Can I Be a Feminist If I Don't Agree With You?

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.”

Ouch.

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.

What makes me a feminist? I want to make going back to work after having a child easier, so I think we should have increased maternity and paternity time off. I believe we should have huge corporate tax incentives for businesses that offer child care, particularly for gaps or health issues. I believe crimes such as rape and domestic abuse should be prosecuted swiftly, mammograms and pap smears offered widely, and flex time be mandatory when possible.  And yes, I even believe that birth control should be cost-effective and readily accessible.

But most importantly, I want less laws giving women our rights — such as the right to vote or to equal pay, and more people to ensure we have those rights that should have been originally distilled to us by the constitution. I believe in what Susan B. Anthony said many moons ago:

It was we, the people; not we, the white male citizens; nor yet we, the male citizens; but we, the whole people, who formed the Union…. Men, their rights and nothing more; women, their rights and nothing less.

I believe women should collectively come together to fight more for what unites us than what divides us.  When issues like the Hobby Lobby ruling come up, we can’t let one judgement sway us from our ultimate goal of equality, and we can’t use it to ostracize those among us who want the same, but believe different things. I am for an educated debate, but I’m over the judgmental name calling.

Because I’m more than just my uterus. And although I like being a feminist, I don’t want to be a bitch.

 

Whitney Fleming

www.playdatesonfridays.com

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