I, like most women, have not studied the basic tenets of feminism. Instead, we have drawn our conclusions about feminism from what we have seen, and read, and sometimes altered our perceptions as we learned more about the movement.
There was a time when I thought, perhaps a little naively, that feminism was primarily about women gaining the right to vote and getting equal pay for equal work. But feminism has evolved into something much more complex and some days, I admit, I struggle to understand what feminists are trying to accomplish.
Most women are not active feminists, including myself, but we have always appreciated the work of those who have advocated on our behalf for things like equal pay and benefits. Lately, however, I’ve begun to wonder if feminism has been derailed from its original purpose. Or did I misunderstand the intent from the beginning?
Originally I was of the opinion that feminism was about advocating for what was good for women–all women–but recently I have begun to think it is more about power and the need to assert ourselves and activate for certain “rights” with the outcome being that we dominate.
In my attempt to comprehend what feminists are up to I have realized that feminists are social justice warriors advocating for numerous human rights. This can be a good thing, however, I wonder if the movement is over-reaching. From my perspective it has morphed into an almost unrecognizable entity, compared with what it once was. Planned Parenthood, for example, the most prominent feminist organization, is heavily involved in influencing the United Nations in setting international standards for education and healthcare, in the name of empowering women.
I’ve learned that feminists claim to empower women primarily by providing easy access to contraceptives, offering comprehensive sex education, and working at decreasing poverty among women. Since child bearing is viewed as a contributing factor to poverty, the proposed solution is to educate, provide contraceptives and offer abortion as means to reduce family size.
It is no secret that Planned Parenthood has worked internationally, very successfully in countries like China and India, to control population growth. Often this is achieved through selective abortion of female fetuses. Somehow this does not sit well with my understanding of an organization that exists for the purpose of empowering women.
Admittedly, women with children cannot devote the same amount of time and energy to advancing their careers as men, or as women who do not have children. So, either we choose not to have children, or we take on a heavier load, and somehow manage the extra toll it takes on us physically and mentally. Even if we take advantage of daycare and share parenting responsibilities with our partners, mothers will still carry the greater share of the burden. Because of this some women will often opt for lower paying and part time jobs in order to stay healthy and balanced. I know of numerous women for whom this has been the case.
I have some difficulty with feminists who seem to insist that we can have it all. Supposedly we can compete equally with men in every field and for every position and ought to have equal representation in every department, while raising a family as well. This is, of course, is completely unrealistic. To hold to this narrative would require that women abandon parenting.
What I probably find most disconcerting about feminism is its lack of support for the role of mothering. A woman’s role as the care-giver for her children is considered so insignificant as to be easily delegated to strangers. There is a complete denial of any long term impact of these arrangements on children. Evidence, to the contrary, shows that nothing is as critical to the development of a child as the consistent and ongoing attention and nurture of a mother and father.
I understand the aspirations of the full-time career woman. I understand the drive to contribute and the rewards of success. The women whom I know want to work. But they also want options around how much time they work in order to be available for their families. By elevating the importance of a career we tend to put undue pressure on women, some of whom want nothing more than to be at home caring for their families.
We need to have this conversation about choices and about how our families are impacted by our choices. But the moment someone broaches these subjects, feminists immediately cry foul and proceed to dismantle the credibility of the speaker. To see women silenced in this way is distressing. Every woman’s voice is valid and deserves to be heard. This unwillingness to dialogue makes it appear that feminists would rather protect their ideals than listen to the women they claim to represent.
If I could put a new face on feminism, I would begin by having feminists embrace the wider role of a woman as a wife and mother. I would encourage working at building healthy families in which divorce is less common and addictions occur with less frequency. I would build support for two-parent homes as a means to reducing poverty. I would also seek to reduce the need for social services and foster care by teaching parenting skills and communication skills so that children can remain in their home of origin. Rather than seeing sex education as the responsibility of public education, I would offer training sessions to parents on how to inform their children and guide them toward healthy choices. And, significantly, I would measure success more by harmonious homes, than by a well-paying career. Feminists may consider this form of thinking as regressive, but in reality it is thinking long term about the future well-being of our society. One of the main plagues of our society today is addictions. Supportive families are significant in preventing addictions and helping the next generation to succeed.
Increasingly women are losing their choice of being home with their children. Feminism tends to ignore the benefit of a two parent home. We cannot remove fathers from the equation. If we set up society so that we divorce women from their responsibility as wives and mothers, then we may in time end up in a place where all but the very wealthy will no longer have any choice but to work and abandon child rearing.
I wonder if I am missing a big part of the picture of what is happening with the feminist movement. Maybe the bottom line is the money that is pouring into the coffers in the name of healthcare and education and human rights and the eradication of poverty. Or maybe there is a worldview that feminists feel they need to advance. Perhaps the focus, contrary to what I hoped to believe, is not really on what is best for women and their families. I have to ask whether feminism was possibly inexorably flawed from the start by excluding men from the needs of women?
I can only align myself with feminists in as far as I understand and support their views. I am currently looking for more evidence that feminists embrace the significance of the primary roles of a woman as a wife and mother. I see this as the basis of feminism, if feminism is indeed advocating for the welfare of the whole woman, as I have believed