Can I Be a Feminist If I Don't Agree With You?
I spent the weekend with some beautiful women. They were intelligent (like getting-into-the-best-business-school-in-the-country smart), driven (like being one of only a small group of women in their industry) and engaged (like being a member of the Peace Corps and a senior-level executive in the federal government.) Despite being heavy hitters in their fields, they embraced my lowly but admired profession of a blogger covering the wine-drinking and play date scene.
What I enjoyed the most about the weekend were the thought-provoking discussions. We talked about career management, the difficulties of being a working mom, strengthening our marriages and our ongoing fight against wrinkles.
But despite the fact that these women were all well-educated, successful and confident, they all chose different paths in life. One is a full-time consultant (if you consider full-time 50+ hours a week), another works part-time (25-30 hours a week), and yet another, like myself, had decided to hang up her suits to be a stay at home mom. And despite the differences in our religious beliefs, parenting philosophies and interests, I would call each of us a feminist, and I relished in our thought-provoking and peaceful discussions about women’s issues.
That’s why I have had such a hard time writing a blog post today. My Facebook feed is exploding with the Hobby Lobby aftermath, and although I wanted to write something light-hearted about friendship, the sting of reading what women are saying about other women on social platforms and the media has just made me sad.
I have no interest in writing about my opinion on the Hobby Lobby decision (although I did post my thoughts on a few friend’s threads…..why do I never learn) but I do feel like I need to address the issue of how dangerous I think alienating other women who are fighting for the same cause is.
For example, one person posted this: “By not supporting Justice Ginsburg, you are threatening the reproductive rights of our daughters.”
Another woman on television said: “Christian, stay-at-home moms are so out of touch with reality and are willing participants in their own oppression.”
And my personal favorite: “If you don’t get why today’s ruling sucked, you don’t deserve to be called a feminist.”
This is the sort of banter that I just don’t get — no class, no inclusion, no respect. And don’t think that I didn’t see it is coming from both sides.
Sometimes the very women that are proponents of “feminism” — the ones who proclaim they are for women’s rights — actually only like the women who think like them. Time and time again we try to pigeon-hole ourselves into what a true “feminist” is. If you choose to stay at home with your kids and let a man be the main breadwinner, you can’t be a feminist. If you are pro-life, you are stuck in the stone age. If you are not for affirmative action, you are not for women’s rights.
Stealing from Wikipedia, by definition feminism is a collection of movements and ideologies aimed at defining, establishing, and defending a state of equal political, economic, cultural, and social rights for women. This includes seeking to establish equal opportunities for women in education and employment. A feminist advocates or supports the rights and equality of women
If you ask me, this is a pretty broad definition, which is why I don’t understand why “feminists” continue to alienate other women. I for one don’t know any woman that is not for equality.
I believe that the very root of feminism is about choice. Having a choice about education and our professions, having a choice about our reproductive rights, and having a choice as to whether we want to work or stay at home. But when we constantly belittle those women that choose differently, think differently, believe differently, we do nothing for feminism. In fact, we hurt our cause.
Because when we shame women for their personal beliefs, we are no better than the men who we claim are oppressing us.
I get why people don’t think I am a good feminist. I am a stay at home mom who is currently completely financially reliant on my husband. I am not anti-man, a man-hater or think all men are oppressors, although I like to think I am pro-women (or more importantly, for universal human rights.) I am pro-choice, although I think abortions have become too common in today’s society. I don’t really believe in equal pay for equal work, but instead believe in equal pay for equal contributions, which I believe gives women a competitive advantage.