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Why Feminism Is About Choice

All too often critics of feminism claim that the movement’s central objective is the rejection of domesticity. They tout that feminists are bad mothers, incapable of cooking, perennially single, and in contempt to those who choose to marry or bear children. This belief has pervaded the contemporary media, and is glaringly evident in a past Odyssey article titled, “I Am Not A Feminist, And That Is Okay.” While the author claims that she understands the definition of feminism, she issues a set of assertions regarding its agenda that imply otherwise.

If the feminist movement is repeatedly misinterpreted, how can women and men of diverse backgrounds stand united toward the advancement of gender equality? How can we, as citizens of the western world, recognize and seek to combat the horrors of child marriage and human trafficking, which denies young girls their rights to education, healthcare, personal fulfillment, and most importantly their youth? If we fail to acknowledge that feminism champions freedom of choice, we will fail to move forward as a society that ensures basic human rights for all. Therefore, as a feminist, I seek to counter the author’s misguided assertions regarding feminism and its attitude toward the freedom to live a domestic life.

The author proudly asserts that “it is completely okay to choose to stay home and be a mother” and that “it is okay to like cooking.” Evidently, she appears to be convinced that feminists believe it is not okay to like either of these things, which is completely false. Feminism wishes to ensure that women are free to choose whether or not they will do these things. Perhaps you may not have been robbed of the choice to marry, but many young girls in the Middle East and North Africa have been. By publicly issuing these assertions, you are denying their stories. You implicitly indicate that we live in a world where child marriage is not a reality, but unfortunately we do. I encourage you to recognize this issue because it implies that women have still not been recognized as independent agents. Until the world recognizes that women are capable of determining the life they wish to lead, women will be viewed as subordinate beings. It is not wrong to choose to marry or bear children. However, it is wrong to deny women the choice to marry or bear children.

While the author claims that she “does not want the power that men are assumed to have”, she mistakenly implies that this leaves her free to “be a mom who takes care of her children.” If society does not recognize that women are free to make their own choices, one is not free to be anything. Rather, their behavior will always be dictated according to their gender. Furthermore, if we innately assign the role of child rearing to women, we adversely affect the way men are viewed as parents and caretakers. For example, due to the fact that women are invariably viewed as nurturing, men are unfairly disadvantaged when they seek to gain custody support. However, feminist legislation, such as the Family and Medical Leave Act, has made it possible for men to solicit dependent care deductions and twelve weeks of paternity leave. In order to liberate men and women, society as a whole must reject gender-based stereotypes. We must not assign specific lifestyle roles to specific individuals, for doing so denigrates freedom of choice.

Yes, it is okay to be a wife. Yes, it is okay to have children. Yes, it is okay to enjoy cooking. What’s not okay is the expectation that one must or must not pursue a life of domesticity based upon their gender. Until we recognize that feminism does not seek to make these decisions for us, we will be stranded in a society of the past.

Tori Shaw is a student at Franklin & Marshall College majoring in Cognitive Science and Creative Writing. She aspires to be an intellectual property lawyer and poet someday, and is currently the Co-Campus Correspondent for F&M's Her Campus chapter.
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