I want to write about feminism but I don’t know how. I feel sad when I hear friends blame feminism for society’s ills; when they say that the sexual revolution is responsible for the breakdown of the family.
Families were always disintegrating (albeit more privately)–even before birth control; and abortion; and casual sex.
I’m glad a woman can walk away from a man who is beating her nowadays. I’m glad that a young girl can sue her father for a lifetime of sexual abuse. I’m glad my sisters and cousins are no longer morally obliged to stay married to men who are cheating on them.
That permission came with feminism.
I love the freedom that this “change” brought. I love that it allows me to celebrate sex and family. I love that I could play around when I was young and then marry the man I wanted and raise two boys with him; that I could choose “to stay home” and then choose to go back to work; while my friends were free to make completely different choices.
In the early 1900s, my great-grandmother had to stop teaching once she was married. Her role as a wife and potential mother trumped any other needs she may have had–forever.
Her daughter, my grandmother, was born in the twenties, just after her mother was able to show up at the ballot box without being assaulted or arrested. She found herself pregnant at the end of her third year at college. A quick wedding covered up her mistake while her husband went on to medical school and she stayed home with baby after baby–for the rest of her life.
When my mother got pregnant right out of high school, she was sent off to an unwed mother’s home until her baby was secretly given away for adoption.
I don’t know what I’m trying to say, except that I’m glad that the thinking has opened up enough for there to be more options for me than there were for those who came before me. I’m thankful to all those courageous women who broke out of the mold, pushed past the limits, and took us in new directions.
I don’t want to go back, and I’m certain, it won’t be better. It might “look” better, but it won’t feel better. Unless you’re a man. A white man. With money.
I’ve always said that if I could go back in time, I’d be a man in the 1950s. The reclining chair. The newspaper. The dinner on the table.
Men have it tougher now. They’re expected to be strong and flexible, independent and relational, decisive and collaborative. My own husband is all of that, plus he cooks and cleans and parents; while I still want him to take care of the car and the lawn and the scary spiders.
In exchange for that complexity, he has a wife that can be soft and kind and caring, as well as bold and fierce and demanding.
Freedom isn’t always pretty. It sure isn’t our Sunday best; but I’d choose “real” over “make believe” any day.
If you don’t want your young ones having sex, talk to them about it. If you don’t believe in abortion, work at a crisis pregnancy center. If you want families to stay intact, support them.
I think we all need to thank those who came before us for what feminism has provided. Stop looking back. Face forward. Create what we want–within the freedom and permission that we each deserve–no matter what our sex or skin color or income.
Don’t live in a fantasy world where loosing our voices and our choices makes for a better life.
Kelly Salasin, March 29, 2012
More on women, feminism and choices:
Father Who Used FB to Teach His Daughter A Lesson: A Human Rights Issue
Recommendation: the movie, Pleasantville.
5 thoughts on “Feminism or Make-Believe?”
For someone who doesn’t know what they were trying to say, you sure said it well. Bravo to you.. to women and men who who have embraced the changes that have opened the doors of possibilities. It may appear to your friend that there is some correlation to the changes families are experiencing and society’s ills.
Yet there have always been societal problems even before women were considered people. Women becoming more empowered is a good thing. We (women) aren’t to blame for everything. Let’s respect one another in our choices and as I always tell my kindergartners…”it’s not o.k. to point and blame.”
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“Doesn’t my friend know that families were always disintegrating? Even before birth control. And abortion. And casual sex.”
At a much lower rate. Divorce has gone sharply up. And not for the reasons you cite, sexual abuse and cheating. Most divorces happen because the woman ‘grows apart’ or is ‘unhappy.’ not because of abuse or cheating. Around a third of divorces are due to high conflict things, like abuse, serial cheating, drugs. Most aren’t.
With that freedom to be themselves they screwed over children who got to live the risky life of a divorce child who is targeted by paedophiles ever so hard and generally has problems since the step-parent often hates them. And their mom doesn’t have time for them since they’re off finding love. And they don’t feel secure in their home any more. They have to grow up too young.
And it is mostly women divorcing, if you look at the stats. They initiate most of them.
“I don’t want to go back, and I’m certain, it won’t be better. It might “look” better, but it won’t feel better. Unless you’re a man. A white man. With money.”
If you look at female happiness, it’s gone sharply down since as far back as we’ve measured it. Male happiness has gone up. So actually, if you go back it will feel better. Unless you’re a man. A white man. With money.
“Men have it tougher now. They’re expected to be strong and flexible, independent and relational, decisive and collaborative. My own husband is all of that, plus he cooks and cleans and parents; while I still want him to take care of the car and the lawn and the scary spiders.
In exchange for that complexity, he has a wife that can be soft and kind and caring, as well as bold and fierce and demanding.”
Sounds like a rather raw deal.
“If you don’t want your young ones having sex, talk to them about it. If you don’t believe in abortion, work at a crisis pregnancy center. If you want families to stay intact, support them.”
Yes, complaining about things is wrong. Who’s ever solved anything by talking? Now let’s complain some more about people who dislike feminism and not do anything practical.
I love how this post evolves. It is one thing to start a post and know what you are going to say, having it all tied up in a bow before it is even on the screen. Your post takes us with you as you discover how to express what is on the inside. Thank you for sharing your process and your curiosity.
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Thanks for that thoughtful reflection on process Rachel. I can’t imagine writing if I already knew what I “had” to say. That would feel more like homework 🙂 which is probably why I never took a writing class in all my years of school.
Sometimes I feel like a particular topic (like this one) is an “assignment,” but there is always a sense of adventure. I’m never quite sure where the exploration will take me.
Thanks for helping me see my process more clearly…
I am trained in the theatre and apply those skills… especially improvisation… to my art, writing and dance performance. That is what I see here. enJOY!
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