There’s a moment from my college career seared into my memory. I sat in a class entitled “Women and Politics” led by a dynamic professor; a black woman who had fought her way to becoming head of the Political Science department in a state-funded university in Kentucky. She was also extremely active in the state’s Democratic party and NAACP. She was more than deserving of my respect. Until…
“What does feminism mean to you?”
Various answers from the class, most of which could be described in one word: “choice.” The class agreed: feminism allowed women the choice to do and be whatever and whomever they wanted to be. (Note: I understand that in our patriarchal society women CANNOT do and be whatever they’d like. Or, they can, but they’ll have to fight harder, work longer, and get paid less.) One girl, playing devil’s advocate raided her hand: “So feminists would support my decision to be a stay at home mom.”
She was met with silence, stunned stares, and a diatribe by our professor railing against her comment. She would set the movement back decades by doing that, our professor surmised.
Hold on one damn minute.
You mean to tell me that it is my choice to do and be whatever I’d like to be…except if I chose to fill traditional gender roles. THEN I’m a female chauvinist. Forget the fact that raising the next generation of well-rounded, ass-kicking activists (of all sexes and genders) has to be done by somebody. Men should be raising a generation of amazing men and women, but so should our women. Don’t misunderstand. I’m not saying that a woman can’t work and be an amazing wife/mother/life partner/ spiritual guardian; whatever.
I’m saying sometimes people in the movement fight themselves and the ideas that they’re purporting. A woman tells you she wants to be a stay at home mom. Don’t attack; ask why. Is it because she believes that all there is for her is to get married and reproduce? Or is it because she feels like that’s her best way of serving the world? Perhaps she sees what we may not: that a woman can fulfill a traditional role while being anything but traditional.
The stay at home mom is only one example. Everywhere I go, I encounter women (and men) of all backgrounds and lifestyles judging one another. That girl isn’t a real feminist because she likes to flirt with boys. That boy isn’t “queer enough” to be part of the gay community. You can’t be a supporter of social justice and a member of a certain religion.
When did we get enough people on our side to be choosy? On second thought, isn’t the argument all about egalitarianism, and not exclusivity? Why are we picking and choosing activists and supporters? Let’s learn from our differing opinions and lives.
What’s right for you may not be right for me. But we can both agree that we should be able to pick what’s best for us, as individuals.
Let’s be pro-choice in all aspects of life.
So, whoever you are, I’m interested in whatever you have to say and however you’d like to say it.