I know the word “feminist” sometimes drives people a little batty. I get it. It’s sort of like throwing fire onto something already flaming out of control. People like to bicker back and forth about what it does or doesn’t mean to be a feminist. There are extremes in every direction. Still, I am a feminist. I believe in equality for all people. I believe in equal opportunities and the right to the pursuit of happiness for all people. It’s not really something I feel the need to argue about. It’s just what I think and what I believe to be a universal truth.
This hasn’t changed just because I gave birth. This hasn’t changed just because my husband and I decided that I should stay home with my daughter while she is young. This wouldn’t have changed if my husband and I decided to both work outside the home or if we decided I should work outside the home while he cared for Tiny-Small during the day. None of these things would have changed my belief in the importance of equality. My husband and I are just regular people doing our best to survive in this dog-eat-dog world and to make the hard decisions about what works best for our little family.
I’m feeling a little angry because I was recently listening to a feminist podcast and while answering a question from one of their listeners, the two hosts out right blasted stay-at-home moms and actually called us all brain washed by a patriarchal society. I was kind of stunned to put it mildly. The show is called Opinionated if you want to check it out. The episode I am talking about is Feminists Love Shiny Objects if you want to listen to it. I’ve never fully accepted the notion that women must become like men in order to be considered equal. On the contrary, I find the ability to actually give birth to be both a great privilege and an asset. I still look at Tiny-Small with awe and cannot believe my body actually created her. That is remarkable and she is amazing! I embrace my so called “feminine” traits as much as I embrace my so called “masculine” traits (when will we stop defining ourselves by two distinct genders when it is so obvious none of us fit neatly into either category?) When it comes to care giving I don’t think women have a monopoly on it or that men are bumbling idiots like so many TV shows like to depict them as these days. Just look at all of the parents out there, both male and female, doing their best to raise happy and healthy kids. Our genitals do not determine everything about us. They certainly do not determine what kind of parents we will be, what kind of values we will have, or what our many talents might be. I’m not brainwashed. I made a conscious, deliberate and well thought out decision to stay home with my child. My decision doesn’t make another parents decision wrong. It only means my husband and I sat down together, discussed our options, our finances, our circumstances, and our child and came to a conclusion that would work best for us and our personal situation. We’ve both made professional and personal sacrifices in order to provide our child with the kind of life we want her to have. In short, we approach life like a team and utilize each others strengths as best we can and yes, we often put our child first because we are her parents and because we love her. It’s kind of hard to feel ashamed about that.
Sure, I miss going to work some days just as I know some parents working outside the home wish they could be home with their kids some days. We give up one thing and receive another with every choice that we make. That’s kind of the law of being alive. Notice I said “parents” and not “mothers”? Parenting isn’t about your biological sex so much as it is about providing care and education for your kids. Modern parenting isn’t so much of a him vs. her as it is a collaboration between two human beings (of any sex or gender) who are trying to get their offspring to make it to adulthood. We aren’t reenacting the 1950’s by any means. This is a whole new breed of parenting. This is a whole new breed of society and most of us are very alert and aware of what is going on around us. We are enjoying our ability to make conscious decisions based on the mutual respect we share with our life partners. We aren’t brain washed. We are wide awake and taking advantage of the opportunities our parents and grandparents fought so hard to give us. It seems shortsighted and patriarchal, to me, to view child care as inferior to all other occupations. Children are not the enemy of the women’s movement and other women shouldn’t be either.
Another thing that irritated me was the way the stay-at-home-moms were continuously referred to as “just” moms during the podcast. I thinks this is a foolish way to classify any human being. Nobody is “just” any one thing. Many stay-at-home parents have careers going along side their parenting duties and hobbies, friends, community ties, and other roles that they occupy on a daily basis. How dehumanizing to refer to another person as “just” (fill in the blank). That kind of language makes me cringe and assume a level of immaturity on the part of the speaker.
I listen to this podcast because the two hosts talk about current events and point out bias in the media. I appreciate the perspective and food for thought that the podcast usually gives me. I am, however, disappointed in their portrayal of motherhood or more specifically parenthood as something to look down upon. I’m particularly disappointed that a feminist podcast would take part in shaming women for their experiences and choices. It’s seems no matter what path a woman takes she will be eviscerated for it by a group of her peers. We’ve created a lose/lose culture for women. Women should be supporting each other more and standing up for each other instead of engaging in divisive rhetoric that only causes us to fight amongst ourselves and draw imaginary lines in the sand. We deserve better than that, especially from our philosophers, artists, and activists out there.
Fundamentally, there seems to be a lack of mutual respect, running rampant through our culture right now, for people who make choices that are different from one’s own personal perspective. This is unfortunate, especially for women, because while this particular podcast did not make me want to reject feminism I can understand why some women are turned off and tuned out to the feminist movement. They probably assume they have no place in the movement because their life choices have been devalued by the very people who claim to have their best interests at heart. Parts of the feminist movement seem to be outdated and unrelated to the challenges men and women are facing today. The traditional family unit depicted in shows like Leave It To Beaver is long gone. Why are we still fighting against it? It’s time we moved forward (together) in our quest for equality and started thinking about how to solve some of the problems we are facing now and in this day and age.