Archives for category: Let me Speak

Last week when I read about the comments to female Bernie Sanders supporters by Gloria Steinem and Madeleine Albright to fall in line behind Hillary Clinton, I was surprised that their message was one of judgment and derision. I always thought that feminists tend to raise women up, not tear them down. Right? I initially shrugged both of them off as bitter and out of touch. I read an article today about Adele’s Vogue cover photo, prominently displaying a tattoo of her son’s name, and how she touts motherhood in ways that other famous women have not been able to get away with. I believe the author of that article suggested that perhaps she is not a feminist if her family has higher priority than her art. Really? So, naturally this got me thinking. Am I a feminist? Can someone like me be a housewife and a feminist? This is not a new question. I have struggled with this personally over the past 5 years, as have many others. I have always considered myself to be a feminist, I believe in equal opportunities for women, and yet I gave up my career to stay home and raise my children. When I first decided to stay home, I was deeply conflicted about living on someone else’s merits. I always considered myself to be an equal partner, but once I gave up my earning power, I felt inferior in my relationship. I put that pressure on myself, this was not coming from my husband. Feminism is about achieving equal status as men in work, in politics, and in life. Feminism is deeply rooted in the notion that procreation is not the end-all for women. I understand what the movement was rejecting, but now that I somewhat embody those rejections, I have to say that I don’t think I am a feminist.  And I’m ok with that. However, I still believe in the basis of feminist principles and I’ve modified them according to my situation.  I don’t know if there is a word for this yet, I’m sure it’s somewhere in the post-feminist movement, but there has to be a place for women like me, women who elect to put others first and are equally contributing to society. I really do wonder if the movement is dead. It’s fascinating to me, that at a time when biologically I am the most feminine that I have ever been in my entire life, having given birth, that I feel the least feminist. Is that really the intention behind this movement? I guess I always saw feminism as advocating for myself, and making elbow room for my career, and not being willing to compromise. I never extended those principles into motherhood. Is it even possible? These days,  I have taken on a more holistic and conciliatory approach to my life and family in that everyone plays a unique role, and yes, sometimes it is gender normative, yet we are all equal and appreciated. I still advocate for myself, but the difference now is that my career is not in the public sphere. I know, a big feminist no-no.

When did I make this switch? I’m really not sure. When I first became a mother, it was a jarring transition: physically, emotionally, and in my marriage. Up until that point, my husband and I shared the load, and I had every intention of continuing that equality into our growing family. Something changed though. Carrying a baby in the womb and giving birth is a completely female experience, there is no equivalent for men.  That experience was my first clue that the balance of power shifts sometimes and it’s not something to fear, but rather embrace. It is not and cannot always be equal. And that’s ok. If anything, having a baby was the first time, that as a woman, I felt superior to men. Yup, superior. That is a pretty awesome feeling.

So where does this leave me? I’m not sure. I feel women should have equal say and equal compensation and equal rights, but also that we should be open to different interpretations of what it is to be a strong woman. I don’t feel like I am a subordinate for making the choice to put my family first. In fact, I feel the opposite. I find empowerment in bringing happiness, love, and order to my household. While I am home, I have also helped other working women by caring for their children, and I feel that I am helping them achieve their highest potential. I’ve elected to take on these roles because I thoroughly enjoy them, not because I was told that I should enjoy them. What would Madeleine or Gloria say about that?!

Read this.

The author touches on many topics like pandering and invisibility and white privilege and motherhood, but to me, her take on sexism so clearly articulated what I had experienced in my short time blogging, that even as someone who is keen on it’s presence, I needed to be reminded that it was there.

When I started blogging earlier this year, I decided that I would write about topics that are important to me, as my creative outlet, and to keep my writing skills fresh. I guess I never thought much more into it, about who my audience is and how it will be received. Early on, I would ask my husband to edit them, because I was self-conscious of my grammar. On at least one occassion, he would offer an opinion or praise and sometimes I would go back and edit based on his feedback. But, I quickly didn’t like going down that road, so the next few times I needed editing help, I would ask him just to check grammar and keep his opinions to himself. Ha! (He didnt take any offense to this and is incredibly supportive of me). What I was doing, without realizing it, is what I was trained to do my whole life, was getting permission/approval/praise/whatever you want to call it from someone other than myself, because as a woman, I don’t/shouldn’t have total control over my body, mind, or spirit. Needless to say, I won’t be doing that anymore because 1)I want to be true to myself and 2) I want to see what it feels like to write like a man. Well, sort of. That’s my goal. I still heavily censor myself because of my own insecurities about offending people, but I’m working on it.

Now, I don’t consider myself a writer, because I didn’t study it in college, but I do enjoy it very much. While most of the feedback from my blog has been positive, I did have 2 digs: that I complain too much (not even sure this person read my blog) and that it’s just another mommy blog, which is offensive to me because we don’t call men’s blogs ‘daddy blogs.’ Care to guess their genders? Men. But I digress. Don’t get me wrong, I get feedback positive and negative on individual posts, almost exclusively by women. My point is that I think I was subjected to criticism of the overall integrity of my blog by men, because I wasn’t pandering to a male audience. My posts are either not interesting or irrelevant to them, so the only response they had was to ‘put me in my place.’ I hadn’t made the connection at the time, but reading this article solidified it for me.

So naturally, I am going to keep writing what I want, when I want. And from now on, I’ll be more aware when my gender intersects with my writing. Thanks, Claire Vaye Watkins, I enjoyed your piece.

What did you take away from the article?

I’d like to introduce a new segment of my blog called Let Me Speak. First and foremost the purpose of this segment is to give you a chance to express your voice, which on any given day might be suppressed because children and work and life can be so consuming that you forget you once had one.

I will give you a topical issue to consider and invite your comments in a safe, friendly environment. Here’s my thinking: I’m home all day, every day and I like to read the news. I challenge myself to think about the different angles and more often than not, I have opinions about what I am reading that I would like to express to someone (not my 4 year old). But here’s the catch, I don’t want to create a forum where conversations spiral into negativity, there are plenty of other avenues for that. On my blog, I want everyone to feel safe to express their opinion, to see what others are saying and to leave the conversation open-ended for further thought. Be respectful of others! If you just want to read along and keep your thoughts to yourself, that works too, the point is to get you thinking!

Here’s my first topic: Systemic Racism.

It’s been on my mind and it’s been in the news. I can’t help but feel guilty that I am a participant, whether I want to be or not. I have benefitted and continue to benefit from a society that oppresses a huge subset of people for no logical reason. The system is rigged to benefit white people like me. The worst part is that it is so ingrained in our culture that many people dispute its existence. Like many other allies, I scratch my head and think ‘what can I do about it? What can any of us do about it?’

I came across two articles today that address this very thing.

The first is Hillary Clinton’s recorded discussion with Black Lives Matter activists in New Hampshire last week. An activist asked presidential candidate Clinton what she could do about systemic racism and her response was, “I don’t believe you change hearts, I believe you change laws, you change allocation of resources, you change the way systems operate.”

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/20/us/politics/hillary-clinton-takes-on-civil-rights-generation-gap.html?_r=0

Do you believe this is effective? Can public policies eliminate racism? I don’t see that happening. I think we’ve come to point where we want to hold somebody accountable for our collective sin and we look to our politicians/legislators to solve this for us. It’s more comfortable to point fingers than to look at how each of us are contributing to the oppression of others.

The second article I read, which also happens to be the New York Times, is an interview with Cornell West.

http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/08/19/cornel-west-the-fire-of-a-new-generation/?action=click&pgtype=Homepage&module=opinion-c-col-right-region&region=opinion-c-col-right-region&WT.nav=opinion-c-col-right-region

He talks about his involvement in the Ferguson protests and the motivation he sees in the new generation of black protesters. His feeling is that it is up to individuals to make a systemic change. “Don’t just talk about forces for good, be a force. So it’s an ontological state. So, in the end, all we have is who we are. If you end up being cowardly, then you end up losing the best of your world, or your society, or your community, or yourself. If you’re courageous, you protect, try and preserve the best of it. Now, you might preserve the best, and still not be good enough to triumph over evil. Hey, that’s the way it is. You did the best you could do. T.S. Eliot says, ‘For us, there is only the trying. The rest is not our business.’ T.S. Eliot was a right-wing brother who was full of wisdom. All you can do is to try; keep on pushing. That’s all you can do.” When asked, “When it comes to race in America in 2015, what is to be done?” His response is, “Well, the first thing, of course, is you’ve got to shatter denial, avoidance and evasion.” He goes on to criticize the President and on and on about a politicians role in addressing racism, but he even acknowledges that there have only been 2 presidents ever who pushed for progressive reforms.

So is it our elected officials’ responsibility to take the helm to address racism or is it up to individuals? Obviously, it is a deep-rooted problem and needs to be addressed on many, many levels, but my personal opinion is that each of us is accountable for its persistence. We hold politicians to high standards in guiding us through difficult issues such as this, but really they are just a reflection of ourselves. What are your thoughts?