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Tiny Tyger, Baby Bear and Me: Yes, I'm Still a Feminist!

Saturday 25 July 2015

Yes, I'm Still a Feminist!

People are complex.  At least we all like to think we are, anyway.  I suspect most people have seemingly contradictory elements in their personalities and lives to a greater or lesser extent.  Not many people actually fall into a stereotype completely, as much as we like to try and hammer them into those cliched shapes.

I am a vegetarian all for recycling and foreign aid...who is also completely for vaccines and GM crops.

I am a pro-breastfeeding, 'baby wearing', previously co-sleeping mummy.  In many ways I fit the 'attachment parenting' mold...but I use disposable nappies and - shock, horror - did controlled crying with both cubs.

I have been an atheist since I was abut eight, I love Richard Dawkins and still get upset thinking about the death of Christopher Hitchens...and I'm pretty close to my fundamentalist Christian aunt (hi! - she kindly reads my blog, too).

I have a degree in English Literature, love Shakespeare and Blake and Charlotte Bronte and T.S. Eliot...but I can't stand Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights.

I drink five or six cups of tea a day...but enjoy the odd cup of cof-  Ha!  I couldn't finish that.  Of course I don't drink coffee - it's disgusting.

And then there's the fact I'm a feminist...who is a stay at home mum and who took her husband's name once married.

There are many stereotypes when it comes to feminism.  According to the less intelligent members of various comment sections on the internet a feminist is an ugly, probably 'butch', man-hating bitch.  I'm not going to insult your intelligence by explaining why that's a moronic assumption.  I refuse to believe any of the clearly superior beings who read my blog would hold such a cliched and idiotic view.  Whilst we're on the subject, is the whole bra burning thing still a feminist cliche?  Or is it a bit outdated now?  Because after having two kids and stopping breastfeeding I'm struggling to find any bras that fit me and between backs riding up on some bras, my nipples trying to peek over the tops of others and the rest crushing the life out of me, I'm about ready to burn the whole damn lot of them!!

Anyway, as insidious as the ugly man-hater stereotype is, it is less hurtful than the view often put forth by some feminists that if you choose to stay home with your children instead of work you are somehow letting down the cause or cannot be considered a feminist.  I will try to tread carefully because I am not looking for a SAHM vs working mum argument.

When we talked about having children, the Wolf and I discussed our expectations and priorities.  We both preferred the idea of having one of us stay at home with the children rather than work, at least whilst they were young.  It was important to both of us.  The Wolf offered to be the one to stay at home (incidentally, he also offered to take my surname when we married but after conducting a highly specialised survey of my Facebook friends to find out which name sounded better for a writer, I decided to take his name) but it wasn't very practical.  We wanted the cubs to be breastfed for a year or so and his career had a higher earning potential (I'll come back to that).  Plus, I wanted to stay at home with the kids.

I don't think I should feel ashamed to admit that but part of me does.  I have read enough times that I am failing as a woman and a feminist if I don't have a job because my kids will grow up thinking a woman's place is in the home, because I shouldn't rely on a man to support me, because after the cubs are grown up and have left home (assuming they can but that's a whole other blog post) I will be left without a career or anything of my own, because I'm perpetuating the misogynistic cycle by being an ineffective little housewife instead of a productive member of society.

Well, bollocks to that.

Feminism is about equality.  You know the best way to ensure equality?  Choice.  Give people choice.  How is pressuring women into work any better than pressuring them to stay at home??  And, yes, I know women who do go back to work also have certain judgements and assumptions levelled at them (and according to all research done recently are also still expected to do the majority of housework and organising childcare even when working the same hours as their partner).  I'm not saying they have it 'easier'; in fact, it's all part of the same problem (as is the taboo surrounding stay at home dads and I won't even start with the problems single parents face because that could spiral into paragraphs and I should really think about wrapping this post up soon).  I am also aware that the pay inequality in this country - and most  other countries - means even when there is the illusion of 'choice', a couple is basically forced into choosing for the woman staying at home because of a low salary.  As I said earlier, the Wolf's earning potential was higher than mine.  He works in a fairly typically male-dominated line of work, which pays better than the sort of work I was likely to get.

We still have a very patriarchal system set up, which both steers girls and boys towards certain careers and then rewards the ones for boys more highly.  This, in turn, gives everyone less choice and I would love to see that change.  I already wrote about some of my thoughts on gender stereotyping in my post Yes, I bought My Son a Dress.  However, when people - like me - are lucky enough to have a choice I don't think it's helpful or very helpful to the cause of feminism to try to limit that.  The way to equality is to strive towards everyone having opportunities.

The way I have chosen to use my intelligence and education  is by spending most of my time with the cubs and teaching and nurturing them.  You know what, not just my intelligence and education but also my compassion, humour, dedication and all manner of other characteristics because actually intelligence and qualifications in Maths and English aren't the only attributes worth having regardless of what our current government (who very much encourage the notion that making money is the only worthwhile expenditure of time) might think.  One of the most important things I'll be teaching the cubs is that men and women are equal and both are deserving of respect and kindness.  And I won't stop there because when you believe in equality and choice and opportunity for everyone, this is the case regardless of other arbitrary qualities like race or sexual orientation or - importantly for the cubs - regardless of whether someone has a disorder like ASD.  I think the best thing for both me and my cubs is for me to stay at home with them.  That is my choice based on my situation and values and children and experience.  As a feminist, I would love to live in a world where every parent has the equal opportunity to make those sorts of choices.

Except for the coffee drinking Wuthering Heights fans.  Frack those guys.

My Random Musings

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At 26 July 2015 at 23:59 , Blogger Lux G. said...

Powerful statements there. I believe to empower someone really is to give them a choice. And that is what feminism is about. Having the voice for yourself and knowing that you are heard.

At 27 July 2015 at 02:14 , Blogger Unknown said...

Feminism is about not being limited by our gender but being able to do and be what we are. There is no reason that women cant be a feminist and choose to stay at home with heir kids. When was being a feminist about being forced to do the opposite. Great post. I couldn't agree more. As a woman I want to be free to shine and show the skills I have in the way I choose. #anythinggoes

At 27 July 2015 at 06:13 , Blogger Random Musings said...

There will always be the extremist feminist who believe that to "show the patriarchy" you must return to work and do this and the other to be a "real" feminist. I don't get this way of thinking - how is a woman dictating what you must do any better than a man dictating it? Feminism in its true sense is about equality and choice. Making the choice to be a sahm doesn't mean you're not a feminist. It means you are a woman confident enough to make your own decisions!
Thanks for linking up to #AnythingGoes

At 27 July 2015 at 06:13 , Blogger Lady Nym said...

Absolutely. Thanks for reading.

At 27 July 2015 at 06:16 , Blogger Lady Nym said...

Exactly. I'm thrilled women are gradually becoming more equal in the work place (though, there's a way to go yet) but just because we were kept out for so long doesn't mean we should be forced in now (and on the flip side, I would also like to see more men able to be SAHDs without being judged as being 'less of a man' for not 'providing for the family').

At 27 July 2015 at 06:19 , Blogger Lady Nym said...

Absolutely. It's completely hypocritical to fight one group prescriptive rules by replacing them with your own.

At 27 July 2015 at 14:22 , Blogger Unknown said...

I go out to work and my husband is a stay at home dad but I in no way see myself as a feminist. I guess it's not a group I've ever identified with. Maybe my views on feminism are outmoded and ill educated but I've always felt that feminism went beyond equality to being anti-men and that's not something I want to be part of. I believe in equality for both sexes and in woman being free to make their own choices but I have been made it feel that this is a watered down version of feminism that isn't enough for many true feminists. Anyway sorry I'm woffling - good though provoking post :) #anythinggoes

At 28 July 2015 at 21:33 , Blogger Michelle said...

Great Post! I think you have the right to choose what you want. I personally don't like labels but I have been told that I'm a feminist. By the way, I love coffee and while I don't hate Wuthering Heights, I'm more of a Mary Shelley fan. Just thought I'd share that with ya. Thanks for sharing!

At 28 July 2015 at 22:25 , Blogger Lady Nym said...

I love to hear about families with stay at home dads.

I think the confusion stems from the fact that feminism is defined as the 'advocacy of women's rights' BUT the other part of the definition is that this is based on *equality* of men and women.

As with all groups of people, you tend to hear about the extreme edges more than the majority of level-headed people. I know many people who are feminists and believe in equality of the sexes. However, I do also know a few who *are* feminists but - like you say - wouldn't identify as such because of the negative connotations the word carries.

Thanks for reading and commenting!

At 28 July 2015 at 22:27 , Blogger Lady Nym said...

Haha. I'd take Frankenstein over Wuthering Heights any day!

Thanks for reading.

At 30 July 2015 at 14:33 , Blogger thesingleswan said...

Hi, I really enjoyed reading your post. You write really well! Must be the influence of Shakespeare and Wuthering Heights! There are so many stereotypes about Feminism and feminists that we really do need to just ditch the label altogether. It has so many negative connotations and means different things to everyone. To my mind Feminism is about choice and it is about equality. If a woman or man wants to work then they should be able to do so or not. I really like the fact that your husband offered to take your name and also offered to be a stay at home Dad. You clearly have a really equal and supportive relationship. Congratulations! P.S. I also wrote a post on feminism. I hate it when people do this so I am really sorry, but you can find the link here http://www.thesingleswan.com/2015/05/28/why-parents-should-teach-feminism/

At 31 July 2015 at 12:58 , Blogger Unknown said...

Thanks this was a great post to read. I hate feeling judged about the choices I make - especially being a stay at home mom! You're totally wrong about the coffee though ;)

At 1 August 2015 at 12:23 , Blogger Lady Nym said...

Thank you. I really like that he offered, too!

I have opened your blog post in another tab. Perhaps I'll actually get a chance to read it at some point in the next couple of days!

At 1 August 2015 at 12:26 , Blogger Lady Nym said...

Haha! So my parents and husband tell me but I can't even stand the smell of it, let alone the taste! Thanks for reading.


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