Molly’s note: I have a lot of diversity amongst my Facebook friends and amidst the many politically liberal posts I see every day there are also links to anti-feminist articles, written by mothers, that make me incredibly sad. Last month an acquaintance posted one of them and I responded to her: “This article made me sad, because of the writer’s distorted experience of what feminism is (or the distortion she’s experienced of it). I hate it when women perceive feminism as a ‘dirty word’ or incompatible with their lives as homemakers and mothers.” As our conversation continued, I went on to explain: I’ve been a feminist forever–like before I even knew there was an actual word for it. I do understand that there is a tension between feminism and motherhood sometimes (in a negative way). I think because I mostly read or associate with feminist mothers, and feminist attachment-parenting-minded mothers at that, I’ve had less exposure to the “other kind” and I tend to feel like, “I’m not that way, so surely no one else is either!” I guess it might be similar to other large movements and certain representatives of those movements making the whole thing look bad–i.e. if people might say “religion is oppressive!” rather than realizing that it is really how some people USE religion that is oppressive, not necessarily the institution itself.
I am a feminist. I was one long before I had children. It was my first “cause.” I’m also the mother of three. I’m totally into birth and breastfeeding and female-biological-processes. I might be able to be accused of being biologically reductionist in some of my ideas, because of the importance I place on the body, particularly the female body, in how I relate to the world and to my own spirituality. However, to me, feminism feels simple and obvious. I love women. I think they’re awesome. I don’t think they should be exploited, controlled, victimized, or dominated. Boom. I’m a feminist! Duh.
In addition, I don’t consider myself pro-choice OR pro-life. I consider myself pro-woman and for me that means upholding all women’s reproductive rights, regardless of how I feel about making those choices for myself and regardless of how I am personally uncomfortable with some women’s choices. Women MUST be able to control their own bodies and who has access to them. To me it is that simple and that nonnegotiable.
So, I appreciated this guest post that came in today and how it lays out very simply what it means to be a 21st century feminist…
With all the talk of a “war on women” during this explosive election year, the notion of feminism is once again in the news – and open to debate. Especially among women.
Nothing illustrates that better than the rash of commentary following the recent death of sexual-revolution era author Helen Gurley Brown, says Heather Huffman (www.heatherhuffman.net), a 35-year-old author whose newest book, “Devil in Disguise,” continues her tradition of upbeat romances featuring strong female protagonists.
“Some writers took her to task for advocating sexual freedom for women,” Huffman says. “They say she wasn’t a ‘feminist’ because she was all for promiscuity, not women’s rights, and her actions led to an explosion of single moms and STDs.
“Others viewed her as the ultimate ‘feminist,’ a heroine who chopped through a cultural thicket to break down repressive social mores.”
The truth is, Huffman says, that Brown did important work on behalf of women.
“While I don’t advocate promiscuity, I do acknowledge that Gurley Brown’s boundary-pushing stance brought the topic of women’s rights to the forefront, paving the way for change,” she says.
The problem is, she says, that when people hear the word “feminist,” they picture a woman from another time, like Helen Gurley Brown. They don’t see themselves at all.
“I hear some women say, ‘I’m not a feminist!’ They think a feminist is a strident, angry man-hater who gets up in arms over any perceived slight,” Huffman says. “That’s too bad, because the world needs feminists as much as it needs any group that advocates for human rights.”
Feminism changes with the times, she says. So what is a 21st century feminist? Huffman offers her observations:
• She (or he) supports a woman’s right to be a mom – or not. When women won acceptance and equal rights in the workplace, we were released from one box and plopped right into another one. “We went from raising children to raising children and working. Too often, that’s the expectation now,” Huffman says. Feminists support a woman’s right to choose her life’s direction, whether that’s staying at home and being mothers, choosing never to become mothers, or some hybrid of work and motherhood. “Having equal rights is having the freedom to choose our life’s direction without being subjected to discrimination because of what other people expect our role to be,” Huffman says.
• Supports removing double standards. “You still see, in the workplace and at home, the tough guy gets praised, and the tough woman, well, she’s a ‘witch’ or worse,” Huffman says. More smart, savvy women have earned respect professionally – Hillary Clinton, Condoleezza Rice, Madeleine Albright – and that’s progress, but we still have work to do. “Professional women still get criticized about their hair style, their fashion choices. Rarely are professional men snubbed for these things.”
• Understands what rights are being legislated and by whom. We all know the hot-button “values” issues that polarize voters. “The reality is a politician’s party affiliation doesn’t paint an accurate picture of who they are or what they stand for. Voting records, corporate associations, and actions are much more telling. As citizens, as women with a voice, we must do our homework to ensure our values are being reflected in Washington. And, in truth, feminism is more than a political movement – it’s the empowerment of women to live the life they were created for.”
About Heather Huffman
Heather Huffman is a women’s advocate, writer, former human relations specialist and mother of three. She and her family are currently homesteading 10 acres in the Ozarks. Huffman is the author of seven novels, including “Throwaway” and its prequel, “Tumbleweed.” A portion of proceeds from sales of her books benefit groups fighting human trafficking.