Thoughtful Thursday: The F Word

June 23, 2011

Thoughtful ThursdayBuilding off of another Prompt-ly discussion… Esperanza from Stumbling Gracefully blogged about whether we want too much. On the Prompt-ly list, Schmoopy posted an article from The Guardian about feminism being afraid of its flaws. Keiko from Hannah Wept, Sarah Laughed blogged about feminism and shaping a just world.

I am a feminist, no question. Feminism to me means equality: in the workplace, in the home, in society. Sometimes it even means going the other direction to offset longstanding gender patterns. Through most of our marriage, my career has taken precedence over my husband’s. If anyone in our house is going to change a tire or fix the plumbing, it’s going to be me. (If anyone is going to bake a pie, it’s also going to be me.) My husband and I are equal partners and make all decisions together. Even the decision to get married was made together: no patriarchal proposals for us.

Even so, having my twins has actually made me more of a feminist. I have always had my sights laser-set on my career and achieving my goals. Even during all of the years of infertility, which certainly consumed plenty of time and energy, my career was still #1. I just didn’t understand my friends who took months or years off from their careers to be with their children. When I had to quit my main job and do my other job unpaid due to the pregnancy complications and upcoming arrival of the twins, I was still working on other stuff as much as my body would allow, on bedrest at home and even in the hospital. Once those babies arrived, though, nothing else mattered. I tried to squeeze in as much work as I could (which some weeks meant that I opened my email once, and other weeks meant I dragged myself to the office to try to catch up) but it took four months for me to start giving a shit, and six months before I started working for pay again. Finally I understood my friends who wanted to be with their babies rather than go right back to work. Personally I would have loved to do more work outside the home when they were little, if only I could have gotten my head together (and if someone had been paying me), but I finally understood and became less judgmental of the women who chose to prioritize career below family. I have also come to understand that having it all is much harder than it looks.

The other way that Burrito and Tamale have made me more feminist is by being boy-girl twins. Having a son and a daughter who are the same age really brings home all of the insane gender politics of childhood. They do dress in gender-typical ways (mostly because those are the hand-me-downs I received), but the clothes with words like Princess and Little Hero are banished. In other ways, at this age, I am aiming for gender-neutrality. They both play with dolls, and they both play with trucks. Books with strong messages about what boys and girls should do go straight into the donation pile. There are no rules in our house about what boys or girls are supposed to do or say or be. All of the gender politics will come with time, but I will aim for neutrality as long as I can. I will aim for equality all their lives.

Do you consider yourself a feminist? Why or why not?


15 Responses to “Thoughtful Thursday: The F Word”

  1. strongblonde Says:

    i suppose i do. BUT. i hate all of the negative feelings and stigma associated with that word. i totally agree that, for me, it is about equality and blurring gender roles. i think that everyone should have a choice. it’s funny: M loves flowers and will always pick the bibs with flowers. T loves trucks and balls. but when it comes to push toys? M always goes for the lawnmower while T heads for the vacuum. then they switch. they both wear pink and blue. i make sure to tell them BOTH that they look cute/pretty/strong/whatever, but more often we emphasize and value kindness, intelligence, and curiosity….which really should cross gender lines. i expect to be paid the same as my male colleagues. i get upset when my patients ask if there are any male providers in the back that they can see instead of me. i think that women should be able to work AND be a great mom. So….does that make me a feminist? It’s just always what I have felt and believed, so to call it something official seems weird 🙂

  2. a Says:

    I guess I’d say we take the opposite route on the neutrality – I don’t ban (or push) Princess stuff, and for the first 4.5 years, there has been mild to no interest. We also have tons of “boy” stuff – for her last birthday, we got my daughter a t-ball set. I guess we just go with fun stuff, and what we think is fun differs between my husband and me (although I’m not much into Princess stuff either). There has been a sudden push to classify everything lately – my daughter tells me about boy stuff and girl stuff and skin color and what teachers do, and she’s beginning to discard things based on her classification.

    Feminism is a bit of a strange concept for me – I think I just take it for granted that I’d better be treated the same as everyone else. I’ve been the beneficiary of affirmative action – everywhere I have had a job has been trying to even out the numbers in their systems. At my current place of employment, before our training class, there were about 5 women and 15 men in my discipline. Now women outnumber men. I’ve been subjected to mild forms of gender discrimination from males at work, but they don’t have any influence on my employment or pay. It’s only when I go to conferences that I really see the disparity. My pond is pretty well discrimination free.

  3. Elana Kahn Says:

    While I think women and men should be equal, I think that there are ultimately differences which automatically make us unequal. Yes, we should have equal pay, equal access to jobs, equal access to schooling, etc, but I don’t think a girl should be allowed to play on a boy’s football team…because honestly I think she’d get hurt. Boys are faster and stronger 9 times out of 10 just because of how they’re built. There’s nothing wrong with that…it’s just different. In the same way I don’t think a boy should be allowed to play in a girl’s field hockey team. Nothing against them, but it’s not fair to the girls on the other team. In Judaism men and women have different roles, but no one is put above the other. To me that’s still equality. You don’t have to be doing exactly the same thing in order to be equal.

  4. Becky Says:

    I absolutely consider myself a feminist, which was why it was so surprising to me to find myself wanting to stay home after kiddo #2 came along. Such a surprise, that it took me a long time to realize that was what was lurking in my heart, Unfortunately, it’s not an option, and I’m sad about it. But, it is what it is.

    Both of mine are boys, and we are as gender neutral as possible. I’m with ya on the books, and “little hero” crap. Really, we tend to avoid clothes with words on them pretty much completely. Great post! (here from prompt-ly)

  5. Photogrl Says:

    I’ve never thought of myself as a feminist, but I have always been for throwing gender roles out the window and equal pay.

    Around the house M. and I tackle everything as a team. Everything. Even though I’m a SAHM for now.

    The first 10 years of my career was in a heavily male dominated path. I had to fight hard to be respected for my work and to be taken seriously…oh, how I loved being able to say that I was a news videographer.

    Now that I’ve been home for a year, I think that’s why I’m still adjusting to not working, even though I thought it was what I wanted. I wouldn’t trade my time with twins for anything, just wish I could work a little.

    I think it’s really neat to watch the boy/girl in the twins. We don’t have many trucks or dolls, but Big Boy will pick up any toy and make car noises at 11 months…and PG will give hugs to whatever she’s holding.

  6. St. Elsewhere Says:

    I have never really labeled myself like that. I am not very sure what all feminism entails.

    Do I want to differentiate between the genders at workplace or home? No I do not.

    I have a bevy of female colleagues who would like to see only their male counterparts do a certain job/jobs. I kind of breached the barrier on that. My behaviour irks my female colleagues, I do not receive accolades from my male colleagues, but given that we are all earning the same amount, why should I be doing any lesser than others?

    At home, *secretly*, I do not mind Birdman taking the lead or doing more than the normal share of responsibilities. (I am awful, I know.)

    As far as children are concerned. I never thought I would take time off during my pregnancy to be home and laze around, like I am doing this time. I would not have believed I would do this a year back. With CheekyBub, I went to work till two days before the C-section.

    So yeah, life is in flux all the time.

    I can’t confirm to you if I am a feminist. I can confirm that I am lazy.

  7. Rebecca Says:

    Absolutely. I want to destroy the kyriarchy.

  8. celiadelia Says:

    YES! I am a feminist. I worked in a male dominated profession. I remember how infuriating it was when I had finally cracked the glass ceiling and was rewarded by being watched constantly to see if I was pregnant. Initially my husband was to be the one who stayed home, because I made more but then we realized (hello recession) that not only did he have more job security but that the industry I worked in was not compatible with getting and staying pregnant and then having a healthy family life.

    Now that I have a son I see how much people feel compelled to peg him in a gender hole. We have not cut his baby curls yet, and he has long eyelashes- many many people think he is a girl. “Hello you are lovely! How old is she?” is a typical greeting. I don’t really care that they think he is a girl, but I have to correct them because we live in a small town and I don’t want to embarrass them later. They apologize when they find out he is a boy( who knows why?) and I laugh and say he certainly is pretty. We have mostly gender neutral clothes and toys thought it is hard to shop that way.

    I find it annoying that when he is rough and tumble people say “what a boy.” He is a healthy child. And I know quite a few little girls that are just like him. What I found MORE shocking was having people openly hope for us that he is not gay. Which made me a level of furious I did not even know existed. There is so much wrong with that. Honestly I felt like saying “WHO CARES IF HE LIKES C.OC.K AND WHAT DOES THAT HAVE TO DO WITH HIM BEING A GOOD PERSON? I SURE HOPE HE IS NOT REPUBLICAN THOUGH.” It has happened three times.

  9. Heather Says:

    Oh yes, absolutely! I’m in a very male dominated field and I always have been. First, I helped my dad fix cars (he’s a mechanic), then I went to school for electrical engineering, then I went to work in information technology, and now I manage statisticians. I’m sometimes one of only one or two women in the room. I am working hard to hire more women in our field. I do understand the desire to work at home now, though. I’m working on it, LOL!

  10. Ana Says:

    Yes, absolutely. There are actually MORE women in my chosen career than men (because it is one of the lower paying tracks), but ALL of the positions of power are still held by men. Its not an outright discrimination, but one of those “low expectations” things, added to lack of support for the different types of challenges women (particularly mothers) face in getting ahead in academics, and the difficulty in identifying strong mentorship from someone whose life really IS like mine. Any woman that has become successful has done so by “acting like a man” & denying and suppressing her truly unique contributions and skills as a woman. And that is not something I want to emulate.

    As the mother of (soon to be 2) young boys, I think it will be even more difficult to achieve “gender neutrality”, but I do hope to instill a sense of respect, equality, and support for whatever interests they acquire (even if they are typical “girl” things). My son had really long hair and has long eyelashes and delicate features; until we cut his hair at 17 months—just a few weeks ago, we got the same as Celia. Though WOW noone outright said anything about future sexuality. I can’t imagine how I would have reacted to that!!!

    We don’t have any “girl” toys in our house; mainly because 99% of the toys we have were gifts, and no one gave us dolls. Also I never played with dolls, I just don’t like them and can’t imagine buying them for any gender child unless they specifically ASK for them!
    He is VERY physical and fearless, and again, we get the “what a BOY” nonsense. While all the other toddler boys I know amongst our friends and family are actually quite tame, so….what would they say to THEM?

    Nice topic!

  11. BB Says:

    2 months back, one of my friend called me a feminist! She was considering divorce and thought I would be a good person to confide in to because I could give her some feminist support! LOL 😉

    Anyways, I don’t think I personally fit in to the feminist definition. I am all about equality (socially/ethically) at work and home and all, but I believe that biologically male and female were created differently and you can not compare or expect everything to be equal. I am a pretty aggresive person and you can’t take me for granted… but I have willingly given up my career (for now) and am quite content sitting at home taking care of the kids while my husband wins the bread.

    As far as at home, my son plays with dols and daughter plays with cars too. I have tried to be as gender neutral as possible. We have no labelled princesses or spidermans in our house yet (accept for two balls – because I wanted these smaller balls that would fit in to our double stroller).

  12. Esperanza Says:

    I would consider myself a feminist, but the kind that thinks every woman should have the right to choose what she wants to do, even if that is stay home with her kids and be the wife/mother that feminism originally tried to save us from. It’s funny because in so many ways it seems as though I could have lived my life without feminism. I’m a teacher and I want to be a SAHM. The only thing that is different from my life than it would be without feminism is that my husband does all the cooking. Otherwise, outwardly, it seems pretty much the same. Having said that, I know that my life would be completely different without feminism. I wouldn’t have gone to one of the top universities in the country and had the opportunity to figure out what I wanted to be. I also wouldn’t have had the chance to meet my smart, successful husband there. And I might not have thought I wanted to be a SAHM if I didn’t have the choice not to be. Ironically I don’t actually have the choice to be a SAHM because we can’t afford it, but that is no fault of feminism. In fact, I think feminism should be doing more to make that choice possible again for all the mothers that can’t afford it.

    If anything I think as feminist we have a long way to go, especially in the family arena. We need to fight for health care coverage and sufficient day care opportunities. We need to fight for education and quality of life for our children. We need to fight for the middle class, because I feel those are the women that are still getting the very, very short end of the stick.

    Thanks for writing such an interesting post!

    Esperanza (here from Prompt-ly)

  13. Tara (TIMO) Says:

    I suppose I am a feminist but more in the gender neutrality camp like so many others. I was (and still am) a tomboy. I was often the only girl in a class with a roomful of boys. I chose a profession (architecture) where there aren’t a lot of women. Contractors were often confused when I got to a job site with my hardhat and steel toed boots knowing what was going on and having the authority to make final decisions.

    For our boys we’re trying to maintain neutrality. We do have more “boy” toys than “girl” ones but that’s just how things ended up. Alex loves his buddies and is usually carrying around and giving kisses and hugs to one. They both like cars and trucks, but Benjamin will chose them over a stuffed animal.

    I stay at home because I can’t get the salary that twins in daycare requires but I blame that more on the recession and our location.

  14. Cat Says:

    Yes, I’m a feminist. I believe that women can do anything men can do. Maybe better, maybe worse, but we should at least get an equal shot at trying. That said, I am now in a place where, if there’s a guy who just assumes that he better lift the heavy table because I’m a woman and therefore I’m not capable, I’ll usually just let him lift the table because hey, it’s heavy and clearly it means more to him than it means to me. If he’s being an ass about it, though, then I’ll totally lift it myself just to prove him wrong. That has been remarkably satisfying on several occasions.

    We are raising our GBG’s to share everything equally. There are trucks, balls, and dolls to go around. At the moment, my son’s favorite color seems to be pink. My MIL doesn’t understand my aversion to the Americanized fairy tales where the princess has to be rescued by the prince, but I’m determined to avoid that message and marketing as much as humanly possible.

    I *hate* all the girl bibs I saw a while back with words like “diva” and “spoiled” on them while the boy bibs seemed all wholesome by comparison.

    Have you heard of Pigtail Pals – Redefining Girlie? They have a line of girl clothing showing girls doing cool stuff that’s usually reserved for boy clothes, like driving fast, being an astronaut, or hanging out with dinosaurs. There’s a new boy line, too, but I haven’t taken a look at it yet. On their facebook page they post links to lots of good articles and blog posts in the same vein.

  15. I consider myself a feminist in the sense that yes, I do feel that women and men should have equal chances at everything, get equal pay, etc. However, like strongeblonde, I hate the negative aspects/perceptions that come with the word, so I will not call myself a feminist in public. Nor do I really ‘get on the barricades’ (which would be the real French thing to do of course) to fight for women’s rights.

    And looking at my personal situation, somehow, our little family has become quite an old-fashioned ‘daddy has the career and earns most of the money, mommy does work a bit, but also gets to do all the household chores and most of the childcare’. That doesn’t mean I’m completely happy with it – but too lazy/wary of conflict to really stand up and try to change it.

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