Friday, September 16, 2005

Feminism: The next generation?

I have been thinking a lot lately about wether I am a feminist or not. I am a stay at home mom. I plan to continue to be one, at least part time, for the near future. When I tell women of a certain age this (the ones who burned their bras in the 70's and wore power suits in the 80's), they seem somewhat dissapointed. It is as if I am letting them down; failing to reach for all the opportunities they have opened up to me. And so I ask myself, am I a feminist?

I like to think of myself as part of a new generation of feminists. I am like a lot of women I know. I vote. I went to university and outsmarted many of the men. I had a profession where I was paid the same salary as my male counterparts. I wear pants more often than skirts. I have opinions and ideas of my own, and I expect men to listen to them. But I am a devoted wife. I have grown my hair long again, because my husband thinks it is nice that way. I consider it important to stay at home with my children until they are in school. I am learning to clean house, and keep a well organized home. I am learning to decorate. I even, when I remember, wear mascara every day. I am rediscovering femininity of a kind that has not been popular in the last few decades, but that seems to be reemerging.

I am glad that I have the rights that I have. I use those rights when I need them. But I don't want to take a man's place in the world. I don't want to be a man; I want to be a woman.

I want to bear children and breastfeed them. I want to be the person that anchors their small, impressionable lives in these early years, not a babysitter or a daycare worker. I want to be able to be proud of my house, and be able to run it well. I want to learn to bake bread, and cook home made soup and can the apples on my tree. Essentially, I want to regain all the babies that were thrown out in the bathwater of early, militant feminism. And then, once I've done that, I want to have the right to go back to work and be a nurturing and wise highschool teacher, and a caring mother and wife.

So, I guess what I'm saying is that I honour what past generations of women have given to me -- and that is the freedom to choose to marry or not, to have children or not, to work or not. Does this make me a feminist? I'm still not sure, but I'm working on it.


Anna Banana said...

That's a great question Jilly, and one I struggle with as well. Becoming a mother has altered me so deeply that it's hard to find any labels that fit. I find that my ideals concerning breastfeeding, natural living and homebirth help me to feel like I am more enlightened than past generations of women in the same position. I use cloth diapers by choice, not necesity and take pride in it. I feel that I am on the path upwards in the development of women's rights. and I wouldn't be able to be at home, being the woman I am if it weren't for the women of my mother's generation teaching their sons to be the kind of men, my husband is.

Thanks for getting me thinking...

Savannah said...

Jilly, I can't wait to forward this commentary to my mother! You have put beautifully into words some of the very same things I've been feeling.

If only I HAD an apple tree in my yard... And I am right there with you, trying to learn how to run a home. I am struggling now with being domestically challenged, LOL.

Jen said...

"Feminism is the radical notion that women are people."

A feminist - a woman who believes she has the right to be whatever she wants to be - whatever that MAY be. An engineer, a teacher, a mother (stay at home or otherwise), a firefighter, a chef...

We teach our girls that they can be whatever they want, right? I would say in doing that, we are being feminists, and that we are raising the next generation of feminists.

The question to me... are we raising our sons to be feminists? Do our boys and men believe that girls and women are allowed to be whatever they want? Does my brother-in-law believe that I am as much of a modern, fulfilled woman as my sister because I choose to be a teacher and a mother instead of an engineer like my sister? Or does he believe that I have bought into the notion that society expects me to do typical "female" things?

The key words: I CHOOSE.

Being allowed to choose - that's radical, for both boys and girls. And I think that's feminism!