Feminism or Make-Believe?

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.

IMDb – Pleasantville (1998)

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.

IMDb – Pleasantville (1998)

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.

IMDb – Pleasantville (1998)

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:

Bring your vagina to church

Where Were You?

Feminist or Whore?

Not Rape, But Not Right

Father Who Used FB to Teach His Daughter A Lesson: A Human Rights Issue

Sarah Palin & me, Part II

Recommendation: the movie, Pleasantville.



Yesterday, a man took the gift of my writing and twisted it into something shameful.

He intruded into my home and stole my peace of mind.

He took liberties with my open heart and bent my good will.

Though his was mild in comparison to other criminal acts, our short phone conversation nevertheless turned my world sideways.

He called under the guise of seeking a life coach.

Looking out my window, I inquired about his weather before I asked how I could help.

“I’d like a spanking,” he said.

I didn’t realize just how much shame lie behind that door to my childhood.  Aladdin’s Lamp is the poem that attracted the likes of the intruder to my parenting site.

After I hung up the phone, I removed my number from my coaching blog, burned the client paper I had begun to fill out; and deleted his morning message from my answering machine.

But he was still there.

So I called the police.  Really. Even though he was 1,000 miles away.

I asked the dispatcher if there was some procedure for this kind of thing. She didn’t know, but she said she’d have an officer call me back.

I wanted him accountable, I said. I didn’t want him terrorizing others with his easy, splintering act.

The intruder never called again, but the police officer did, and others; and each time the phone rang, my body tightened.

Such a simple intrusion and I feel suspect of all men. Even when my son’s friend on the other end of the line.

A massage therapist tells me that she had to stop taking male clients because of the calls she would get.

I feel sad.

and ashamed.

and confused.

Today I get an invitation to join the Women’s Chorus to sing at the celebration of the Women’s Crisis Center in Brattleboro, now renamed the Women’s FREEDOM Center. I realize how little I know of the “crisis” of being abused. I realize how much “freedom” I’ve had.

But I am a woman, and I have experienced physical intimidation by those bigger and stronger than me, beginning with my father and that first spanking. Which makes it confusing that I want to crawl up into his lap and cry.

Maybe I’ll get a dog after all.  A big one. With lots of fur, and weight.

I force myself out of the house to yoga. It’ll be good for me, even if I do want to hide beneath the covers.

The next morning, I wake to the migraine that was threatening, and find myself incapacitated.  At the half-day, I take a shower and plan to drag myself to work, but after the police officer calls again, I go back to bed, fully dressed.

I could remove every piece of me from this web, but I won’t. The gift of writing and connection is too precious not to share–even in the face of such a robbery.

When the officer rings his door bell, I hope he squirms, and then I hope he gets some help.

After he asked for a spanking, I suggested a therapist, and then I hung up.

Kelly Salasin, 1/11/11