I’m A Feminist But….

21 Comments

Recently I was speaking with a very switched on lady who is  juggling family life with a  successful small business venture. She was trying to explain why she disliked the term “mumtrepreneur” commencing her argument with “I’m not a feminist but..”. It struck me as a strange thing to say. This astute woman was living out the feminist ideal of “having it all” but denying the underlying ideology. “Im not a feminist but..” is a phrase we hear often from educated women trying to forge their own paths. I believe what they are really trying to say is “I’m not a hairy legged, man hating ideological zealot.” Its a shame that feminism is automatically viewed this way by so many.

WTF? – No wonder we are confused.

My generation (X) has been the beneficiaries of the “sisterhood” before us. Unlike our grandmothers, we’ve enjoyed tertiary education and most of us have at least started our careers off on an equal footing with the men. We’ve been able to buy property in our own right and  control our bodies through easily accessible birth control. Feminism has been part of the back drop to our lives but how many of us really know that much about it? I confess that whilst I’ve worked in a “mans world” and purchased my own apartment, I’ve never read any feminist literature (unless you count Kaz Cooke). I don’t feel confident about entering the debate as I’m not 100% au fait with the arguments. I’m not even certain what feminism means anymore. I guess I skated through life not really needing it until I found my career prospects greatly diminished by five years of being the primary care giver to my girls.

Something I really should read.

In order to keep it simple stupid, I turned to the font of all knowledge – Wikipedia. Here I found that at its most basic level “Feminism is a collection of movements and ideologies aimed at defining, establishing, and defending equal political, economic, and social rights for women. In addition, feminism seeks to establish equal opportunities for women in education and employment. A feminist is an advocate or supporter of the rights and equality of women. Feminist activists campaign for women’s rights – such as in contract law, property, and voting – while also promoting bodily integrity, autonomy, and reproductive rights for women. Feminists have worked to protect women and girls from domestic violencesexual harassment, and sexual assault. They have also advocated for workplace rights, including maternity leave, and against forms of discrimination against women“.

By these standards we’re all feminists. Seriously who would support unequal access to education, lower pay for equal work, domestic violence, sexual harassment and sexual assault? By the same token most reasonable people would support maternity leave and a level playing field in the workplace. Many of the battles appear to have been won (at least in the Western World) making the feminist call to arms sound shrill. “Choice” is a feminist catch-cry. Most of us choose family and that’s where things begin to break down. Its almost impossible to come through motherhood with your career unscathed.  Some do manage it (including friends of mine )but these ladies often have support from the extended family not to mention a super human ability to function on very little sleep.

It all seems very unfair. Afterall men are not asked to chose between career and family are they? I’d argue that there are millions of men who would dearly love to spend more time with their kids but feel they have no choice but to tread that well worn corporate hamster wheel. The brave few who choose to take time out or to reduce their working week often find themselves lagging behind in the rat race. Its symptomatic of us living in an economy rather than a society rather than some kind of unconscious conspiracy against women. Ignoring or diminishing the pressure that men are under does nothing to advance feminism.

I’m  a feminist but –

I don’t hate men. I adore men. They are gorgeous, smart and funny and the vast majority want to do the right thing by us.

I’m a feminist but –

I don’t wish to blame some kind of indefinable patriarchy for all of the difficulties women face.

I’m  a feminist but –

I don’t wish to view everything in the popular culture through the prism of feminism.

I’m a feminist but –

I’m neither ‘pro-women’ nor ‘antimen’. I’m just ‘Thumbs up for the six billion’ (Caitlin Moran – How To Be A Woman)

Caitlin Moran – A new icon for a new century.

I welcome your disagreement.

Love Mumabulous

photo credit: John Oxton via photopin cc

photo credit: Joshua Rappeneker via photopin cc

photo credit: chrisdonia via photopin cc

21 thoughts on “I’m A Feminist But….

  1. I find it really weird when people say that too. Any thinking, working, active, independent woman who drives a car and chooses her own clothes and raises her kids as she wants to and a million other things we take for granted, is a feminist. Love the pic of Bill Bailey. His T says it all really – feminists come in a range of different shapes and guises, embracing a range of different takes on what feminism means to them. My career is in major hiatus too – but it was my family’s choice for me to take some time out, so no point getting angry at the patriarchy. We still have a long way to go though before it’s completely acceptable for a male partner to be the one who stays home with kids or for everyone to have flexible workplaces etc. Great post 🙂

    • Next year will be interesting – I’m returning to work while Mr Bite’Em stays home – it’s not necessarily our first choice, it’s just the way it is, but what’s interesting is that most people assume it will only be for a year (if it continues for a second year their views will be interesting 🙂

      • I reckon it’s great if you can take turns. More and more families seem to be making that choice, for a range of reasons. You should get some good blog fodder out of people’s opinions though! Funny how people assume it would only ever be a temporary measure.

  2. I love Caitlin Moran, and the way she explains some attitudes to feminism, or the phrase “i’m not a feminist, but’ – it’s like an American of African-American heritage, saying in 1960s America that they don’t really believe in civil rights, or that Martin Luther Kind was a ‘bit shouty’. Ha. I don’t think I’ve met anyone who understands the term ‘feminist’ say ‘I’m not a feminist’ – I haven’t met anyone who vehemently defends equal rights for women as a bad thing – but it is frustrating that so many don’t seem to understand the term, or see it in a negative way.

    • I think people view feminism as being aggressively anti-men or putting the interests of women above those of men. Someone like Caitlin Moran lets us know this isn’t the case and refreshingly she does it with humor.
      Love Mumabulous

  3. I have lead such a sheltered life – I’ve managed to totally ignore the whole feminism/discrimination thing. I’ve just LIVED. It’s gone quite well, too. I really hate the way people get hung up on labels. I wrote a blog about it a few months ago called “Hang on, is it the 50s” – http://housegoeshome.com/2012/06/06/hang-on-is-it-the-50s/
    Still, I know, I’m one of the lucky ones …

  4. Yes, I think it is all about a very narrow definition of what ‘feminism’ means. Just like any other group of people (e.g, Muslims in the current political climate), the vocal minority with shape what other people perceive of the whole group…

    I don’t actively call myself a feminist because of some of the beliefs and ideals that the extreme groups adhere to (e.g. the anti-men sentiment, the denial of any difference between the sexes, the reality that childbearing and child-raising naturally lead men and women on often-different paths).

    I definitely agree that in the workplace, and in broader society, women should have every advantage that men have if they choose to sacrifice other areas of their lives to make that happen. But I also don’t think that women should be given MORE advantages than men (e.g. promotion in positions when they choose only to work part-time over a man who works full-time etc). Sometimes I think “feminism” can push the balance the other way.

  5. Grr. Just typed a long comment that didn’t show up.

    I think the reluctance to call ourselves “feminist” is because the group is often characterised by the vocal minority (similar to what is happening with Muslims in the current climate).

    I don’t usually associate with feminism because, like you, I think men are completely equal to women, and women are to men (but women are NOT better). I like feminism in that I believe women should be free to make whatever choices they want with life and should not be disadvantaged. On the other hand, I don’t like it when “feminists” think they should have more advantages than men with less work (e.g. the same opportunity to be promoted in the workplace after choosing to take years off to care for children, as a man who has been working full-time all those years…). I also dislike when “feminism” actually leads to men feeling redundant and disenfranchised, and like they have no place and nothing to offer anymore…

    • Julie
      Thanks for your thoughtful response. I think that feminism had to be aggressive and vocal a generation ago so that the message would cut through. Times have changed and feminism has to change with it.
      Love Mumabulous

  6. Nicely put. You know I find when I hear the argument that women should be able to work their career and raise kids at the same time really deflating. I do both – and I find it really difficult and tiring. I know it’s the paradigm of the working structure we live in (and hopefull it will change over time) but I really don’t understand why so many of us are hell bent of having both at the same time. I’ve argued before in other blogs that a top lawyer doesn’t try to be a top doctor at the same time. They do one or the other well. If i could id do one or the other well, but i am the breadwinner in my little family of two so it’s a bit harder, my choice is SAHM and poverty, or working mum and having to cut corners on both – i try to do them both well and the price is exhaustion and a good dose of guilt. But I’m also proud that I can sustain it with a little bit of help from my family, friends and the sistas that have gone before me. Do i call myself a feminist? I probably am one but mmm i wouldn’t burn my bra – i love lingerie too much.

    • Bachelormum, I’ve been a WAHM mum and a working in a workplace mum, and briefly, a single mum. Balancing work with being a mum is incredibly hard and you do feel like you don’t do a great job at either, but being a single mum was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I bet that’s what leaves you exhausted at the end of the day – not having some help carrying the can. x

  7. Feminism gets such a bad rap … but where would we be without the suffragettes of 100 years ago. I think even of my own Mum, who had to quit a public service job just because she got married (in the 60′s) and then was forced to resign from another job because she was *shock horror* pregnant (nearly 2 years AFTER she got married!), also in the (late) 60′s. Thank the Lord we get to live and enjoy NOW! ps LOVE the pic of Manny from Black Books, LOL …

  8. TBH, I don’t know a great deal about the feminist movement. Wiki says feminism is ‘”is a collection of movements and ideologies aimed at defining, establishing, and defending equal political, economic, and social rights for women”, which I’m all for so I figure I should consider myself to be a feminist x

  9. I think you got it right when you pointed out that (going by Wikipedia definition at least) we are all feminists. I like the freedom to live my life according to my values, beliefs and rights as a person in this world – if that’s feminism, then count me in! Thanks for the thoughtful post x

  10. Excellently put. I think you’re right in that feminism needs to move with the times and anyone who wants and believes in equal rights for women is a feminist. It’s just such a shame that like with anything, there are a small group pf people who have hijacked the term for their own agenda.

  11. I in général don’t like the term, but I think it’s because of its negative connotations. I think everyone is equal, men and woman deserve the same rights, but at the same time, in our marriage, whilst we are a team, I believe my husband has the final say. Not cause he owns me, but because I believe that’s there needs to be a ‘leader’ as such, and I think that’s his role. Which is probably not a popular opinion. 🙂

    • I agree with you Jess, I believe in equal rights but I don’t believe we were all designed to perform the same rolls. I celebrate the differences between sexes and individuals.

  12. I’m a feminist but… I defer to my husband’s superior garbage night skills.

  13. If you have a vagina, then you are a feminist. Thanks Caitlin Moran. Nuff said.

  14. People who say “I’m not a feminist but…” really are NOT feminist: http://radfemway.blogspot.com/2012/11/im-not-feminist-but.html

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