Mid-20s Malaise

Struggling against the inevitable since 1986!

RIP: My boner

So, today is International Women’s Day. Hooray! Women deserve several centuries devoted to celebrating the excellent things they have done, but I suppose a day is a start. Today is for them, and I don’t want to stomp all over them with my male privilege, but for this one comment: WHAT GIVES WITH ALL THE FEMINISM-PHOBIA, LADIES??

I’m really perplexed by it. I was most alarmed when I read this guest post on Mia Freedman’s website a few months ago. Beth Noble, a 24-year-old woman, wrote about how she can cook, but chooses not to. Fair deal.

“I can’t cook a roast and hem a skirt at the same time. But I can manage to have a career, keep a wide circle of friends, travel and study. So maybe the kitchen light doesn’t go on as much as it would have 50 years ago, but that’s why we all moved out of 1955 and into 2011. Power to the Modern Day Women who believe we can have it all.”

Excellent. No problems there. However, she also confusingly states:

“I am not a feminist by anyone’s standards.”

Umm, Beth, you’re a feminist by my standards. It seems Beth misunderstands the term a little (and no surprise there, since she refers to “heels” as “heals” in her blog header). Beth believes that she should be allowed to choose whether to cook or not. She works, travels and studies. Not only that, but she voices her opinion, and believes her words have value, that they should be read.

She’s absolutely right, by all accounts, and that makes her a feminist.

She explains herself by saying:

“Up until I left school, I firmly believed I would get married and raise a family (with a cooked dinner on the table every night). Basically I dreamed of walking in the footsteps of my mother.”

I wonder where she got this idea that feminism and motherhood and marriage are mutually exclusive institutions. Does the idea that the only feminists are hairy-armpitted lesbians still exist? My mother is a feminist: an attractive and intelligent woman, she got married young and went into teaching, before leaving to raise me and my siblings. Since I was a teenager, she’s had a very successful second career as a counselor.

Every step of the way, she exercised choice. She wanted to marry my Dad, and she still wants to be married to him. She wanted to have children. She wanted to go back to work. It’s thanks to feminism that she lives in a world where she can make these choices, or the converse: she could choose to leave my father, she could have chosen to remain childless, or to remain unemployed and live off government benefits. I think a feminist is someone who believes all of these choices and more should be available to women.

I consider myself a feminist, and I hope my mother does too. I should ask her today how she feels about the word “feminism”. I think she’s a wonderful woman who has never been trapped by her gender. I hope she considers herself a feminist. I hope my goddaughter, my sister, and all my younger female cousins, do too. I hope they understand that there’s nothing scary or distasteful about demanding to be treated fairly, and that there’ll always be men like me doing their best to support those demands.

Ladies, you’re the best.

P.S. I wrote this, and then realised I may not have bothered, because in this article, Clementine Ford writes an insightful and hilarious satire of what people seem to think of when they think of feminism.

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8 Responses

  1. Frances says:

    I know quite a few women with really strong feminist principles that don’t call themselves feminists because the movement has alienated them. Young women have been belitted by old schoolers for being too girly (seriously). A lot aren’t open to the idea of intersectionality, so women of color or trans women can have their experiences ignored.

    But yes, I also think there’s a huge misunderstanding amongst young people of what feminism actually means. Or that it’s a movement that has achieved all it can, like a level on a computer game (End of Patiarchy: Unlocked!) Which is a shame, really.

    PS. RIP: My boner is bloody hilarious.

  2. I think a lot of this “feminism phobia” amongst younger women is part of the growing up process. Forty years ago I suspect there were a bunch of women saying similar things. It’s linked, I guess to a common phrase you hear amongst a lot of younger gay men, lesbians, bisexuals etc when they say “don’t label me”. Twenty years ago I think I might have even described myself as “queer” (yes seriously) though I’m now very comfortable with gay. I suspect there may be similar issues going on now. In 20 years time, I suspect a lot of young women who now recoil from the term feminist might be okay with it.

    • liamliamliam says:

      Hmm, very good point. I’ve always liked labels, but I can understand why people don’t. I think not wanting to label yourself is well and good. What frustrates me, though, is this misunderstanding of feminism. Just as being gay and masculine aren’t mutually exclusive, being a feminist and a homemaker needn’t be either!

      • Frances says:

        Another layer to this is that decidedly unfeminist women, like Sarah Palin, are trying to reclaim feminism for themselves…

  3. MC Grammar says:

    Excellent topic, excellent post, excellent grammar. All the ingredients are there for a stroke of brilliant writing.

    Your friend in the supporter of feminism,

    MC Grammar

    • liamliamliam says:

      Thanks, MC Grammar! You make supporting the rights of women look as good as sweet, sweet parachute pants i.e. very good.

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