I’m Tired of Having to Be a Feminist

284px-Feminist_buttons_Womens_MuseumI’m tired of being a feminist. No, that’s not quite right. I’m tired of having to be a feminist.

The last few weeks have been a flurry of feminist outrages from Marissa Mayer bringing down the axe on telecommuting at Yahoo! to The Onion calling an Oscar-nominated nine-year-old the c-word for laughs. We’re debating the value of Sheryl Sandberg’s “Lean In” movement while the Arkansas legislature bans abortion after 12 weeks. We don’t have fair pay and it took the House of Representatives an unseemly amount of time to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act because politicking on issues regarding the health and safety of women is a sure-fire attention getter for media-hungry legislators.

All of which is to say that women are still being treated as a discrete group, a special interest lobby and an unpopular one at that. Women are still considered “other.” Women are not citizens in the same way (white) (straight) men are citizens.

Why the hell is that the case?

I’m an American. I was born here, raised here, came into adulthood here. I vote and pay taxes and avail myself of such collective services as I need. There should be no daylight between anyone’s attitude toward me and their attitude for my husband who fits the exact same profile.

But there is daylight. No one is urging men to lean in. No one is frolicking on stage singing about what body parts men have revealed on film. No one is debating the impact of telework on men. No one questions whether a man who is physically harmed should be able to access services in the aftermath. No one targets men in their attempts to police sexual acts. No one is legislating access to men’s reproductive healthcare out of existence.

It’s been almost 100 years since women got the right to vote. We are full citizens with all the rights and privileges thereof and yet we’re still only valued at 77 cents on the dollar and we’re regarded as a strident special interest. I. Am. Sick. Of. It.

I don’t want to fight these fights any more. These fights should be finished by now. There should be no need for women to still be struggling for societal approval for going to work, having children, exercising sexual autonomy, seeking success, making art, receiving justice. We are citizens. Our motives do not need questioning. We are simply acting as Americans act.

Here’s the deal: feminism and its goals are good for America. If it’s good for women it is probably also good for men. The equal treatment of women – and minorities, and gay people – does not mean unequal treatment for straight, white men. Equal opportunity means EQUAL OPPORTUNITY. Once your grasp that simple concept, it makes every attempt to marginalize women or any other group seem unpatriotic.

We are not a land of equal opportunity. Not even close. We have institutional barriers to success for minority groups and women that are as deeply entrenched as an iceberg. And so I have to keep being a feminist, chipping away at the ice from the tip down because if I don’t do it, it will be left for my daughter to do. That’s not what I want for her. I want her to choose her issues based on passion, not self defense. I’ll be a feminist so she can simply be an activist.

Image via Wikimedia Commons

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23 Responses to I’m Tired of Having to Be a Feminist

  1. deb March 8, 2013 at 1:32 pm #

    i am exhausted too. when i heard about the ban on 12 week abortions i felt almost helpless (but there is hope that this law will not stand up in court). I’ve read several articles to this effect lately, so I can tell you you’re not alone! we will just have to keep fighing the good fight!

  2. Heidi March 8, 2013 at 3:54 pm #

    This: “There should be no daylight between anyone’s attitude toward me and their attitude for my husband who fits the exact same profile.”

    That’s exactly what I think every time I hear the working mother debates (the right way to be one, whether you should be one at all, blah blah blah).

    Access to affordable child care, to name just one, is a working *parent* issue.

    And speaking of equal pay, the Ms. Foundation has a campaign right now on the very thing: http://forwomen.org/content/153/en/women-deserve-paycheck-fairness

  3. Daisy March 8, 2013 at 9:13 pm #

    I’m tired, too. Didn’t we fight for recognition years and years ago, decades ago? Last summer’s campaign scared the hell out of me. The potential for idiotic and harmful changes… I can’t go on. You know what I mean.

  4. Corey Feldman March 11, 2013 at 1:11 pm #

    Honestly I agree with pretty much everything said here. There is not doubt in my mind we still live in a society geared towards white male privilege. I hope I am not about to draw a flame war against me – And I hate to be pedantic but working in HR I cringe every time I see the the .77 number thrown out. I have been working in my day Job in HR for way longer than I care to admit and I just believe the disparate impact isn’t anywhere near as high as 23 cents on the dollar. Some more recent studies have actually shown in more populated urban areas, entry level salaries for women are often significantly higher than men, typically because, so is their education level. Also when you look at salary impact it really should be individualized to decide if their is an impact. Which is part of why Walmart won their case. But even if it is .77 and again I am highly suspect of that. It says more about capitalism then gender treatment. My wife works as a part time yoga instructor, but is mostly stay at home. I don’t take off for all of the doctor visits, or days the kids are sick, I can work until 8 pm at night, and weekends when I have to. Most men don’t take off a few years of their career to stay home with kids, which can count towards a lot of salary differences. Nor are the percentages of men anywhere near as high of men to women working part-time for X number of years after having children. This will all have an impact on salary. This is especially true if people take off a few years. I did this, not to parent but to teach. This set my career and salary back by a few years. But this is Capitalism, you are more likely to get a promotion if you work longer hours, get more done by virtue of those longer hours and less missed days, and by not talking time off from your career either entirely or by working part time. And yes, society puts pressure on the woman to be the primary care givers. But that is also a double edge sword. I know a lot of guys such as myself would trade anything to switch with their spouses. I sucks to miss so much. If my wife had the same educational and work experience as I had, I would gladly switch places with her. I was engaged once before my marriage, in a relationship that obviously did not work out. But she was in Medical School. We had discussed it, and I was going to be the one to stay home with the kids. And it would likely have even been harder for me to come back into my career after the kids were older because of the prejudices of men staying home. That said I fully support the rest of the post and if anything wish it were expanded to include LGBT rights as well.

  5. Mary Joan Koch March 11, 2013 at 7:53 pm #

    The last few weeks have had the opposite effect on me. It has roused me from my winter depression, and I have started writing, commenting, tweeting again.

    I am discouraged. My daughters were born in 73, 75, 78, and 82. I have 5-year-old and 2-year-old grandsons. I have 2 4-year-old and one 3-year-old granddaughters. My youngest is expecting a son in early May. I took care of the oldest for two years in the same NYC housing development where I raised my 3 older daughters when they were young. Most of my facebook friends are under 40–nieces, my daughters’ old friends, my cousins’ grown children.

    In many ways they all confront a more sexist world than my daughters did. Read my blog post on nonsexist childrearing in NYC, 1974-76. http://redstockinggrandma1945.blogspot.com/2011/11/nyc-1974-1976-nonsexist-childrearing-in_3118.html
    I owned 4 separate books on nonsexist childrearing, all of which are out of print, but can be tracked down secondhand.

    I was told hundreds of times that my grandson was “all boy” when he is “all his adventurous mother.” At 18 months older men insisted he needed a haircut immediately. My granddaughters are far more girly than my daughters ever were. The only adjective the 3 year old wants applied to her is pretty. Yet all my daughters are feminists committed to nonsexist childrearing.

    When I was in college we discussed our political authenticity over the best hot fudge sundaes in town. No one was on a diet. Now I would rather eat alone than listen to women agonize over how “bad” they are being.

    Having grandchildren has revived my radical feminism, however. I am not a fan of Slaughter or Sandberg. Too often they seem to be discovering what I knew 50 years ago at 17. Having 5 brothers and going to Catholic schools made me a feminist. But I am encouraged by all the thinking, writing, debating they have evoked.

    My suffragist grandma voted for president in 1920, the first election open to women. Never in my worst nightmares in my 20s did I anticipate explaining to my granddaughters why there hasn’t been a women president. My writer/human rights lawyer comforts her 4 year old with bedside stories about their campaigning for Elizabeth Warren together.

    • Bernadine Spitzsnogel March 18, 2013 at 9:37 am #

      I hate the “all boy” thing. What does that mean? Do people say “all girl?” Liked your reply.

      • Mary Joan Koch March 18, 2013 at 9:49 am #

        I spent years on Chelsea playground benches listening to women describe how different their sons and daughters were. “I would absolutely agree with you if my first daughter was a boy and my second a girl.”

  6. Kelly D March 12, 2013 at 2:13 am #

    “I’m an American. I was born here, raised here, came into adulthood here. I vote and pay taxes and avail myself of such collective services as I need. There should be no daylight between anyone’s attitude toward me and their attitude for my husband who fits the exact same profile.”

    To this I would add: My husband and I are all of these things, and we are both military veterans, each with two combat-time deployments under our belts.

    What on earth do women have to DO to achieve equality? We are serving and sacrificing, fighting and dying, shouldering literally all the same responsibilities of freedom and democracy as men, and all in support and defense of a Constitution that does not guarantee that our rights and freedoms will equal those of men.

    It’s exhausting. It’s mind boggling. The only comfort is knowing that I’m not the only
    person who feels this way.

    Mary Joan Koch, I would LOVE to talk feminism and politics over hot fudge sundaes with you!

    • Mary Joan Koch March 12, 2013 at 10:50 am #

      Has anyone read the Mermaid and the Minotaur by Dorothy Dinnerstein. http://www.amazon.com/Mermaid-Minotaur-Dorothy-Dinnerstein/dp/1892746255
      She persuasively contends that women will not reach equality until men and women share equally in raising young children. When people (either male or female) encounter a powerful woman, they view her as the all powerful mother of their infancy and toddlerhood.

      Fathers are more involved with their children, but few men are daycare teachers, preschool teachers, grade school teachers. My brother has taught grade school for 30 years and knows things have gotten much worse. Now men who work with young children are suspected of being pedophiles unless proven otherwise.

      Kelly, I am a 40 minute train ride from the heart of Manhattan. If you don’t live nearby, I am your cheap vacation in NYC.

      • amy March 12, 2013 at 12:56 pm #

        Mary – I was born in ’75 and I 100% agree with everything you say. Things are not getting better, at least not in the ways I had hoped. My 5 & 8 yr old daughters are more strictly socially policed than I ever was (re: being pretty, being slim, being feminine). I remember running around my back yard without a shirt until I was 11 and playing baseball with my brother until I was 15. I never obsessed about boyfriends, weddings, etc. Do girls now have this experience? Not many. Those that do are labeled negatively. It’s ridiculous.

        In heartily agree that in order for women to achieve more in the public realm (politics, gov’t, business, etc), men MUST do more in their households and regarding their children. Mothers who work cannot do it all and should NOT be asked to do it all. Don’t ask men, tell them – if they want kids, then they need to take care of them too. Providing a bank account is not enough. If both mom & dads have too many prof. demands, they likely can afford & should hire help – there are lots of wonderful caregivers out there that can handle both child care & the mundane tasks in households. It does not mean the nanny is raising your kids, it just means you have some extra help. Why do women now not demand this?!? You can tell I’m a working mom, I believe strongly that mothers need to return to work. I have seen so many career-less, lost and depressed (sometimes divorced) middle age women, whose childrearing days are done & who now have no purpose in life. That will not be me. There is and always will be more to my life than my children. It doesn’t make me a bad mom, just a full person.

        I am also so annoyed at most news/ media for inciting sahm v. working mom wars, I can’t even read mainstream media articles anymore (& I never ever watch tv news)…all junk. They are sparking it & then fanning the flames.

        • Corey Feldman March 12, 2013 at 1:13 pm #

          “You can tell I’m a working mom, I believe strongly that mothers need to return to work. I have seen so many career-less, lost and depressed (sometimes divorced) middle age women, whose childrearing days are done & who now have no purpose in life. That will not be me. There is and always will be more to my life than my children. It doesn’t make me a bad mom, just a full person.”

          Now I don’t see how this is really feminism? Isn’t feminism about equality and choice? Maybe you wouldn’t be fulfilled raising kids, but lots of woman are, and they should have that choice if economically possible. So should men, again if economically feasible. Not everyone finds fulfillment in work, in fact from my experience in HR, most don’t.

          • amy March 12, 2013 at 1:23 pm #

            I didn’t say I wasn’t fulfilled by raising kids, but for me (and most women, both SAHM & working mom friends I have agree), raising kids is only one part of women’s lives and is not the entire meaning & purpose of our existence. And of course I support women making different choices, but why are young women, in droves, so disproportionately making the same choice (to stay home or take more family friendly, ie. lesser paid, career paths)? Why do we not question that and assume that it is a biologically prescribed choice, rather than socially influenced one?

            That’s not the point in all of this anyway, the point is that men need to take a more active role in child-rearing in order for women to participate full in government, politics, and others areas of life in which we need BOTH men & women’s leadership and influence in order to have a just & equitable society.

          • Corey Feldman March 12, 2013 at 1:35 pm #

            Amy, That really isn’t the case if you look at job statistics, especially in urban/populated areas. Woman are having children later in life, often after obtaining advanced degrees and or higher career advancement. I fully believe is it a social issue not biological. As I said I wish more men did stay home an rear the kids. I would do it in a second if my wife would A. Agree B. could support us. Sadly neither is the case. But that was her choice. She studied dance and photography in college and went on to be a Yoga teacher. All choices she made. She also very much wanted to have kids and be home with them. As I said above, had I married my first fiance who is now a doctor (was in med school at the time) I would be the one staying home with the kids. If my wife and I were both career professionals, and she wanted to be the one to stay at the office till 8 at night, work weekends, and not miss work when the kids were sick, I’d happily pick up that slack, so would a lot of fathers I know.

          • amy March 12, 2013 at 1:56 pm #

            I don’t think we have a disagreement, Corey. And I agree, women are doing great in school, obtaining loads of degrees, etc, but are not doing much ultimately with their education. I live in a small affluent town in CT where 80% of the women stay home, most are highly highly educated, used to be in major NY firms or banks, no longer. Congress, major companies, banks, big firms – mostly men, esp. at the highest levels. You can’t have a chance for a female president or 50% female Congress when women are all or mostly opting out of the workforce.

            I work at a university and see loads of young women still making choices that will send them into low paying “family friendly” professions – nursing instead of medical school, education instead of engineering (even when they have the aptitude), etc etc. This needs to stop – an 18 yr old woman should not be thinking about how she will manage her career with kids (many tell me this), her male peers certainly don’t. She can work that out with her husband 10 yrs down the road.

          • Corey Feldman March 12, 2013 at 2:15 pm #

            I think the only disagreement we might have here is that there is necessarily something wrong with that choice. Every woman and man should be able to choose to do what they think is best for their life, not necessarily what is best for all of women as a whole. Quite frankly I do envy the choice a lot of woman have. I tried that route. I quit a job making a good living as an HR director to go teach. I wanted a family friendly job and to work with kids. I couldn’t live on the pay which was a huge reason I left. But here is another I don’t often share. I still remember being on a very romantic date with a woman I was crazy about. We had been having a lot of fun for a while. We were just sitting their enjoying each other company, when she looked me in the eyes and said, you know I can never let this get to serious, I could never marry a teacher. I want to have kids and I want to stay home or work part-time. It broke my heart. But I know there were a lot of other woman out there that wanted the same thing and if I wanted a family of my own I really needed to consider going back into the corporate world.

  7. amy March 12, 2013 at 2:33 pm #

    I understand what you’re saying, of course we each must choose what is best for us, but that is a tricky issue, is not always as clear as you make it sound. If we don’t analyze & think about why we are making certain choices, nothing changes. Without examining our choices in a historical & social context, do do we all know really what is best for us? Women will always choose the highly paid guy because that is “best” for them…they can’t imagine having a high stress, high paid profession and a husband who takes no active role in domestic/child care responsibilities (most don’t). And relatedly, men remain the ones responsible for the paycheck and don’t get to go into careers that they excel at or enjoy (some low paying), so they go into careers that pay more because it is “best” for them. By the way, related to your story, many ambitious men prefer women who want to stay home, to give them more room for a career. My husband is one of those – we have 3 kids & he would love it if I were to stay at home, it would actually save us child care money and make his high stress career easier (although he admits he is bored silly by our stay at home mom friends). But he knew what he was getting when he married me, and it wasn’t a housewife.

  8. Mary Joan Koch March 18, 2013 at 9:53 am #

    The secret of doing less housekeeping is to have abysmally low standards. I have only done half the housework. If no one does the other half, tough luck on everybody. However, I am entirely responsible for keeping our books in alphabetical order. Finding the book you need within 30 seconds is much more important than cleaning your refrigerator. I do prefer dirt to disorder.

    Everyone needs at least one friend whose house is messier than theirs. I can be that one friend for anyone.

  9. Mary Joan Koch March 18, 2013 at 9:57 am #

    If you want both an ambitious career and children, don’t marry someone with similar education and ambitions. Marry a great working class guys who usually will do more child care than upper middle class guys do. I only mean marry down class wise. Intelligence and education are only loosely related.

  10. Corey Feldman March 18, 2013 at 10:06 am #

    One other thing I’d like to expand on especially in relationship to my comment included LGBT rights as well. I think their is an assumption under both feminism and patriarchy that gender is binary. Science just doesn’t hold that to be true. I do think this complicates matters, especially when a movement wants to push for a unified front on certain issues and choices.

  11. Deanna Leigh March 18, 2013 at 2:28 pm #

    While I agree mostly with what the author is saying what actually infuriates me the most is that the article seems to try to categorize these issues soley as gender issues. It speaks of feminism and how it is helpful for other non privledged groups with the side note that it doesn’t hurt men either. An interesting subtle hint, in my mind, at least, that if you are a heterosexual white mail you are not being discriminated again to begin with. And in doing so it would see the author has created a divide that does indeed hurt males in our society.

    She writes,” No one is debating the impact of telework on men. No one questions whether a man who is physically harmed should be able to access services in the aftermath. No one targets men in their attempts to police sexual acts. No one is legislating access to men’s reproductive healthcare out of existence.” But isn’t that mentality just as problematic? We aren’t discussing the possibility that a male might be just as invested in being a part of his family and thus just as inconvenienced by not being able to telecommute as a female. We shout a lot about how discriminatory it is that as females we start families and our jobs don’t normally accommodate this but we’re silenced about the fact that paternity leave is normally a few days or a week versus the several weeks or month of maternity leave. You’re upset that it took so long for VAWA to get re-passed but make no mention of how 10% of sexual assaults are on males 40% of cases of sever domestic violence men are the victims, and in both these instances they are typically not taken seriously, stigmatized, and denied services. VAWA….Violence against WOMEN act, even the name. I could go on….

    Here is the more succinct point, Turning this into a WOMEN’S issue, saying this is about feminsim, furthers the divide and accomplishes nothing. I think we get much further as a society when we stop playing the “which target group is this hurting more” game and start recognizing that these issues are not gender issues- I would hope that we are all on the same page here-being able to access health care, being given the support to manage both a family and a career, being able to live in a community without threat of sexual or physical violence- these are things that are having impacts on ALL of us not just minorities and women. And frankly when you treat it as a societal issue, I predict you’ll get much more support than when you phrase it as just something that affects target groups while excluding everyone else and continuing to leave them without a voice.

    • Mary Joan Koch March 18, 2013 at 7:16 pm #

      “I think we get much further as a society when we stop playing the “which target group is this hurting more” game and start recognizing that these issues are not gender issues”

      Bravo. You are exactly right.

      All mommy issues are daddy issues. Everyone has parents, and caring for aging parents is a bigger challenge than child care. You are exactly right. I am greatly disturbed by what seems to growing tendency to portray women as powerless victims.

  12. Zelda Gatuskin April 25, 2013 at 2:35 pm #

    Women do not have full equality in the U.S. and will not have it until our rights are guaranteed in writing in the Constitution via the Equal Rights Amendment. Please brush up on this historic ongoing battle and lend your voice to the cause.

  13. Corey Feldman May 2, 2013 at 11:04 am #

    Very true re: the child birth issue and deaths probably outnumbering the number of lives lost in war. That said, I am not sure I see how that marginalizes women? That is simple evolution being a bit of a kludge at times, at least historically. Though I can see it now, in terms of poverty and the disproportionate amount of women under the poverty line. I guess I man see that as an aspect of patriarchy in moder times after all. Also you are dead on on the issues of human trafficking, I wish I had thought to bring that up in my response as well. You can also add in genital mutilation in some parts of the world. And of course familiar “honor” killings by family members that believe their daughter or sister has disgraced them

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