“I’m not a feminist”
Yesterday I provided two definitions of what a feminist is: one from Merrian-Webster and one of my own.
Since then, I’ve seen “I am not a feminist” repeated, in particular at the Blogsisters weblog. I’ve also heard people say that they prefer to use “humanist” rather than feminist.
Shannon did an excellent recap of much of this discussion, ending with a question:
To say you are a humanist inherently implies you are a feminist; as a feminist, does it imply humanism?
To which I answer by repeating my feminist criteria:
- Anyone who believes that women should have equal opportunity for work, equal pay for said work, equal opportunity of religion, equal opportunity to education, equal opportunity to medical care, equal opportunity to speak, equal opportunity to vote, control over what happens with her body, equal say with what happens to her family and her children is a
The operative term in all of this statement is “equal” — feminism is about equality. And there is no concept more precious to the humanist than equality.
Years ago when I was much more aggressive about my opinions, I worked on a large defense project at Boeing. During this project, I shared an office with another woman and two men, one of whom just had his first child.
Now, when this co-worker, let’s call hom Joe for simplicity, was first married, he and his wife made the decision that she was going to stay at home, be a homemaker, take care of him, the house, and the kids. When I asked Joe what his wife did and he explained that she was a homemaker, I was appalled! I couldn’t understand this concept and this idea in the least!
Think of it: In this day and age, a woman choosing to stay at home, becoming nothing more than a helpmate for her spouse. Indeed!
Needless to say, Joe and I got into several very intense conversations on this issue, to the point where our working relationship was becoming strained. Luckily, the other woman in the office, let’s call her Ann, decided to get involved.
Ann took me out to lunch and talked with me about women’s rights, feminism, and equality. When I started going into my usual spiel about Joe and his macho superior attitude, and how his wife sold out our sex, and so on and so on, she stopped me mid-rant.
Ann said that equality had nothing to do with roles, or sisterhood, or whether a woman chooses to stay at home or not. Equality had to do with a person being able to make a choice about what they want to do with their life and then be able to follow that choice. She told me my actions were negating the things that I was fighting for; I was denying Joe’s wife her right to stay at home if this is what she chooses. I was denying her equality because I didn’t happen to agree with her choice.
Have you ever heard the expression, “It felt like I was hit in the face with a 20 pound Halibut”? No? Well, that’s about what I felt like when I heard, really heard, what Ann was telling me.
Equality has nothing to do with sex, or color, or race, or religion, or any other social or biological factor; it has everything to do with individuals being who they are, about making choices, and then being able to follow through with these choices, without fear, without hinderance, and without discrimination. The only pricetag for this freedom is that the individuals must grant this same freedom to others.
I am a feminist. This doesn’t mean I deny equality for men. This only means I seek equality for women. And as I see the world today, women have a way to go before they achieve that equality. And someday if I’m lucky enough to live that long, I may see true equality for all people regardless of sex, religion, philosophy, orientation, color, what have you. And at that point I’ll probably stop being a “feminist” because my goal of equality for everyone will have been achieved.