THE FEMINISM DEBATE

I’m not sure why there is a debate about feminism right now, but it apparently began on Tumblr with a site called “Women Against Feminism.” Then David Futrelle added a feline perspective (arguably the most entertaining response) called “Confused Cats Against Feminism.” That’s one of his photos at left. With all the devastating and critical things going on in the world right now, debating the definition and substance of feminism doesn’t seem like a big priority, but hey I’ll join in…briefly.

I was in high school in the Sixties and I longed to be part of the revolution that was going on in America — the anti-war movement, the sexual revolution, women’s lib. Obviously, as a high school student my revolutionary options were limited, but I did manage to adopt some of the emblems of the feminist movement. I went bra-less, I stopped shaving my legs and my armpits. When I went to college I refused to let a man open a door for me and figured that sexual liberation meant that women could treat sex as casually as men did. (Note to all the women of the world: don’t try that at home, it never works out well.)

I was clearly too young to truly understand the deeper resonance of the women’s movement — the desire for equality in the workplace, pay that was commensurate with what men were getting, reproductive rights. And I think many people then and now still hear feminism and picture hordes of angry bra-less women with hair under their arms yelling at men for being chivalrous. May I just quickly point out that a lot of those early feminists had to get breast lifts later on after years of going bra-less, some probably had to get nose jobs after doors slammed into them — you know the ones they wouldn’t let men hold for them. And others shudder remembering some of the men they had sex with, just because they could. But I digress.

It is important to look at all aspects of a movement, not just the flashy images, and it is quite true that women’s rights have a come a long way thanks to the feminist movement, which changed things in America. But it’s also true that the less important aspects — whether to let a man hold a door for you or pay for your dinner — still remain in the collective psyche. So the definition of feminism does seem to be a bit murky and in need of clarification.

I had a dream last night in which I was asking a man if he would build a gazebo for me. It wasn’t a man I know, but he was very attractive, and in the dream it was extremely important to me that he do this. When I woke up I thought, I need a man who would build a gazebo for me. I have no idea where this puts me on the feminism scale. But if anyone suggests that to be a feminist I should build my own gazebo, then I am not a feminist. See? The definition is murky. I believe in equal pay and equal rights, and one of my rights is to leave construction jobs to men.

 

 

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