I am a former feminist.
Despite our shared bonds of breasts, ovaries and male oppression, my feminist sisters have disappointed me. Everything changed, and I had no choice but to leave our 13-year relationship in the dust.
To understand why I walked away, you must first understand why I joined. My father scoffed when my 7-year-old self asked about college, and he informed me, “Girls don’t need to go to college.” Although I lacked my full hormonal functions, I experienced my first mood swing with those words. I was being discriminated against because of my gender, and I was ticked off. A feminist was born.
The Equal Rights Amendment, a proposed amendment to the United States Constitution , was featured in all the news broadcasts of my early youth. The amendment was simple, “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.” In my eyes, it was the most succinct and noble expression of feminism. A woman couldn’t be turned away from a job or an education just because she was female. The courts couldn’t rule in favor of a man simply because he was a male.
Feminism empowered me to stand up for myself. My superpowers came with the onset of puberty. A seventh-grade boy snapped the back of my training bra, and I ripped off the band of his tighty whities as I tried to jerk them over his shoulders. My ill-timed wardrobe choice of white pants led another boy to inform my English class that, “She’s on the rag! She’s on the rag!” A week later I busted him for cheating on a test. An eighth-grade boy received my angry “sexist pig” rant when he told one of my female friends he’d be her boyfriend if she’d show him her boobs.
College was an opportunity to better explore feminism. I took several sociology classes and learned how “the system” keeps women in subservient positions. “Preach on,” said my estrogen-riddled self. There were womyn’s lectures about how we weren’t valued for our minds and why we shouldn’t be treated as sex objects. “My eyes are up here, buddy” became a mantra.
The pinnacle of my feminist experience was a university-sponsored debate between Faye Wattleton, the then-president of Planned Parenthood, and conservative activist Phyllis Schlafly. The National Organization for Women had a table outside the event and I proudly took my pro-choice sign into the auditorium. Schlafly’s supporters held up posters of aborted fetuses, and Wattleton simply responded, “Abortion is no different from any other surgical procedure. All surgical photos are disgusting.” Schalfly made comments about the physical and psychological risks of abortion, but Wattleton shut her down again by talking about the danger women faced in the days of back-alley abortions.
A few weeks after the lecture, a friend told me she was pregnant and didn’t know what to do. Being her good pro-choice friend, I offered to go with her to Planned Parenthood. My friend didn’t accept my offer, but she did go on a week-long drinking bender, which ultimately triggered a miscarriage. The problem was solved in my misguided mind.
My friend, Susan, was murdered by her ex-boyfriend, and I seethed with feminist fury – a young woman killed by a man simply because she didn’t want to date him any more. Mixed with my anger, I also experienced a painful feeling of loss. Susan’s funeral service focused on what a nice person she was, but there was no mention of eternity. I was confused. I wanted reassurance that my friend went to Heaven, so I decided to learn more about the most oppressive man in the history of the world. Yes, I became a Christian.
Contrary to my feminist training, I discovered that Jesus did more for women than any other person in human history. Women were part of his inner circle at a time when men and women did not socialize, His mother received the highest praise a human could get from God, He saved a woman from stoning and pointed out the hypocrisy of her accusers, and He chose to appear to Mary – not any of the men – at his resurrection. He didn’t oppress women; He elevated them.
Over time, parts of my angry feminism dropped away. Both female and male mentors helped me launch my career. I married a guy who loved me for my outspokenness and didn’t want me to be passive or meek. I gave birth to a daughter and realized no career was worth sacrificing her well-being. I recognized there was no great conspiracy to keep me down based on my gender. The only conspiracy was the feminist myth that females were victims, and I refused to be a victim.
I changed, but feminism changed, too. The movement I embraced during my teens and college years slowly changed from “respect and value me for my mind” to “respect and value me for my sexuality.” Women’s thoughts and talents became secondary to their titillation factor, and somewhere along the line, women came to believe that the epitome of feminism was acting as boorish and licentious as drunken frat boys. Miley Cyrus simulated sex acts during a performance, and feminists called it “empowering.” Beyonce spread her legs and writhed during prime time television, and they labeled it “sexy” and “provocative.” A mom told her daughter she didn’t have to act out sexually to get love and attention, and feminists called it “repressive” and “archaic.”
My feminist beliefs changed the most when my son was born and I recognized the bigotry he would face solely because of his gender. His boy-ness is continually stifled by societal efforts to make him more feminine – no rough housing, stay in your seat, and don’t play games with good guys and bad guys. While every child is unique, boys tend to be louder, more active and more physical than their female peers. It’s not a bad thing; it’s just different.
Being female is also different. Unlike men, we can carry life in our wombs and feel every sweet flutter and little bump of our children as they grow. We can love them the moment we know they are there, while our men often fumble through infancy before those emotions surface. The feelings are the same for adoptive mothers and the children born from their hearts. In my mind, motherhood is the ultimate expression of female empowerment because we have the beautiful ability to create and nurture life in others. Motherhood is not oppression; it’s elevation.
Am I still a feminist?
I think “woman’s advocate” is a better term for me.
I will never stop fighting for women to be valued and respected for their minds nor will I ever stop teaching my daughter and other young women that they do not have to be victims in this world. However, I am deeply saddened that much of today’s “feminism” focuses on sexuality over intelligence and talent, and I fight to protect my daughter, son and their peers from the ramifications of that belief system.
Critics will call me “repressive” or “archaic” for my beliefs, but I prefer different labels. Call me a “strong and mature woman” or better yet, call me “enlightened by experience.”
I welcome your feedback on this blog, but I will not tolerate personal attacks against me, my family or another commenter. It’s okay to disagree, but be respectful. Attack the issue, not the person. Vulgarity, racism, religion bashing, slams about sexual orientation, name calling, shameless self promotion, and generally being a jerk to others will send your comment to the trash bin. So play nice.