I read an article this morning entitled “I Am A Mother of Two Children and I Cannot (And Will Not) Support Feminism” and a following response article, “To The Mother Who ‘Can’t Support Feminism’ While Raising Her Sons”. It got me thinking.
First, it saddens me that there is such divisiveness over this issue. The first article points to the extremes of feminism and uses that as the argument for why the author won’t support it. This reason doesn’t bear weight with me. I identify myself as a Christian yet there are extremes in Christianity that I do not support. That doesn’t mean I need to stop being a Christian (and I won’t).
The definition of FEMINISM is this: the doctrine advocating social, political, and all other rights of women equal to those of men (taken from Dictionary.com). THIS I believe in with my whole heart.
Yes, there are extremes; yes, even male bashing. Yet…yet, the conversation I hear and read on the internet lately is turning more away from “us vs. them” (i.e., women vs. men) to an inclusive movement with women AND men working alongside each other to bring about equality for all. I was encouraged by Emma Watson’s speech to the United Nations this summer as the UN Women Goodwill Ambassador launching the HeForShe campaign.
I see progress through the lens of my children as well. It’s interesting that the author of the first article I linked to above has two sons and it is out of her concern for her sons that she has chosen not to support feminism. When my 18 year old son asked me this year what feminism was and I told him it was the belief that women should have equal opportunities and rights as men, he took that as a given. He was appalled when I told him that on average women still aren’t paid the same as men for the same work. And I am delighted to see my 8 year old daughter up in arms over the insinuation that she can’t do something a boy can do (of course she can do what a boy can do!).
There are many campaigns and websites to raise awareness and shed a different light on things. Like the Always #LikeAGirl campaign, like A Mighty Girl website and Facebook page (which is a resource for “smart, confident, and courageous girls”). One of the major things they are doing is combating stereotypes of what it means to be a ‘boy’ and what it means to be a ‘girl’. I love a quote by Joss Whedon (creator of one of my favorite TV series, Firefly, and director & writer of the “Avengers” movie). He was asked in an interview “So, why do you write these strong female characters?” and he responded with “Because you’re still asking me that question.” (“American Rhetoric: Joss Whedon – Equality Now Address”. American Rhetoric (May 15, 2006)
I believe gender stereotypes hurt everybody. Should my daughter be thought of as less of a girl because she likes action movies like the “Avengers” and “Captain America”? Should my son be thought of as less of a guy because he is sensitive and still gives hugs to his mom? Stereotypes put people in boxes. Stereotypes can also justify inequality. Until very recently in human history women were still considered less than a person and the property of others. Although our culture has evolved to the point of discarding these views (most people would think it ludicrous today to refer to a girl as property), our gender stereotypes serve to compartmentalize what women and men are capable of. This puts limitations on everyone. I believe it hinders the gifts that each one of us can bring to the world (particularly when those gifts don’t fall along traditional gender-determined lines).
My dream would be for respect for all people, that we would see ourselves together on this earth, not separate, not us vs. them. That we could feel safe with each other (and thereby eliminate our need to be combative towards each other). We share a common humanity in that we all breathe the same air, feel the same emotions, experience shame and empathy. We are not so different from each other. On the flip side, we are all unique and we bring our own unique gifts to the world, the gift of who we are, individually and collectively. We each have our own unique limitations and these limitations can be genetic and/or environmental. Some limitations can be overcome, others cannot. But let us not add more limitations onto our brothers and sisters. Let us encourage each other to reach for the stars in our pursuits in this life, no matter who or what gender we are.