Saturday, May 07, 2011

A Feminist Critique

Official Navy recruiting poster
I'm a recovering feminist. I used to subscribe to "Ms." magazine. I used to have a t-shirt emblazoned with the motto, "A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle," and I actually believed it. I was going to have a career in the Navy and if I ever did get married (which I probably wouldn't) or have kids (which I probably wouldn't) I would have someone else do all the mindless domestic chores, the "woman's work," which the feminist movement told me was so demeaning to me. If I played my cards right, perhaps I could marry a docile man who would support my career and stay home to take care of the children that I probably wouldn't have.

Some who know me peripherally might think I'm still a feminist. Although I left the naval service a long time ago to become a stay-at-home mom, I recently earned my black belt in taekwondo. I'm an expert pistol shot (or used to be). I can hammer a nail straight. Yesterday I fixed a toilet.

I believe in the equal value of women in the workplace, government, and society; just laws that give equal protection to women; and instilling in our daughters the motivation and desire to succeed academically and professionally. I believe women are just as smart as men and are capable of handling stressful and difficult situations just as well as men.

Me as a plebe (first year midshipman), c. 1981
But don't call me a feminist. Feminists are angry with men and believe the root of all evil in the world is caused by men. Feminists preach that women must be free from their biology and be like men in order to be valuable members of society. Feminists are so obsessed with being like men that they have euphemisms like "reproductive rights," which actually mean the opposite of what the words mean. They don't want the right to reproduce; they want the right to avoid reproduction. They assist men in being irresponsible for their behavior by giving them an easy way to avoid paternity.

The growing problem of pornography in our culture proves that women are still exploited and are more vulnerable to sexual exploitation than men. In feminism's refusal to acknowledge the differences between men and women, they have contributed to this problem.

Men are no longer expected to be the primary breadwinner in a family, since women are just as capable of bringing home a good salary as men. In fact, men have become the disposable part of a family today as many more women are choosing single motherhood to fulfill their need to become mothers without the burden of finding a suitable mate. (In some cases, there just aren't marriageable men around. As the ratio of women to men on college campuses nationwide nears the 60 to 40% ratio, fewer men are choosing higher education and are instead choosing to live in their parents' basements playing computer games.)

No wonder so many men are jumping on the feminism bandwagon.

My evolution from feminine mystique to feminist critique came to completion with Motherhood. I was determined to bring up my boys without gunplay or violence. Despite my navy experience as a 45-caliber pistol instructor, I didn't own a gun and didn't want them in my house...even play guns. Yet my little boys made guns out of everything. Sticks, Legos, toothbrushes. You name it, they shot, fired and exploded it.

It wasn't just the gunplay that confounded me. I began to notice they'd go into zombie mode whenever flickering images were near. They would throw hysterical tantrums when I'd shut off the television. They've outgrown the TV tantrum, but they're still prone to computer gaming addiction. This has never been a problem with the girls. They might spend hours on the computer, but it's because they're on Facebook chatting with friends, not playing computer games. Though not the stereotypical girly-girl frills and laces types, the girls are more relationship oriented than the boys. Friendships are critical to their well-being. They're more sensitive to the feelings of others. I didn't do anything nurture-wise to make my boys and girls behave differently. They're just wired that way. (Dare I say, God made them that way?) Scientific studies confirm what all mothers and teachers intuitively know: boys and girls are wired differently.

The Wall Street Journal published an article on May 4, 2011, which said the tears of men and women are profoundly different. A study on crying was conducted by Ad Vingerhoets, a professor of clinical psychology who focuses on stress and emotion at Tilburg University in the Netherlands.

It turns out women are biologically wired to shed more tears than men. Men have larger tear ducts, which means women's tear ducts fill up and spill over more quickly than men's. Testosterone can also help put the brakes on crying, which may be the reason older men tend to cry more often than younger men. Tears are full of hormones and proteins. One of the hormones in tears is prolactin, which is a lactation catalyst. Young women have 50% - 60% more prolactin in their bloodstream than young men do, which could also explain why women cry more often than men. In other words, it's not all social conditioning.

Dr. Vingerhoets conducted a project in 37 countries to compare the different rates of crying among men and women. Women in developed Western economies cry much more than men, and much more than women in societies where women have fewer rights, he says.

As to why women in developed countries cry more often than women who have fewer rights, my theory is that women who are infused with modern notions of feminism are so conflicted with competing roles of breadwinner, nurturer, and swimsuit model thinness that they cry more often. After all, modern feminism's mantra has always been that women can "have it all." Having it all has come with a price tag, which is the loss of true femininity, which values women for their femaleness, not for how much they can be like males.

During the five years I served as a naval officer I got married and had three children. I no longer wanted to be a career woman because I felt I wouldn't serve my kids well if I was serving my country. I wanted to give myself totally to my vocation as a mother. When I resigned my commission as a naval officer, I had to write a letter explaining my reasons. I remember writing something about having to make a choice between being a good naval officer or being a good mom. I knew there were lots of people who could fill my shoes as a naval officer but I was the only one who could be a mother to my children. It was an easy decision for me and one I've never regretted. We've since added seven more kids to our family and I've had the privilege of homeschooling them all. I never could have done that if I'd stayed in the navy. I'm thankful for the generosity and support of my dear husband whose tireless devotion to his family enables me to stay home and take care of the kids. In some ways, I feel like I really do have it all.

embracing true feminism


Gina said...

What a wonderful and timely post! I am currently reading The Flipside of Feminism and you have succintly summed up what the authors are attempting to say. I think this book makes some very valid points, but the language is much too polarizing for my liking. You are a great role model to me and I truly aspire to have the grace and wisdom you share.

Dianne said...

The only times I've wanted to be a man were on long road trips, or up in the snowy mountains with lots of layers and snow pants on.

MilitantMom said...

Thanks, Gina! I should have wished a Happy Mother's Day to all belated happy Mother's Day to you.

I have that book on hold at the library and am looking forward to reading it. :-)

Kevin J. Jones said...

I enjoyed this very much, since I've had to re-think feminism too.

I do wonder about this part:

"I believe in the equal value of women in the workplace, government, and society; just laws that give equal protection to women; and instilling in our daughters the motivation and desire to succeed academically and professionally"

I can sign on to a lot of this. But I worry that anti-discrimination equal protection laws just end up banning all non-feminist businesses.

Back in the day, I'm told, employers used to show favoritism towards married men with families.

Today, even moderate feminist laws end up preferring career-minded unmarried women. Housewives benefited more under the old system because it was easier for their husbands to advance & get better pay, and so be better providers.

This change has a profound effect on our culture. Right now most all newsrooms and movie studios are feminist by default, probably because of our feminist laws.

I think I'd rather allow both "patriarchal" non-feminist businesses and feminist-leaning businesses, so long as the businesses were clear about their policies to all employees.

MilitantMom said...

Good point. How can we legislate someone's behavior without compromising individual freedom? If I were an employer, I'd have my own bias about whom to hire. If the job required a lot of heavy lifting, for example, I'd probably choose a man instead of a woman, all other things being equal. If the job required empathy or nurturing (like being an elementary teacher or a nurse), I'd probably prefer a woman over a man. Call me sexist, but I think deep down inside, everyone has their bias. What I meant by my statement was that women, in general, should have equal opportunity in the workplace. In practice, I can see all sorts of difficulties.