What makes a feminist?

Boy, oh, boy… I am going to miss our paper subscription to the NYT ( but thank goodness I can still find it online!)

Going through this week’s Sunday Styles, there is an article about a French Author, Elisabeth Badinter, and her thesis that the current ‘green’ movement and the ensuing ‘Mommy Wars’ is really an underhanded way to erase the progress of feminism. Her basic thought is that by choosing breastfeeding, cloth diapering, forgoing the epidural, women are being steered back into the home and away from the workplace.

From the article:

In “Le Conflit: la femme et la mère” (“Conflict: The Woman and the Mother”), she contends that the politics of the last 40 years have produced three trends that have affected the concept of motherhood, and, consequently, women’s independence. First is what she sums up as “ecology” and the desire to return to simpler times; second, a behavioral science based on ethology, the study of animal behavior; and last, an “essentialist” feminism, which praises breast-feeding and the experience of natural childbirth, while disparaging drugs and artificial hormones, like epidurals and birth control pills.

All three trends, Ms. Badinter writes, “boast about bringing happiness and wisdom to women, mothers, family, society and all of humankind.” But they also create enormous guilt in a woman who can’t live up to a false ideal. “The specter of the bad mother imposes itself on her even more cruelly insofar as she has unconsciously internalized the ideal of the good mother,” she writes.

(emphasis mine)
If you are on the internet at all, you can recognize the bolded section as what’s more commonly called, the “Mommy Wars.” It seems as if we mommies will war about anything and everything: cloth v. disposable, breast v. bottle, homeschool v. school, circ v. intact and now feminist v. non-feminist? (To me that’s kind of a misnomer, all women at heart are feminists)

Stay with me here. Feminists fought and are still fighting for the rights of women TO MAKE CHOICES. That’s all. Feminists are not telling women, “OK you HAVE to go out and work and shatter the glass ceiling AND raise kids and have an immaculate home.” They are telling us, “You have the choice to do what is best for you and your family, if you choose to have one.” Kind of like how veterans fought and are fighting for our freedom from tyranny, femisists fight for our freedom of lack of choice. (And before you ask, The Caffeinated Catholic Mama is pro-choice: With those choices being life-based: Raise your baby or place your baby up for adoption please! But I digress.)

Personally, I see Ms. Badinter’s thesis as furthering the victimization of women. Instead of sticking to her feminist roots, she is blaming society on making life harder on women. Does cloth diapering take a bit more time and effort? Yup, but guess what? My husband knows how to run the washer as well as I can. Does eating homecooked foods take more time than running through the drive thru? Yup, but thank goodness for my Crock Pot and Pampered Chef Deep Covered Baker. Does my husband wish I met him at the door with a dress and pearls on, with a Manhattan and newspaper in hand, ready to speak to him in soft tones while the children play quietly in another room? Probably, but we can all dare to dream. I chose natural birth because I am a control freak and we practice Natural Family Planning for a bunch of reasons, not limited to the fact that I haven’t had a period in 18 months! Yay, ecological breastfeeding! (Yay breastfeeding in general!) I guess what gets me is why we as women allow ourselves to be constantly made victims of this and that. There are times you have to stand up and say, “I chose this life and I have to take the good with the bad!” (Cue “The Facts of Life” theme…) And as an aside, a more equal division on labor helps a ton!

While cruising FaceBook yesterday, I saw how FuzziBuns (FB), a cloth diapering company, was coming under fire for sponsoring “The Feminist Breeder” (TFB) for BlogHer 2010. The comments that followed divided into two groups: women who didn’t 100% agree with TFB’s ideals and therefore were going to no longer buy FB and those who were wondering what the fuss was all about. The most often quoted bit of TFB’s blog that drew the most ire was about The Duggar family, how she doubts Michelle Duggar is raising little feminists:

Q: Where did that crazy name come from?

A: I hard time finding like-minded feminists once I became a mother, and I started to feel like feminism and motherhood may be mutually exclusive. I chose the moniker The Feminist Breeder to prove that even those of us who reproduce can still be concerned feminists.
Q: But wait – I thought feminism meant staying childfree?

A: Don’t be stupid. Where do you think the future feminists will come from if the feminists aren’t breeding them? Do you think Michelle Duggar is reproducing feminists for us? Come on.

If you follow TFB’s blog, you know that she uses humor and is very tongue-in-cheek about things (she also uses some “colorful” language, that I look past!) I can see how that comment might ruffle the feathers of some women, but it’s also TFB’s opinion and she’s entitled to it. I like the Duggar family but I have a hard time seeing Michelle and Jim Bob raising little feminists as well but you never know.

In our house, we make it clear that men and women can do any job they want (except for the Priesthood and, yes, I believe in that as well, but that’s for a later post) and we make it a point to show our daughters that. The Bear goes with Daddy to work and sees that men and women are at the office. Our pediatrician is a woman whereas our family doctor and my OB/GYN are men. We point out men and women doing the same jobs whenever we can.

But feminism is not just about work. It’s about a state of mind. Days when I am having a challenging time with the children are days that I constantly remind myself that this is the life that I chose and to be honest, I wouldn’t change a thing.

What are your thoughts? Is every woman a feminist at heart? Are we who choose the role of Stay Home mother hurting the vision of female independence? Tell me your thoughts!



Filed under breastfeeding, Catholic, cloth diapers, eco-friendly, feminism, history, life, mothering

7 responses to “What makes a feminist?

  1. What’s funny is that it never occurred to me that anyone could be offended by my Duggar statement because, as I see it, I’m just stating to the obvious. And the overtly tongue-in-cheek nature of that comment was designed specifically to cut straight through to the feminists who don’t think women should be breeding any more. I’ve known MANY so-called-feminists (my goodness, just visit the Jezebel site sometime) who claim that women shouldn’t be procreating anymore. That comment is designed to show those women that Feminism will go extinct if Feminists aren’t having kids. That woman who posted the “Families Against Feminism” link is a PRIME example of why feminists need to be breeding.

    • Thanks for your comment, Gina! I never thought that your Duggar comment was bad at all so I was really surprised at the ire that it drew on the FuzziBunz page. I hate how we as mothers tend to polarize ourselves, instead of looking at what unites us as moms. I am sure that people consider it to be a “trend” but I am glad that we are trending toward a more natural state of being, especially if that is what makes you happy as a mother.

      Thanks for visiting!
      Pax Christi!

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  4. I also do a Thursday Giveaway Link Up I hope you will come link up your giveaways. Also my sister and I do a Keepin’ Company Thursday which is a follow me meme. http://traci66.blogspot.com

  5. Catherine

    I’m sorry, I think if you are going to proclaim yourself a feminist (without a half hour discussion of how you are redefining it), then you have to go along with the culturally accepted perception of one — a ranting, screaming man-hating, pro-abortion, unfeminine to the extreme, liberal. A feminist like Hillary Clinton who thinks our job is to “stay home and bake cookies” and has nothing but disrespect for those of us who have given up our careers for the sake of family. I agree with so much of what you say, and think we’d probably have a great time going to lunch together, but I do not agree that I’m a feminist — I want no part of that word, and in fact, feel insulted if someone is assuming I am one just because I home birth, breastfeed, cloth diaper, home school and the rest.

    • Great points, Catherine! And I wonder if that is part of the issue… the societal accepted norm of what a feminist is? I had a convo with a good friend about this very subject last night and she brought up the same points you did! Maybe we need to come up with our own pigeon-holing, catch all word!

      Pax Christi!

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