A Feminist: To Be Or Not To Be?

NOTE TO MEN, IT’S SAFE TO READ ON!

I’m passionate about women’s rights. If you’re reading this blog, chances are – you are as well. I thought this made me a Feminist. After all, Feminism is all about protecting women and their rights, right? Well, now I’m not so sure. I only began thinking of myself as a Feminist during the last few months. I felt frustrated by the bad name feminism had in society and stood by the statement that I was a Feminist with great conviction. But I hadn’t done my research – silly me.

Reading Kirsten Birkett’s The Essence of Feminism encouraged me to do some research of my own before I formed a belief.

Here’s a very brief summary of some of the main pros and cons traced back to Feminism.

fem·i·nism

[femuh-niz-uh m]
 
noun
1.     the doctrine advocating social, political, and all other rights of women equal to those of men.
 
2.    ( sometimes initial capital letter ) an organized movement for the attainment of such rights for women.

3.    feminine character.

Marriage

Pros:

Awareness and support: Society became more aware of issues such as domestic violence, marital rape and child sexual abuse. This led to the creation and funding of more shelters, rape crisis centres, women’s refuges and other services supporting women and children in dangerous and abusive situations.

Cons:

Higher divorce rates: Due to the introduction of the no fault divorce  and strong anti-marriage teaching in the 1970’s, divorce rates have soared. In her book The Female Eunich, Australian Feminist Germaine Greer expressed her belief that women needed to leave their husbands, regardless of what their husband had (or more to the point, hadn’t) done wrong. Feminists in the 1970s honed in on the nuclear family and painted it as being a patrical institute which oppressed women (this attitude became less popular during the next two decades as society realised the importance of family). The emotional, educational and financial impact of divorce on women and their children is astronomical. We see evidence of this everywhere. Feminism is also usually in favour of same-sex marriage .

Abortion

Pros:

Safer abortions: Feminists fought for the legalisation of abortions. Historically, abortion was illegalised and ‘out of wedlock’ pregnancies were socially unacceptable. This drove some women to having ‘back yard’ abortions which were risky and sometimes fatal.

Cons:

Omission of truth: In her book Fire With Fire, Naomi Wolf laments that during the 1980’s fight for the right to abort, Feminists felt forced to paint abortion in a good light. “It (the campaign) tended to stress the operation as being ‘non-anaesthetized surgery’, ‘like getting your tonsils out’;” she writes. “..even for women who are adamantly pro-choice, abortion can mean loss and mourning… Our obligation to act publicly on behalf of choice did not preclude the responsibility we had, as people with a myriad of choices, to choose privately to at least try hard to avoid pregnancy.” Traditionally, the Feminist movement has taken a strong ‘pro choice’ stand; “My Body, My Choice”  — NOW (National Organization for Women)

Decline in birth of baby girls: Due to sex-selective abortion and some cultures preferring male heirs, female foetus’ are being aborted in higher numbers than males.

Mental illness in mothers: Melinda Tankard Reist, author of Giving Sorrow Words: women’s stories of grief after abortion, sites these examples of the effect an abortion has on many women; Ginny from Melbourne: “I would hear a baby crying in my sleep or I would get up thinking I had to breastfeed or just getting up to check on the baby … No-one prepared me for the years of nightmares, the guilt and the pain.” And Susan: “My self-esteem plummeted, I no longer cared about work, I abandoned my studies, and I drank like a fish. One night I found myself sitting in the gutter, drunk and crying, wondering what the hell was happening to me. It was like something in me died the same time my baby died.”

Employment

Pros: Feminist groups have put a lot of hard work into gaining equal employment opportunities and wages for women. It is now possible for women to work in a range of industries with pay rates usually equal to that of their male colleagues.

Cons: Many women now struggle with the employment subject. As Kirsten Birkett wrote in ‘The Essence of Feminism’. “Many women today have an economic independence that they would not have dreamed of a century ago… However, the price they have paid has been their freedom. For all the rhetoric of choice, social, legal and financial pressures now limit women’s choice to the extent that they cannot choose to keep a household and care for their children.” 

Voting

The fact that women are now able to vote, thanks to the Suffragette, is a definite plus.

I have no doubt that there was (and in some cases, still is) a need for women to rise up and fight against injustice and unfair treatment. I’m just not convinced that Feminism and its core beliefs is the answer we need.

What do you think of Feminism? Would you call yourself a Feminist?

Sources
The Essence of Feminism, Birkett, K
Fire With Fire, Wolf, N
The Second Sex, de Beauvoir, S
The End of Equality, Summers, A
Australian Feminism, Caine, B (Ed.)
Timesonline
AbortionTV
MelindaTankardReist
WomensHistory
NZHerald
OnlineOpinion
Wikipedia
JeremiahProject
Dictionary
RiceFamilyLaw
FamilyLawCourts
 
Images
SwingingFromTheVine
FeministSociety
JesusisSaviour
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8 thoughts on “A Feminist: To Be Or Not To Be?

    • Yep I’m inclined to agree with you Michelle. Advocacy is a much broader term which isn’t pre-linked to other people’s ideals. Thanks for the comment! xx

  1. Great post Joni.
    I find it upsetting that motherhood & staying at home is no longer “enough” or even deemed acceptable in many circles. Especially when this comes up in a church/Christian context, as the Bible is clear about the eternal value of rearing our children.
    I used to call myself a feminist for all the wrong reasons (really, I might just have been anti-male; I find the feminist movement can be so negative). I still think of myself as a feminist, but I really now want to see women empowered through God, and living life the way He intends for each of us (individually, so obviously that will look different for each person).
    This is such a touchy subject! Sorry for the long comment, but I always feel like I have think three times before commenting on the “feminism” or “staying-at-home” issues 🙂 Good on you for writing it all up!

    • Thanks for sharing your thoughts Emma! I agree with your thoughts on being a SAHM. As difficult as it can be at times, it really is more important than we give it merit for. I love hearing your heart on this – sounds like we have pretty similar ideas! I hope the move is going well. Thanks again! xx

  2. One of the biggest problems with feminism (or it seems like it to me at least) is that it seems to base a woman’s value on what she does. Particularly in regards to employment. It would say that women are just as valuable as men so we must do what they do. Which is why you rarely see a feminist advocating being a stay at home mum. I think this message of value from what you do is incredibly damaging to our little girls. We should be saying that we value and love them because of who they are not what they do. I don’t have kids, but I have a 3 month old niece. She’s amazing. I couldn’t love her anymore if I tried. (and she basically does nothing right now – lol). and she will be as love and valued by me no matter what she chooses to do with her life in the future. THAT’S what we should be teaching them.

    The other down side to feminism is the irony that it blurs the line of femininity and masculinity. I like being feminine – wearing dresses and make up, having long hair and looking like a woman. Femininity is good. We should teach and allow girls to be girls and boy to be boys.

    *end rant* 🙂

  3. Wow, Joni. Thank you so much for writing this up. You’ve summed up my exact thoughts on feminism! I used to think I was a feminist because I was interested in women’s issues, but I think advocate is a much better word. I’m grateful to feminism for what it’s done (equal pay, voting, etc) but I don’t consider myself a feminst. Too much hate. Plus, as a Christian I value the traditional family, so I agree that the core beliefs of feminism are not the answer we need.
    This post made my day! Thank you 🙂

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