I know that a lot of us don't even want to read anything these days that rubs against what we already believe. We've lost the emotional energy. So I want to be straightforward about this: I am a moderate, thirty-something woman. Politically, I don't really open my mouth lately because I don't want to get my head bitten off. We are in a climate of extreme polarization, and I like to like things about people and political parties, and dislike other things. I bet a lot of you are the same. And it is a no-man's land for kind-hearted people who want to have real discussion. But here we are all trying to survive this climate the best we can. And hold true to what matters to us most. Hello, fellow sojourner! Can we have a discussion about feminism here today? About the good, the bad and the ugly? Where we are as a culture and where I hope we will go? Let's dive in, my kind-hearted friend. And let's start with all things good here.
- We feel heard. As women right now our voice has been given a platform. We are being heard. And not just heard, but listened to. Thank you. And I don't mean that lightly. Thank you to those who are sincerely leaning in and listening to the different and collective voices that are speaking about sexism, and our unique experiences being women.
- We are United. As women we are probably more united than we have ever been as a gender. In large ways- reading books like Half The Sky, that touch our hearts and mobilize women of power and privilege to reach their arms out through humanitarian efforts to those who are not so privileged. Yes, yes, yes. We are hearing each other and reaching out for each other in dark places and in ways that have not been done before. Yes, my dear sisters. And in small ways too, as we post blogs and speak kind words to encourage one another to pursue our dreams, to build strong bodies, to take care of ourselves. We are loving and lifting each other up in ways that have not been done before. And it is wonderful.
- Opportunities are wide open. It almost feels as if a door is being held wide open for us as a gender- and we just have to run through it. Of course, creating longterm success for anybody (any gender, any race) is a challenge. But somehow it all feels very doable right now. It feels like we really CAN create our dream life if we are willing to work hard for it. And work we will.
- The Force. No, not the Star Wars force. I'm talking about people and groups forcing their version of feminism forward. Putting the cause above the human being. Voices screaming above other voices, and making certain women uncomfortable with who they've decided to be and how they've chosen to live. Feminism should not be one-size-fits-all. That is counterproductive. I am a very strong woman- an introverted, deep thinker who feels confident in my choices. But the fact that I am a stay-at-home mom (and a Christian one at that), immediately puts me in a category, in some peoples' eyes, that is anti-feminist. How sad. I am very much in favor of equality and women's rights. But what are those rights if they are not on our own terms? Does the fact that I am a stay-at-home mom who choses to support my husband in his career and nurture my family in this season of life, take away from my strength, value or equality as a woman? I hope you would say no. It is my choice after all. But I do sense that my choices are off-putting to certain people in my life. The underlying "force" of feminism should seek to broaden the ground on which we occupy. Not push or pressure women off of the ground they desire to occupy. I wish that the larger feminist movement could find room to not only champion women for finding success in roles that are traditionally male- but also women who are strong in tenderness, compassion, meekness and caregiving. To encourage women to be truer versions of themselves, not just one particular brand of "strong".
- Reverse Sexism. Just today as I was driving through a small college town in VT, I saw a baby onsie in a boutique window that read: "The Future Is Female." I've seen this slogan before, and every time it causes a small twinge in my stomach. I have three sons and I sure hope they have a great future in this country as well. Permission to be themselves as well. And I believe they will, that is not what the "twinge" is about. It is just that if equality, not domination, is the goal, why are we willing to accept superiority from one side and not the other? There is a commercial I saw recently where a woman was throwing all of her boyfriend's belongings out onto the sidewalk, where he stood helplessly watching them smash and break against the concrete. It was clearly a rough breakup. But the commercial ended on a satisfied tone, with the female sitting down to watch TV, clearly feeling free, empowered and in control. Lovely. Except that you don't break peoples' stuff. And I couldn't help but wonder what the response to this commercial would be had the roles been reversed. Can you picture this commercial glorifying the strength of a male throwing all of his girlfriend's belongings onto the ground as she stood helplessly by? Such a commercial would never make it to the air, because the idea is just too appalling. We are in a culture that abhors male domination, but is giving the green light to female domination (maybe just in the name of good fun). But it's counter-productive to equality. And the interesting irony is that baby onesies and commercials like these, if they are not seriously implying female superiority, are meant only to be "cutesy", actually implying feminine weakness. And it's a step backward in my opinion, from where we should be heading.
- A Forced Narrative. This point might get a little "heady" for a light read on a random blog- but it fuses together and really drives home the first two points. We all have our own opinions and thoughts. In this great country we get to express those opinions and thoughts because we have freedom of speech. Everyone is not so lucky. You can say what you feel to your best friend or your whole social network. But what starts happening when people are verbally bullied for having different thoughts or opinions? A cultural narrative starts forming that dare not be challenged. It's happened in times past, and is happening right here and right now. I realize that I'm walking on a thin tight rope over murky water where political views and anger lurk like crocodiles. And I'm certainly not someone who likes to get bit. But come on people! We have all become too weak-minded, and willing to just follow, when it comes to issues that have become "political". So in that same, tired spirit- here is a quote that I just love from a show that I really enjoyed called The West Wing. This was back in the 90's when there was more intellectual discussion and less bandwagoning. (Or at least that snarky, quick-witted, 90's gold!) When asked how she could possibly appose the ERA (Equal Rights Amendment), Ainsley Hayes replies:
"Because it's humiliating. A new amendment we vote on declaring that I am equal under the law to a man, I am mortified to discover there's reason to believe I wasn't before. I am a citizen of this country, I am not a special subset in need of your protection. I do not have to have my rights handed down to me by a bunch of old, white, men. The same Article 14 that protects you, protects me, and I went to law school just to make sure."
Thank you and yes!! Sometimes the forced narrative of feminism feels humiliating to me as a woman. I don't need to be told that I'm strong or equal to men, or have the same opportunities, because I am, and I do, and I've never believed otherwise. I know that many women cannot say the same, but the point of this point, is this: be aware of the narratives that some groups are trying to force onto you. The whole point of feminism is suppose to be for the woman- us. But for many groups it has become an agenda.
- Body Slamming. Some things are just downright ugly. Things people say or put together behind their screens and put out into the world anonymously, can just be treacherous. I saw a picture of Michelle Obama walking with two slender, fancily- dressed foreign dignitaries, and the caption read: "It's like two ferraris and a dump truck." I don't care who you are or what you think about Michelle Obama, this crude depiction should not have made it past the second or third poster. And the fact that it did is sad. And these mean-spirited posts exist all over the internet, often aimed at political figures, poking fun at their looks or bodies. We should be better than this low level of character. Body slamming is just plain ugly.
- Name Calling. Don't get me started here. It seems like nothing is easier these days than name calling. Rather than hearing someone out on why they believe what they believe, it is easier to just stuff people into categories. Liberal, conservative, hippie, democrat, republican- and alllll of the fun adjectives we like to throw in for good fun. We are tearing up and eating each other alive. And we're all hurting. The ugliest thing on all sides of the feminist movement is when good care and character go out the window in the name of passion. When anger and rashness are unleashed, while reason and kindness are pushed to the back. We can all be guilty of this- but if you find yourself swearing in front of young ears, throwing harsh words around carelessly, or saying things out of anger to friends and family- it's time to step back and gain some perspective, because your efforts have likely become counter-productive.
- Abortion. I can't skip this. It's an area that is so controversial and central to the issue of feminism. And I believe that it needs to be brought back into conversations, and spoken about with reason. Women's bodies cary babies- it is part of how we're made. Pregnancy and birth are rights of passage for mother and baby. I wish as a culture we would have more of a compassionate heart toward these babies, as much as we claim to for their mothers. We all started out this way: small and in our mother's womb. We were each nurtured tenderly by a woman and that is why we're here and able to discuss these things. This is an essential part of life. Mahatma Gandhi said, "The true measure of any society is how it treats it's most vulnerable members." This should make us check our pulse for why we really care about feminism. Do we really care about people? Or do we care about being known ourselves for being passionate about issues, that make us look like we care about people?
I want to end this article by expressing gratefulness for all of the women who stood up in generations past, and spoke up loudly about gender inequality. I am so grateful to be born into a time of freedom like never before, in this great nation. In a very real way I feel like the world is at my fingertips and there is an ember of excitement and hope that burns inside of me for my own future. As I write those words I am not naive to the fact that many are not so fortunate. How can I help them? What are my unique gifts, talents and passions? And where can they fuse together with my desire to help others? Of course, I have all kinds of ideas! And what a blessing and honor to get to pursue those dreams. I will, like many of you will, move forward with gratefulness and awareness. With eyes and ears open to see and hear the voices around me- with all of their own uniques passions and desires.