords and baby dolls and stuff animals.  They play with my make-up brushes and my purses.  They were their father’s shoes and hats.  Granted Evan will climb into any heels he finds laying around.  They play with fairies, King Fu Panda, and cars.  We read them books about girls and boys.  So I think they’ll be pretty well rounded.  But if they think they’ll become sexist pigs, they learn they’re never too old for their mother to discipline them.

9 Responses to “Feminism and Motherhood”

  1. jonolan Says:

    I was right there with you until the threat of teenage marriage if the girl chose to keep the baby. While it may be her right to make that choice, isn’t also HIS right to tell her she’s on her own if he would have counseled not keeping the child. Since it takes two to tango as it were, why should the final decision rest solely with the girl?

    Just wondering since this has always seemed a failing in feminism to me. It’s not a two way street of gender equality when it comes to abortion and child support.

  2. faemom Says:

    I completely understand where you are coming from. But before we go into serious discussion, it was a joke and a threat. My mother used it on us, and I think the fear of being married at a teenager, scared the shit out of my brothers. They have yet to knock up a girl, and they’re in their mid-twenties. But seriously, I want my boys to understand that if they decide to have sex, they better strap on a condomn with spermicide and not assume she has protection (besides this is great for STDs). If they decide to have sex with a girl, they better know her enough that they would know what decision she would make. If they are stupid enough (or unlucky enough) to knock a girl up, well, they have to be a man and deal with the consequences. If that means driving her to the clinic, so be it. If it means learning about the adaption process and helping her pay for medical care and other pregnancy needs, so be it. If it means being a father figure, then so be it. I find that too many immature men feel that birth control is only a woman’s problem and the pregnancy resultuing is her problem too.

    Yes, there seems to be a double standard with gender equality and pregnancy. That is why there should be excellent sex education and birth control classes, there should be pro-choice legilation, there should be free parenting classes, and state certified, affordable child care services. I think the decision of having a child is ultimately the girl’s decision because she has to go through the pregnancy. I plan to tell my boys “Have sex with only pro-choicers.” Because it’ll be easier.

  3. jonolan Says:

    “I think the decision of having a child is ultimately the girl’s decision because she has to go through the pregnancy.”

    OK. I can accept that without any qualms (well..beyond my distaste for infanticide, but that’s actually immaterial to this discussion) But shouldn’t the man have the right to say that he’ll pay for the abortion but won’t pay for child support. It seems that she gets to make all the decisions on the issue. She can choose to abort without his permission, even though it’s his child too or she can choose to keep the child against his will and force him to be financially responsible for him and it.

    That’s hardly gender equality.

  4. mamarissa Says:

    First of all, I must say that I completely disagree with feminism as a whole. When broken down, its true definition is nothing noble. While I respect your feelings and your choice to support feminism, I would also like to bring another view to the table.

    I’m a Christian, so first and foremost, my focus is – how can I love? How can I love the Lord and love his people? Feminism is self-love. It is tolerant of other beliefs, sexualities, and interests because it is self-motivated – “If I accept them, they must accept me!” Our culture is one of self-promotion – basically, “Me first!” We lobby for abortion rights because we want the option to choose ourselves over someone else’s (an innocent baby’s!) life. “I might die if I give birth to this baby – I must abort it!” The emphasis is on me. “I wasn’t planning on having a baby for three more years – I must abort it till I’m ready!” Again, the emphasis is on me. How about divorce? “I thought I’d be happy, but I’m not. I must get out of this marriage if I’m ever to find true happiness!” The emphasis, sadly, is still on me (mind you, I do believe that there is an exception – if there is abuse in the marriage, the abused has a right to divorce). This should not be so. What is the greatest form of love? Acceptance? I think not. The greatest form of love is that we would lay down our life for another. Not by force, not because we are “weak,” but because we love. We can lay down our life for our unborn baby. We can lay down our life for our stubborn husband by respecting him and serving him joyfully. We can lay down our life for our children by devoting ourselves to raising them, personally, and instilling honorable values in them.

    Feminists are not simply working for equal rights within the workforce, the right to wear pants/shorts, or the right to learn how to fix a sink or car. Feminism, at its core, worships the female. It elevates the woman to a place of divinity. If you don’t believe me, check out some of the materials used in Feminism courses at colleges. Ask a hard-core feminist. The feminist movement is scary. It’s scary because it has lost all sight of our dependence on God. He alone can save us. He alone can justify us. He alone is the judge. Unfortunately, we, as a culture, have attempted to take all of God’s mighty works and label them as our own. WE save ourselves, WE justify, WE judge. We evolve, we create, we control. Where is God in all of this? Are we so hard-headed that we cannot acknowledge the One who made us? Or do we dare claim that we created ourselves?

    I understand that not everyone shares my viewpoint and not everyone believes in Jesus. I choose to love those people because God loves those people. I choose to accept them and the way they live their lives because God has not made me judge. However, I also choose to live as an example of God’s love. He sent his son, in our place and in our humanity, to die for our sins, that we might be forgiven and have the gift of eternal life. If God would send his son to die for ME, then naturally, by example, I live my life willing to sacrifice myself for my “neighbors.” Again, this is not about being weak. It is not about allowing everyone to walk all over me. It is about loving them and preferring them. It’s not about MY rights. When I die, which is more important – that I lived my life proving that I’m worthy of equal “rights” and that I attained all my dreams, or that I loved those around me and made them feel valued? In the end, love is all that really matters. Feminism is selfish. I believe that we ought to strive to be selfLESS, or otherly.

    Feminism claims control. Feminism loves self. Feminism, I believe, is a dangerous movement to follow. The Way Home by Mary Pride gives a radical explanation of true feminism (Mrs. Pride was a feminism herself) and how she realized the error of her ways. I highly recommend reading it.

    Again, I respect your view and I understand that I’m placing my beliefs on the line and you may not agree! That’s all right with me. These are just my thoughts.

  5. faemom Says:

    I guess you’re right. Life’s not fair. Which is why I will strongly advocate condomns. But when mistakes are made, we have to own up , “cowboy up” as they say were I’m from. Usually our mistakes beginquite tiny, and they become avelanches. You don’t study for a test because you went to the movies instead; you fail the test; it reflects on the grade; your GPA drops; and now you can’t get accepted into the master’s program you want. A little triaval campared to pregnancy and abortion, but it shows that one act of unthinking can effect more than one tiny thing.

  6. faemom Says:

    First I am sorry it has taken me so long to reply. Internet problems.
    Jonolan: Thank you for your opinions.
    Mamarissa: Thank you for your opinions.

    But I don’t see how you can call feminism selfish. To do is to assume civil rights activists are selfish because both movements seek for an equality in law, policitcs, society, and religion. Was Harriet Tubman selfish because she was a slave who wanted to abolish slavery? Was Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. selfish because he wanted all races to be treated equally? Am I selfish because I want my little cousins, my daughters, and my nieces to be treated as fairly as their brothers?

    I have taken several women studies classes and read countless books and articles written by some of the top feminists in history and the world. I can assure you feminism is NOT a religion, seeking to replace God with a goddess. It is a movement for equality of the sexes. I can name several Christian feminists; I grew up surrounded by them.

    Since you brought up Christianity (and I took several classes in that too), I think it would be save to assume that Jesus was a femisist because He believed His Word was for both men and women. Women supported His ministries (Lk 8:1-3). Women were His most devoted followers, refusing to abandon Him when He was arrested and crucified (Mt 28:55-50; Lk 23:49). He appeared to a woman Mary Magdelene before his apostles (Mt 28:1-10; Mk 16:9-11; Jn 20:11-18).

    Jesus also taught tolerance. The famous parable of the good Samaritan is an excellent example. The people of Judea despised the Samaritans, believing they were not true Jews. It was shocking that a Judean storyteller would have the hero be a Samaritan, illustrating that good can be found in everyone, even in someone you don’t agree with. (Lk 11:29-37)

    I wonder how you can love your nieghbor, lay down your life for your nieghbor, but cannot merely tolerate your nieghbor. Tolerance is the lowest form of respect for another human being. You don’t have to understand, affirm, or accept their lifestyle or choices. You merely have to tolerate them. Egypt merely tolerates Isreal’s existance.

    And finally, I marvel at you niavity when it comes to the issues of divorce and abortion. While I am glad that you and your have never been in these awful circumstances, but I can assure you very few women make these painful decisions without hour upon brutal hour of painful soul searching. These terrible decisions are the last result; desperate actions for desperate times. It’s not like the movies; it’s not like the self-absorbed pop icons. It is real people with real consequences.

    I am glad we can have these discussions because I am interested in other people’s points of view.

  7. wallybear Says:

    First let me say that I am surprised that you don’t see the connection between “how can I love? How can I love the Lord and love his people?” and the goals of the feminist movement. While there are some rare exceptions the vast majority of published and prominent leaders of the feminist movement put the focus on making women and men equal NOT on worshiping the female as a higher being. It saddens me that by reading Mary Pride you feel that you have realized the “explanation of true feminism” instead of taking a class on it yourself or even reading some unbiased articles such as this one http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Feminism. I have taken feminist classes and I assure you there was no worship of women as divine. You might be surprised to find that there are more similarities then you thought in common the messages of Jesus. Some of the most moving feminist I know are Christian and it is through that relationship with and love of Christ that they find the true base for their feminist belief.

    On a completely separate issue, tolerance is exactly what Jesus taught us to do. Tolerance of Jews AND gentiles, tolerance of the poor, the street workers, the drug users, the lepers, the outcasts. Not because we want acceptance from these people. It is my personal experience that your everyday law abiding citizen would never care what the dregs of society would think of them. But rather, because it is the difficult thing to do. To reach out to someone who is different, who thinks differently, who goes against everything you stand for and to love that person in spite of those difference. And while you say that you choose to love these people your post is so filled with judgment and fear that I can’t possibly see any room for you to love them. You state the way you prove your love and selflessness is to sacrifice your life if it would save one of these people. That is a situation that will almost certainly never occur. It seems to me that the greater sacrifice, something that would actually require some effort or work besides speaking words, something that you will actually get a chance to do in your lifetime, is to reach out to your neighbor in love through acts of compassion and understanding. But that is a hefty goal and we are only human, so the best place to start, on the most basic level, is with tolerance.

    We can debate the topics of abortion or divorce until the cows come home. It is such a deep seated controversial issue I’m sure that no amount of talking and discussing will really change either of our opinions on that topic. But after reading your post, I do have to say that there might be more going on in the mind of a woman who is going through an abortion or a divorce then “wow, this is really inconvenient I think I’m going to go through a horrible gut wrenching emotionally devastating experience instead.” I am not a cheerleader for either one, don’t get me wrong. I know that it is grossly misused in our society by both men and women. But it could be possible that in some situations going through with a divorce or abortion might involve more sacrifice and an understanding of what is best for either their spouse, children, or a future child. I know that you will completely disagree with that. But I had to say it anyways.

    Lastly, I do agree with you that our culture is one of “Me first!”. But I have to disagree that those who are pro-choice or are tolerant of different races and beliefs are the ones fueling this selfish culture. I don’t understand why we (me included) get so wrapped up with controversial issues like abortion, homosexuality, etc. that we lose any chance to come together on the issues we do agree upon. We have an opportunity to say “I don’t agree with your opinion on _________ but we both recognize that there are those who want to teach our children selfishness, hatred, and fear. Let us work together to combat those evil forces together.”

  8. faemom Says:

    wallybear, thanks for writing.

  9. I’ll give you controversy « Faemom Says:

    […] when I ranted on Shakespeare.   Or when I way back when said to be a good mom you had to be a feminist.  Actually I was shocked on that one […]

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