Monday, 6 September 2010

Am I a Feminist?

This very question crossed my mind a few weeks ago when asked to participate in a Feminist blog round up as a feminist mum. These round ups are a forum or indeed someone else's blog where you are invited to post a link to your blog to promote a particular theme on your blog or to find a post that fits in with the other blogs theme... confused? I am mostly.

So one of these round ups involved submitting a post from my blog that either labelled me as a feminist, spouted feminist views or involved some act of feminism to be chosen at will and submitted for all to see. As I scoured through my previous posts I struggled to find anything that contained a remarkably feminist viewpoint, that spoke about inequality or some injustice I had suffered due to my gender. So I emailed the host to ask her what she would define as feminism and what she was looking for. The reply I got confused me further. It seemed to imply that anything vaguely empowering or female would do. The host, a lovely women from across the pond received a myriad of posts from women across the pond but her British followers were reluctant to put up a post. So why? Is it because we consider the word a loaded term? Is it because we consider the history of the word a bit more thoroughly before aligning ourselves with the cause? Or is it just because we're a bit more uptight about these things?

If you look up the definition of the word “feminist” you’ll in most cases come across the fairly neutral meaning of someone who believes in equality between the sexes. And that’s just what it is – no more, no less.I kept on dwelling on the issue because like most sane people, I worry about the role models out there for my kids. I despair at tabloid journalism and the cult of the so-called celebrity, I panic when surrounded aisles after aisles by pink toys and wonder about what we are serving up to our children as a future.

Reading Gaby Hinscliff’s blog ‘I am not a feminist but…’ struck a chord. If truth be told I don’t regard myself as a Feminist with a capital F, my mental perception is, I suppose of bra-burning, men-hating, hard-nose career driven women who would hold their hands up in horror at the life I have chosen; sacrificing a promising career in favour of wiping snotty noses, playing with plastic tat and singing The Wheels on the Bus ad infinitum. I most definitely need a bra to keep my ever southwardly disappearing bosoms vaguely hoisted and so wouldn't dream of burning one. A quick glance at my blog posts reveals that I blog about childrearing and dinner, so what does this say to my kids?

So am I letting the side down? Despite these transgressions am I a feminist? Maybe I am. I strongly believe in equality and choice. The decisions I have made, be it through career breaks or breastfeeding my children or being chief cook and bottom wiper have been made precisely because I chose them. The opportunity to work full-time and devolve child and household tasks to another were there, I simply chose not to avail myself of them. I discovered bringing up my children to be more fulfilling than my career, and my job has become my hobby. For other women the opposite is true.  It's not to say that I won't come back to it, or find other avenues to explore.

The point is that feminism should be more about women being able to make the choices they want than what those choices actually are. I am eternally thankful I wasn’t a mother thirty odd years ago where maternity leave was routinely began at 29 weeks and the dictates of society would have meant a woman’s career was consigned to oblivion once the umbilical cord was cut. I consider myself fortunate that things have moved on enough to give many women choices that simply didn’t exist a generation ago. My choices are what I feel empowers me, whether they are staying at home, having chicken for tea or staring a new business. Feminism to me, is a woman taking charge of her life, never letting gender affect her but also not using her gender to get what she wants. A quick glance through some Feminist Mother Forums shocked me to be honest. There were posts on how to raise your child in a gender neutral manner, on how to raise boys in a feminist manner. Posts on how to raise your child not to be a rapist...People were posting about issues that would never ordinarily cross my mind but issues that seem to reconfirm to me and define to the masses what feminists are and what they concern themselves with. Men, genital mutilation, abortion, sizeism, race and really just about any sort of prejudice, bigotry and inequality that just about anyone (Yes, men included) can experience. As I rolled my eyes, I read one post from a feminist that declared because most doctors are men (!) and so the WHO is andocentric, medical advice to stop smoking during pregnancy out of respect for the health of your unborn baby is yet another example of men telling us wee women what to do! It would appear then that I am not a feminist with a capital F. It's posts like these that give feminist a bad name. Feminism is a scary, complicated and dangerous territory. A word that is open to abuse and lacks definition.
Are you a Feminist?


  1. I consider myself a feminist because I believe in equality and choice, but I'm not sure I'd admit out loud to being one because it seems to have bad connotations.

  2. @Tilly: Don't worry...I won't tell ;)

  3. Sigh. It is depressing that women feel fear of the 'F' word. When we live in an environment with equal pay and widely shared household and childcare responsibilities (just for starters) I might consider retiring the label...

  4. @Lucy: So do you think the word has lost its meaning then? Should we use the F word in this day and age?

  5. I think we need a new word-- I wrote a post for Blondie about this a few weeks ago. It is too loaded, too laden with scary crap for people to take it seriously or to trust it.

  6. I agree about the word but what would we use instead?


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