Sunday, September 13, 2015

Feminism?


My daughter and I are directors of a non-profit organization (We Are Ladies First, Ltd.) that mentors young women in our community. We agree that our cause is a worthy one. Take one look at the behavior of many of the young ladies in our neighborhoods, on our social media timelines, or in the music videos that permeate the airwaves, and it becomes clear that there is a problem. While we agree on the existence of the problem, we hold very different viewpoints on what the solutions are.

Recently, my daughter launched a campaign online using our organization’s Instagram page. She encouraged women to channel their inner “Rosie the Riveter” and post photos of themselves in the iconic pose. The overall message was “Girl Power!”  While I champion that message, the image sparked an interesting discussion.



Jokingly (or perhaps only half-jokingly), I stated that I'd rather not roll up my sleeves and get my nails dirty. "Let the boys do that," I said. My daughter gave me a side-eye and questioned my statement. The word “feminism” came up, and she asked whether or not I considered myself a feminist. I wasn’t sure. I wanted to be absolutely sure of the meaning. So I looked up the word.

fem·i·nism
ˈfeməˌnizəm/
noun
1.    the advocacy of women's rights on the grounds of political, social, and economic equality to men.

We agreed that both of us are advocates for women’s rights. Women should be allowed to run for political office. We should be allowed to vote, to run companies, and to earn equal pay for equal work. But that seemed to be all that we agreed on. My daughter maintained that women should have the right to participate in male contact sports such as football in a co-ed capacity, as long as they have equal skills to their male counterparts. She argues that Rhonda Rousey could realistically FIGHT Floyd Mayweather if a such thing as coed boxing existed. I asked her if she would be okay with Floyd punching Rhonda in the face during a boxing match, and she said that she would be fine with that. I would not. Call me crazy, but whether they are equal in height, weight, and even physical agility there should never be an occasion for a man to physically fight a woman. Even if she steps in the ring and invites it. 

My daughter also insists that there are no gender specific toys, activities, games, or jobs. Her belief is that little girls should be allowed to play with cars, and action figures and that boys should be allowed to play with Barbies and nail polish. She lectures me at length about my inability to work a power drill, open a tightly closed jar, or change a flat tire. When her three year old daughter stated that “football is for boys”, my daughter’s outrage was immediate.

Meanwhile, my views are a bit different.  I think it’s natural for children to identify certain things as gender specific. Pink is for girls. Earrings are for girls. Hair ribbons, nail polish, ruffles, glitter – all for girls. Matchbox cars are for boys. Football, wrestling, ice hockey, and rugby are for males, in my opinion. My views are more traditional. In a perfect world, I believe that both males and females should be able to work outside of the home for equal pay if they possess equal abilities. Once back at home, though, I am comfortable with a man who takes out the trash, makes home repairs, shovels snow, and maintains the cars. In return, the lady should maintain the household, be the main caretaker for the children, and add those feminine touches that make a house a home. When I go to the nail salon, it used to be an exclusively female crowd. But not anymore. When my sons used to go to the barber shop, there used to be an exclusively male crowd. But these days, those things are no longer true. 



I'm disturbed by this trend. While I may be in the minority, I believe that feminism shouldn’t be about trading in our Jimmy Choos for combat boots. I like my Jimmy Choos. I don’t want to play every role in society. Instead, I’m comfortable in my femininity, and I am attracted to men who are comfortable in their masculinity. I don’t want a man who acts like a woman. And the man I’m meant to be with will be comfortable with me and all my dainty ways. He should open doors for me, and pull out my chair for me at the table. He shouldn’t assume that I’m one of those women who would see those gestures as demeaning or condescending. In some cases, I wonder if chivalry is dead because women unintentionally killed it with our staunchly independent stance.

The more I talk about this with my friends and family members, the more I realize that I am one of the few women who hold this viewpoint. Many of my married girlfriends pull up a chair at the table every night to enjoy a meal their husbands prepare. Both spouses work outside of the home, yet it’s the husband who does the domestic work - preparing all of the meals, doing the children's hair, even sewing. This arrangement works perfectly for them, and they have enjoyed long, happy marriages. For all I know, these women may change tires, wield power tools like a skilled professional, or shovel their own walkways. I don't claim to have all of the answers. In fact, I could be completely old fashioned in my thinking. What are your views on feminism? Is my daughter right? Am I right? Or is it as I suspect – that the truth is somewhere in the middle? Share your thoughts in the comments below, and let’s keep the conversation going.

P.S. I smell a future novel here. J














                                                                   

1 comment:

  1. I think that the truth does indeed lie somewhere in the middle. I agree that I wouldn't want to see a boxing match between a male and a female as I wouldn't feel comfortable seeing that. Also, (and admittedly, I may be bowing down to old fashioned stereotypes) I can't see it achieving an outcome as to who the better boxer was on the night. If a female one, there would be more emphasis on a woman winning against a man, as opposed to being the usual discussion as to who outboxed/outskilled who. Conversely, if the man one, people would say that would be expected.
    I agree that as females as a whole chivalry has been lost because of our excessive need to be seen as independent. But to me, the issue of chivalry and male/female roles should focus on the intention. Of course I can open a door, stand up on public transport or pull out a chair for me to sit down, but if a man does that (or offers his seat) it's nice as it reflects a good upbringing in terms of manners and respect. But it should make both men and women more thoughtful in general, e.g. I think because of those values I saw instilled in the males around me, I'm more conscious of looking out for people on public transport who may need a seat (due to a woman being pregnant, or an older person, or one with a disability).
    I think females should learn to do some things like changing a tyre, simple home repairs, not as a defiant need to illustrate that they don't need a man, but to be self-sufficient. I can't speak for the States but in the UK, family structures have changed a lot so for example there may not be a male figure around to do such things and you don't want to end up relying/waiting for someone to help you if your tyre needs changing late at night, or be overcharged by someone for a relatively simple task. Ironically, as you mentioned, men may be dissuaded from offering to help a woman with a tyre change for fear of being criticised for being sexist.
    Equally, men should have some cooking ability, again, not to show that they're better than women, but to avoid an excessive reliance on takeaways/processed/unhealthy food, or waiting for a female figure to be around to cook them a meal.
    So for me it's much more about why you're choosing to do something that's perceived as predominantly a male or female role, and if it's more about helping you personally or the wider society as a whole, then why not.
    Lots of London love, Kemi xx

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