Feminism is not something I resonate with. Had I lived in the 19th century, I would probably have been a feminist, and if I lived in a Muslim country, I might be one as well. But in 21st century America, where women already have the same rights as men, the idea of getting still more “rights” feels a bit threatening. I don’t want any more rights, especially when these rights seem to entail having a job, paying half the rent, joining the army, lifting heavy boxes, and being fascinated by science. I would rather just decorate cookies and leave the extra rights for somebody else.
In a way, I like where gender relations stand at the moment, how ambiguous they are. I don’t want to go back to a time when women were expected to wear high heels and have dinner on the table when their husband came home (if such a time existed), but I also don’t want to go forward to a time when women have all the pressures and burdens of men on their shoulders. Is there another alternative?
Do you ever think of a nation-state as a living organism? I do. And sometimes I feel that feminism represents our nation’s desire to have all of it’s population involved in taxable labor, and all of it’s population available for the draft, in order to double it’s power. After all, equalizing men and women was always a big focus of communists movements. It meant that no one was exempt from the government’s needs and desires.
Regardless, it is hard for me to see feminism as anything other than a social engineering campaign “encouraging” women to embrace more masculine aspirations. And it hard to see, in a nation already overflowing with masculine aspirations, how funneling more humans into the rat race will make life better for anyone. Do we really need life to run faster and harder, with no one sitting on the sidelines to watch and reflect? Do we really want more lawyers and fewer homemade cookies?
I can see why women don’t necessarily want to stay home and bake cookies, though. We are a nation of masculine values and we respect masculine qualities much more than feminine ones. In the movies, the “strong” female characters tend to be rocket scientists who love to shoot hoops on the side. A “good role model for girls” means a female who puts her career first and rapidly rises to the top. The external self, competing and receiving awards, is placed high above the internal, subjective self. The “office” is the place where you can fulfill your potential. Home is a place to recover from the office, a place where you’ll rot if you linger too long.
To me, women represent the home, and the home represents the inner self. Many aspects of feminism make me feel that the inner self is under attack, being urged to spend more and more of itself seeking external validation. A society can’t tip too far in the direction of the masculine without becoming mechanical, robotic, unable to reflect or decide what has value. Life becomes a game, a game we can never stop playing even when it ceases to be fulfilling.
Sometimes I wonder what it means to be a woman. I think of all the women I have known, mean and aggressive, sweet and kind, cunning and malicious, nurturing and caring… what do they all have in common? So far I have thought of only one thing. They all like to decorate. Maybe cookies, their home, hair, greeting cards, scrapbooks, makeup, flowers, clothes, weddings and theme parties… I have yet to think of a female who doesn’t get a bit giddy when given the chance to express herself aesthetically. Some like to knit, and some want to glue rhinestones to their phone, but they all want to make something pretty. Selecting new towels for the bathroom, making fuzzy teddy bears to hang on the Christmas tree- I like to think these are powerful and important actions, little magic spells that vibrate outwards, setting a course for the future, travelling back in time to rewrite history. In my fantasy, women are the magicians of humanity, and men have traditionally protected them for a reason- because they are valuable.
Now I’d like to get petty for a moment, and list some of feminism’s current sentiments which I do not share.
1. Some feminists are concerned that preteen girls tend to lose interest in math and science.
Good for them, I say! If they are losing interest in math and science, they are probably gaining interest in other subjects, like art and literature. That is the way life works- we all bend towards our own sunshine. In my opinion, the real problem is believing math and science are more important than the subjects girls tend to favor.
2. Some feminists are concerned that women account for only about 5% of the CEOs of Fortune 500 Companies.
This seems like a reason to celebrate! After all, what percentage of humans truly want to devote their life to climbing the corporate ladder? If there are fewer women at the tip tops of these ladders, it could be because they have more opportunity to escape from the pressurized, regimented lifestyle that so many humans feel trapped in. Perhaps this is a sign of chivalry- husbands gallantly allowing their wives to climb down from the punishing ladders while they stay behind to toil.
3. Some feminists are concerned that women are discouraged from being bossy.
I wish! But unfortunately, mean and bossy women are all around me, showing no signs of discouragement. Take a moment to think back through all the people you have known, and- if your life has been anything like mine- you will realize there a quite a few more bossy women in the world than there are bossy men. If women are being discouraged from bossiness, it clearly isn’t working.
4.Some feminists seem to equate female empowerment with promiscuity and self-objectification.
In my women’s studies classes, for example, people would empower themselves by entering “hot legs contests” and that sort of thing. Why do I think this is a bad idea? Because it makes you attractive to the worst sort of men. Some say it’s always flattering to be found attractive, but I disagree. Humans are attracted to all sorts of things- from dead bodies to men’s butts. To feel good about yourself because a sex predator finds you gorgeous is a dangerous habit. Same with being a slut. Sluttishness gets a bad reputation, because it puts the slut in physical and emotional danger. Could it be a decent lifestyle for the Indiana Jones, bungee cord jumping sort of female? Maybe. But generally, people get hurt.
5. Some feminists believe, when a rape has been committed, we should believe the victim.
In this case, I would like to agree, because look around- victims are frequently punished for speaking up while their perpetrators go on to win golden medals of honor. Ugh. But, once again, look around- some women are tricky. And playing the victim is the psychopathic female’s most common method of attack. A rape is like a murder, we have to dig and peer behind the curtains until we find the real truth. We can’t safely assume anything.
6. Some feminists (like Russell Crowe) do weird things like stick the words “#he for she” on their heads with post-it notes.
At first I felt flattered by this. Wow- Russell Crowe likes me! I even imagined myself calling him to borrow twenty dollars in a time of need. But then again, he is also on the side of every cruel and malicious female who ever walked the planet. I imagined one of them calling him to say he shouldn’t give me twenty dollars. And so he didn’t.
Still, I don’t want you to think of me as someone incapable of feminist sentiment. I don’t like it, for example, when women in movies are portrayed as empty shells with nothing living inside. I even stage my own mini-feminist riots by writing these movies one-star reviews on Amazon.
At the same time, being portrayed in a devaluing light isn’t always a bad thing. When people cast us in a positive light, it is all too easy to wallow in that blissful glow and develop the deadly habit of sourcing our self-esteem and self-image from the outside world. When people demean us, at least it makes it a bit easier to cut loose and go our own way.
In the end, I guess I don’t really believe in changing the world. The world is a burrito- try to change it, and you’re just going to end up with an enchilada, a chimichanga… maybe some soft tacos. What’s the point? But if you become yourself- then you are bringing a new ingredient to the table. And eventually, new ingredients will lead to radically new dishes.