Guest Post: Choosing Not To Be A Feminist

I was born in the late 1960s and as such was a daughter of America’s feminism movement of the 1970s.  Probably not literally, though.  Like Lindley, I don’t think I have ever actually had a conversation with my mom about her self-identification — or not — as a feminist.  Regardless, I was definitely surrounded by feminist ideals as I came of age in the 1980s.  As I went off to college at a university that made Berkeley look conservative, I took with me my self-attached FEMINIST label and convictions to be strong, self-directed, self-determinate, independent, and successful in any profession I chose.  I had grown up being told — by my parents and society — that the world should be open to me regardless of my gender.  I believed it and I was going to take full advantage of it.

Interesting, though, the choice thing.  While it was clear I was “allowed” to choose any profession I wanted, society was also telling me that that was the only decision I had to make.  The rest…well, I could have it all!  It was the era of the Super Mom, where women brought home the bacon, fried it up in a pan, colored their hair because they were worth it, and baked their kids cupcakes and lead Girl Scout troops after work.  There was so much excitement and empowerment and cheering from the feminists blazing the trail ahead of me.  No longer was I just expected to be a housewife.  Now I could have a career AND a family!  YAY ME!  YAY US!

Behind the fanfare, though, I saw something else.  While it was awesome that women now had a choice, instead of choosing, most women seemed to be adding.  Very counter to everything that surrounded me, I distinctly remember deciding before I left my teens that I would do things differently.  I was going to choose.  Career or family but not both, not at the same time.  I did not want to have it all because, frankly, it looked exhausting.  Feminism was about having choices, right?  So making a choice still allowed me to call myself a feminist, right?

Apparently not.

It became clear to me pretty quickly that my decision to either have a career OR a family was not an acceptable one.  Well, at least not a feminist one.  Somehow I was still being oppressed by choosing one over the other?  So I learned to keep my family plans to myself.  A number of working moms, trail blazers a couple decades my senior, got huffy when I suggested I would stop working if I ever had kids.  I got the distinct impression that that was NOT what all their hard work had been for.  Suddenly I was ungrateful and selfish.  And definitely not a feminist.  So I dropped their banner and haven’t picked it up since.

Sadly,  the times I grew up in have resulted in “feminist” having a less than desirable connation for me.  I am as eager to call myself a feminist as I am to own being a Christian.  But the truth is, at their core, their foundation, I am both.  But both terms can drag along such baggage and so quickly sort me into an assumed category of beliefs that may or may not be true about me.  And so today, at 44, married, and having chosen career instead of children, I am simply, happily, Toni.

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Toni is a dear friend of mine and an avid blogger.  Check out her blog Woodhaven Ramblings.

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5 thoughts on “Guest Post: Choosing Not To Be A Feminist

  1. BroadBlogs says:

    I see feminism as offering choice. I teach women’s studies (the feminist arm of academia) and offer homemaking as a completely legitimate choice.

    In fact, some of my best friends are feminist housewives.

    One feminist site is even called “Feminist Mormon Housewives” (in actuality, some are, some aren’t). Really! Here’s the link: http://www.feministmormonhousewives.org/

  2. canbebitter says:

    I think the concern with choosing to stop working after you have kids is that feminists automatically question whether the choice is genuine. For example, does a particular woman want to stay home with her kids because she and her partner have had a real discussion about it, or is it because it’s assumed that his career is more worthy? Or has she just been conditioned to believe that her role is at home with the children? Or worse, that a father is no substitute for a mother?

    As it’s not something men (generally) do, but it happens enough with women, I can see why old school feminists would be wondering what they fought for in the end. That said, of I course I believe that homemaking is a legitimate feminist choice, and that people shouldn’t feel compelled to describe themselves as not-feminist, just because they’ve met with criticism. It’s important that the whole spectrum of feminism is represented by the word!

  3. Abby says:

    “I had grown up being told — by my parents and society — that the world should be open to me regardless of my gender. I believed it and I was going to take full advantage of it.”

    This is my story, but put a little differently: I grew up being told that the world should be open to me, period.

    I understand the need in some corners for women to be reassured of their worth and value as a human being, but sometimes we need to stop using so many words.

    My dad said something to me when I was probably about 16 years old that has stuck with me. I have two brothers and a sister, and we are all very different (as it is, so often, with siblings). He said (I’m paraphrasing): Your mom and I tried to treat you all equally. We didn’t always use the same discipline for each of you, because what worked for one didn’t work for another. But you each have your own special gifts and talents and we wanted to encourage you in those.

    Anyway, that really stuck with me, because it wasn’t about boosting my ego because I happened to be a girl, but because they thought I could do what I wanted (and my siblings, the same), regardless of what other people might say.

    Just to take it one step further, my sister and I are similar in many tastes, but she is generally not very feminine, and I’m more feminine. Yet I tend to be more outspoken and “feminist” than she is (But she still is). She works full-time and I am a stay-at-home mom. But neither of us ever felt we had to “overcome” our female-ness. We do what we want because we never knew we couldn’t or shouldn’t, and I really have to thank my parents for *not* playing the gender card.

  4. […] ————– Toni is a wonderful writer and a dear friend of mine.  Check out her blog Woodhaven Ramblings, and a guest post she did here last year, Choosing Not To Be A Feminist. […]

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