Author’s Note: This article discusses marriage in a very heteronormative manner, as the article I am responding to does. However, I do believe that “family” and “marriage” mean more than just woman, man, and child.
Last week, I wrote an article titled “Pink, Glitter, and Feminism” about being a feminine feminist in a world that tends to separate the two. In it, I discussed how people who claim not to be feminists are spreading misconceptions about feminism, and how harmful this is. Coincidentally, I stumbled upon an article circulating the world wide web titled, “I Am Not A Feminist, And That Is Okay,” which does exactly this. At first glance, I was horrified. I always am when people claim that they aren’t feminists, and I assume that they don’t understand A) what feminism is and B) that feminism does in fact benefit everyone. After reading this article, I was even more troubled. There are lots of comments I could make about what feminism is and isn’t (this response article outlines it well), why the author does not understand what feminism fights for, and why it’s a bit extreme to claim that God made women fragile beings and that He was taught us to believe the opposite of feminism.
Instead, I’m just going to tackle an issue that can be difficult to address as a feminist: sexist institutions within the family, which the author of this article claims feminists want no part in.
You may ask, what exactly is a sexist institution? A sexist institution can be defined as “a well-established and structured pattern of behavior or relationships that is accepted as a fundamental part of culture relating to, involving, or fostering sexism” (thank you, Dictionary.com).Interestingly enough, Dictionary.com’s example of an “institution” is marriage. Historically, marriage and childrearing are the most sexist aspects of family life. Today, women can choose not to participate in sexist traditions. The perspective of a non-feminist who supports familial tradition has already been outlined for us—here’s the perspective of a feminist who feels the same way.
Weddings and Marriage
Traditionally, a family starts with the marriage of a man and a woman. According to the author of “I Am Not A Feminist, And That Is Okay,” feminists are not in support of many aspects of marriage, since these things are designed in a way that is inherently sexist. Dowaries, arranged marriages, pure white white dress—historically, these are all ways of oppressing women. Now, I am fully aware that weddings are still riddled with sexist institutions. A father giving away his daughter, a wife taking her husband’s last name, engagement rings…the list goes on.
But you know what? I want an engagement ring. I want it to be pink, for that matter. And I’m still a feminist. I want to wear white and I’m still a feminist. I want my father to walk me down the aisle at my wedding and I’m STILL A FEMINIST.
But, how am I still a feminist? I am still a feminist because I know that some women don’t want rings, and they don’t want to participate in a ceremony that traditionally implies that a man is giving a woman away to another man. Just because a woman chooses to be a part of a legal union and participate in some of these “old-fashioned” traditions does not mean she can’t and won’t fight for women’s rights to resist them. Feminists recognize and emphasize people’s right to choose.
Having Children and Raising Them
The 2015 article “Why Women Choose Not To Have Children” discusses how difficult it is for women in this world to simply not want children, as there is a strong association with being a woman and being a mother (for obvious reasons). This article is saddening, because there is so much pressure put on women (by people such as the author of the article mentioned earlier) to produce children, making the “obvious feminist solution” to encourage women not to have children.
I still want to have children, not because “I’m not selfish” or “I want to have someone that will always love me,” but simply because I want the experience of putting another human being on this earth. For lack of a better cliché, having children is the “miracle of life,” and I want to be a part of that.
On the contrary, popular TIME Magazine article, “The Case For Staying Home” discusses the benefits of being a stay-at-home mother. I read that article and said to myself, “no way in hell.” At this point in my life I can’t genuinely say that I am willing to totally give up being a career woman (career PERSON) simply because I have children. Of course, this is subject to change. It may seem very “feminist” of me to be “against” stay-at-home mothers, but this is untrue. At one time, women had no say in whether or not they stayed at home with their children. It wasn’t a question. In the 21st century, many women choose to stay home with their children and many do not, and feminism supports both choices, because it is the ability to choose that is most important.
But, how am I still a feminist? I am still feminist because I fully support a woman’s choice to give birth to a child. I fully respect and support women who have no interest in children. I am still a feminist because I believe it’s okay to be a stay-at-home mom, or a stay-at-home dad. I believe it’s okay to take a career break to raise children. I also believe it’s okay to take a brief maternity or paternity leave, then go back to being a working parent.
In conclusion, reading “I Am Not A Feminist, And That Is Okay” made me feel pretty bad about myself, because I fully believe that I can be a feminist and love cooking and caring, and take advantage of my ability to have children. I believe that I can be a feminist and still wear a wedding band. I believe that people all over the world who feel they do “want the things that these feminists are fighting for” don’t care if I have children or if I took my husband’s last name, and genuine feminists don’t care either. A woman isn’t less or more of a feminist because she has does or doesn’t have children, or chose to get married and take her husband’s last name. She is a feminist because she believes in gender equality.