You Could Fill a Book with the Things I Don’t Know

This has been on my mind a lot lately, and I think I just need to get it out there and vent a little.  

How can a woman in our current times, with the exception of those chained into oppressive religious viewpoints, profess to not be a feminist?  I find it ridiculous that any woman, or man for that matter, would be under the impression that the playing field is level or would be so irresponsible in not trying to make it so.  I seem to be labeled "radical" in my thinking on this matter, though to me it just makes sense.

Feminism started decades ago to help liberate women from forced roles – the wife, the mother, the secretary, the uneducated, the prostitute.  As it grew feminism had an impact on millions of lives, changed those lives for the better.  It was also grossly misrepresented in the media, particularly relating to motherhood, being a biological occurrence that has risen to sainthood throughout history.  Feminists have been portrayed as nazi, man-hating, martyrs to the womb.  With the exception of the rare case, and every movement has those fanatics, those thoughts and ideas don't correspond to the actuality of feminism.  I'm being short here, of course, but even a cursory approach at research will show that I'm correct in my short take on the history of feminism, and I've completed more than a cursory approach.

As I'm preparing myself to become a mother, thinking about how my life will change and how I will teach my daughter what is valuable and what is not, what is right and what is wrong, I find myself surrounded by women who question my ideas.  I have to shake my head sometimes with incredulity; how could I not feel the conflict between work and home, when women for decades have felt the same?  Why is it that my decisions for my life and my daughter's can easily be turned into a public forum, even though they are private and personal to me and mine?  How, when my husband can accept my decisions, can it be so hard for people I've never even met to understand that I chose not to take his last name when we married?  This judgment for personal matters is, in my opinion, one of the very things feminism was first started to prevent; I am not on trial for my decisions because I am a woman.  No one has ever asked my husband how he could let his wife not take his last name; almost everyone I meet assumes that I'm an unmarried pregnant woman who is lucky her boyfriend hasn't taken for the hills yet.  

I guess I've answered my own question; women, people, who fail to seek out knowledge about feminism and rely instead on one-sided, slanted reports and hearsay are the ones who can feel justified in slamming those men & women who have worked so hard to get us to this point.  People who have no idea who bell hooks is are the ones who are so vehemently opposed, and to something they don't even understand.  Still, ignorance is no excuse, people, and starting your sentences with, "I'm not a feminist, but…" are not a get out of jail free card.

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11 thoughts on “You Could Fill a Book with the Things I Don’t Know

  1. Well, I must say I never got that: why a married woman suddenly should become an other family… Here, you may use your husband's name but it isn't official and it's only done when they don't know your maiden name, probably only by his business/work relations.When you marry (here in Belgium) you still go under the same name as before only you may add his name in front of yours on your mail/… as to say you are a part of the family hisname-hername, again this isn't official. And it never was! Although before women-rights the maidenname wasn't important as a woman didn't have any rights…I'm wondering how countries where this is common this issue will resolve when they finally accept gay marriages… (which is allowed here aswell ^_^)

  2. That's such a great point!! I've not thought about the connection between gay marriage and last names…you have definitely given me something to think on.

  3. When I was a single mother of my 2 oldest kids, I was all about supporting my family by working hard outside of the home. I went to college, became a nurse and worked my butt of to support them. And then I met my hubby. And I still worked. And then we went on vacation and I got pregnant with our now 4 year old. Maternity leave is 52 weeks here in Canada, and I was on sick leave for 13 weeks before my mat leave began. I realized, within those 65 weeks, that I really would prefer to stay at home with my kids. I was so surprised that I wanted to stay home ~ I had worked so hard to become a nurse! So, I decided to begin running a dayhome to still bring in some income while raising the kiddos from home. Now that I have had baby #4, I think I made the right decision…even though I am still sometimes embarrassed to tell people that I am a stay at home Mom. Or that "No, i don't have a work number:" I have somehow fallen into the 'typical' female role ~ and I find myself ENJOYING it! I have even told the hubby that once my youngest day home little girl begins kindergarten (the same year my 4 year old does) that I am not taking more kids. I want to volunteer at my daughters' school…I am so glad that I had a choice in what I wanted to do. I am glad that I was on 'both sides' before I made my choice. And I think that I made the right choice for my family.I expect my daughters, all three of them, to go to college and make do something spectacular with their lives. I want, when they have children, to be able to decide whether or not they want to stay at home with their children or whether they want to return to work. I want my son to make the same decisions…

  4. That's the thing — feminism is all about YOU being able to make the choice for yourself instead of your husband!! It's so hard to explain that; a lot of women feel embarrassed for wanting to stay at home, just as a lot of women feel defensive for not wanting to stay at home. I feel disheartened sometimes because women in both camps clearly still feel judged, and mostly from other women, in my opinion. I have to keep telling myself (and I bet you do too) "this is right for me, this is what I think is best for myself," and try not to get saddened or annoyed by people's quick condensations.

  5. I agree completely! Some people I meet applaud me for my decision to say at home with the kids and others see it as a way for me not to do any "hard" work. But really, I know that my hubby would not trade jobs with me for a day. Taking care of 7 full time kids (4 kids that NEVER leave) is definitely a JOB!!

  6. I have wrestled with an identity crisis ever since I got pregnant. And while I feel a lot better about things now, I still have the occasional pang of guilt because I need to do something other than "just" be a mom.Now, that is not to say that "just" being a mom is beneath any woman!! My only point is that women should do things because the things make THEM happy…not because society tells them that's what they should do or that's what should make them happy.I've blogged many times about the struggle between being a mom and a small business owner, and if I had a dollar for every time someone told me "work could wait" I would be rich. So I should put everything on hold right now…allow all kinds of resentment to build up…until my kids move out of the house? Seriously?My biggest problem is time management. Plain and simple. If I could find balance between my two identities (and yes, I'm kidding myself by saying there are only two! lol) things would be so much easier. But the more I feel pushed into my domestic roles as wife and mother the more I want to rebel and go the other way. I know I do this, though, so I'm working on it. :)I really do think too many people, and women specifically, subscribe to someone else's idea of happiness. And it's why so many of us are just miserable at times. Go to college, get a degree, meet a nice boy, get married, work at a respectable job, buy that nice house in a great school district, and start a family. It's what I always thought I wanted too…but then I realized it wasn't enough. I need to have my own things, too, and tennis just isn't as fulfilling as running my own business. 😉

  7. I just read Mom's comments and I agree with her…in some circles being a SAHM is looked down upon, and I think that's just as bad as chastising women for choosing to work. Like Laura says, it's all about personal decisions and what makes people happy. It's not a one-size-fits-all solution.

  8. All of my life my Mom told me that I was a bad mother because I worked…
    For some of my life, I believed her. Then, I decided that I would make my own decision.
    I stopped working for 4 years when my children were small, and I worked part time (3 shifts per week) for a lot of their childhood. Still, I was either condemned for working, or condemned for not.
    The bottom line is you have to decide what is best for you and your child. At least you get to choose. Toward the end, I HAD to work and travel alot…I had to work because the old ball and chain wasn't.
    It should really be about personal choices. The sad part is that we give a damn what any one else thinks.

  9. Right on right on. I'm happy everyone's talking about this with me – I'm tired of being judged for how I lead my life, and it sounds like you all are too.

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