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.