Thursday, October 2, 2008

Feminism's "Pro-Woman" is not My Pro-Woman

Ashley Judd...she is the epitome of why I don't feel any attraction to or representation by modern feminism. Was listening to a conversation on NPR yesterday between female reporters and why they feel "dismayed" by this Sarah Palin phenomenon. She came out of the ring fighting at the GOP convention, then proceeded to fumble for words in interviews with Katie Couric, et al. And this made the feminists mad, that this influential career was obtained, not by another feminist, but by a conservative, who doesn't appear to think well on her feet. They all think they could do the job so much better. Or that Hilary could, and so Sarah Palin has "let women down." Especially since she's "standing on the shoulders" of the women's movement which allows her to have a family AND a career.

It's this idea, that the platform of "THE WOMEN's MOVEMENT," or that one influential woman must be the representative of the beliefs of ALL women that bugs me so much. Ashley Judd apparently thinks that women only have the right to vote (an issue which originally united women) if they vote for her particular platform. I wasn't under the impression that the women's vote was so passionately fought for, so that we could vote as a group of clones.

And of course this doesn't even touch on the myriad ways in which I DO NOT identify with modern feminism, and indeed at times feel offended by the assertions it makes about my life. I started keeping a list of these ways once which I intended to turn into some sort of an article--but when I realized it might be a book--I got intimidated. Perhaps a blog conversation would be a more appropriate venue for such a discussion since those of us who feel called to do so can add to the list at will and at leisure. I move we create a list in the comments section of this post, and then compile it for a later post. In that way the "Little Women" of the Husted family can let their voices compete with Ashley Judd's for America's node-space.

So there's my first complaint: Why can't a woman reap the rewards of the women's movement (ie, voting, equality, career) in order to express a DIFFERENT opinion than the one put forward by modern feminists? Does the idea that all women must share a common viewpoint on reproductive "Rights", career vs. family, etc. really promote the freedom of women, or does it compress women's rights into a different box than the one from which the women's movement initially sought relief? Obviously, I feel opressed by this assertion that as a woman, I must support particular "pro-woman" political opinions. Primarily because I feel that those pro-woman opinions are NOT pro-woman.


Kate said...

#1 feminist assertion: that we're "just" moms. and it's beyond an assertion, because it has implanted itself in my heart (not being cheesy, I'm very serious) and I have to work to overcome that feeling in myself. I KNOW what I do matters and is challenging, but I can't FEEL like it is because so many are telling me it's not.

#2 that money, and how much you're making, is the ultimate standards of success, and to suggest that some women could value something enough to give up the chance for a paycheck is to attack the institution of feminism and everything it has fought for.

#3 that sex, and how much you're having, is the ultimate pleasure of life, and that to suggest that sex, unlimited by morals, ethics, societal standards, and biological consequences, is not a fundamental right is to attack the institution of feminism and everything it has fought for (i.e. sex and voting)

Kate said...

and I mean Fundamental Right... surely people have the right to do whom they want, but it's very low on the hierarchy of Human Rights.

Betty Duffy said...

Myth: Birth Control liberates women

Reality: Birth control liberates men, and turns women (those who contracept, and those who do not) into sex slaves.

Supporting arguments:
1. Married women who contracept have no legitimate reason for periodic abstinence other than "moods"--another way in which the heirarchy of emotions runs the family rather than any moral or biological truths.
2. Married women who do not contracept, and rely on periodic abstinence for baby spacing, must now compete with the concern that there are "other" willing and responsibility-free vaginas out there (this is certainly not any fear that the men in THIS family would instill in the hearts of their women, but an insecurity with which women who have to abstain may grapple).
3. Unmarried women who do contracept are more more likely to confuse good sex with love, and put out to more partners in order to obtain a commitment.
4. Men are free to be promiscuous without being held accountable for the emotional or biological damage they incur, or the children they otherwise would have fathered.
5. Responsibility-free sex has led to the growth of the pornography industry which creates unrealistic standards for the appearance and sexual performance of women. Not to mention the objectification of women as sex-objects issue.
6. List to be continued...

Kate said...

Okay, sorry for all the comments, but I can't respond via new post b/c I just did one!

But what I'm thinking is that, yes, it HAS come down to some crazy ultimate showdown between the two camps - which are, basically, pro-abortion feminists and pro-life feminists (because you, too, are a fem in a sense, right? Just of the Susan B Anthony variety rather than Gloria Steinem's kind.) The showdown lies in this: that modern feminism really is rooted in a belief of a fundamental right to sex. Sex is power, and anything limiting sex is something that puts down women. So they say. Pro-life understanding of rights is that they spring from THE fundamental right, the right to life. And these are two conflicting "rights". Sometimes - many times - a baby's right to life interferes with a woman's right to sex (excuse me, "freedom to determine the course of her life"), and there's no mediation possible, because even to bear the child through the pregnancy is a perceived infringement on the woman's rights. So the two sides are at an impasse, and it's kind of depressing. Our culture doesn't yet seem to be on its way to giving up the idea of sex as the ultimate life goal, and until they do, I don't see the possibility for pro-life achievements to be seen as anything other than an attack on women. Of course, if you think sex is part of marriage, and for having babies in addition to having fun (i.e. as an enjoyable means, but not an end), then all pro-life perspective falls into place and is easily seen as a good for both women and men. But if you think sex is just for the latter, as most of the country does, then yes, pro-life perspective seems anti-woman, because women have to bear the brunt (read: children) of the natural consequences of sex. Which has always gotten me, that liberals who so adore mother nature and read Darwin like the Bible can believe they're entitled to sex without its natural conclusion, i.e. BABIES. Everything else in life gets reduced to biology and evolution (did you know they found a "monogamy gene"?!?!?), but sex, which of course has BOTH the crude biological purpose and a higher spiritual end, gets raised up beyond nature and biology, and supposedly should be unhindered by either.

Okay, I might have gone rant-y again. I'll leave it to Emily to sort through for the intelligent points that I hope are in there. :)

Betty Duffy said...

Kate, I'm glad you're commenting. Though you should post as much as you want of whatever you want in any post form. I believe in blog freedom. You raise interesting questions.

I think you're right that where legislation is concerned, there are the two camps, as you mentioned.

From there, modern feminists have put forward other philosophies which undermine families, among them that women's equality means usurping the opposite sex, and in the process maming the essentially female qualities that they see as impediments to equality (ie, reproductive organs, but also the desire to nurture, to mother, to be in a loving relationship that includes a certain amount of dependence on one another). This grasping for MY rights has invaded my home in subtle ways, so that I forget the positive qualities of being a helpmeet to my husband, and vice versa. Though this quality of being helpmeets has been corrupted by original sin and so its application will necessarily be a flawed one, it's worth striving for, based on how its success strengthens families. It's politically reprehensible to say so, but sometimes it's a good thing to have no where else to go but home when marriage gets rough. And of course, I am not saying that battered women should not have the option of leaving a dangerous relationship, but sometimes having options (financial freedom among other things) causes ourselves and our children more harm than good. But the idea that I should allow myself to be dependent on my husband rather than independent of him has been maligned even by Susan B Anthony feminists and even by pro-family, pro-life women.

Emily said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Elizabeth said...

I remember my women´s studies professor, Obioma Nnanemeka, wondered why the label of feminism could not embrace all women. She commented on the fact that when she went to women´s studies events, academic or otherwise, it always felt so devisive, groups and factions everywhere and real issues do not get addressed. I ceased to use the label of feminism after that lecture, I like to think I´m an equal-opportunity-humanist. Though you know I don´t care for Palin, movements like feminism bother me. Feminism is different than the anti-war movement or anti-abortion movement because you choose to belong to those organizations. I was born a woman, making me a feminist I suppose, but I choose to make MY decisions based on my information, not what a movement is asking me the woman to believe. If we happen to have the same agenda, so be it, but there should always be room for the voice of dissent and critique of those voices within a group. I think the feminist movement has too much theory and too many waves going on for me, I choose to believe that it is the women and children that will change this world, outside of any label. There is more room for me in the world than behind an overarching label which wants you to subscribe to all their intellectual points. Thanks for the post.

KRousch said...

Okay, I am joining in the fray. Until now, I have been a silent observer enjoying the banter of a family I have known almost my whole life. You have touched a topic that I fill compelled to share some of my own thoughts - I not sure if they will be as well written as some, but here I go...

First - Betty, I can see your point to most of your contraception comments. I really agree with you on pre-marital sex clouding real feelings and not really leading any women to "equality". However, your comment about married women and contraception is a little off the mark. I don't believe that all women who follow non-pharma methods of birth control- rhythm, etc - don't have days that they aren't fertile and are just too darn tired and make a mood related decision to not have sex or that some of these marriages aren’t also run by mood.

It is also a fallacy to say that all women who do use pharma contraceptives are in a family driven by emotion and not moral truths. There is another part to sex. God also gave people sex to create an intimacy in marriage that would set marriage apart from other relationships and through marriage gain a better understanding of "true love", service and sacrifice and the relationship of Christ to the Church.

I won't go any further down that path because frankly, Betty, you will out write me.

Second - I would agree that it is unfortunate that people do not honor and admire women who choose to be stay-at-home moms. It’s a tough job and needs to be respected for those who are called to do it. But remember it is also a tough job/choice to be a working mom and I know a lot of women who are better mothers and wives because they work outside the house. I know I am a better mother and wife when my children have been to school/daycare for at least part of the week and I can work at something different than housework or children.

Unfortunately, women can be terrible to other women, in some ways, much worse than between men and women or men and men. I have experienced the prejudice of being a working woman with kids by working women who have none and by stay at home moms. Having worked in a primarily female department for almost 8 years, I have seen the games that women play and how they can treat each other. I have also experienced the support and love only other women can give you.

There are so many slices of women. It is unfortunate that there is a need to draw lines. For example, Sarah Palin should be respected for her accomplishments. She respects those women who came before her. Because her beliefs are different doesn't make her career any less extraordinary. In addition, it's foolish to believe that because she is woman, women should support her. Feminism was supposed to be about the right to choose having a career and family or just a career or just a family. It was supposed to be about a different type of "choice" and "freedom".

Third - there is no such thing as fair and equal. Giving everyone the same does not mean something is fair or equal. Things will never be fair and equal - at least not in this world/life. And men and women are different creatures with different wiring – trying to make the same does not make things equal. I find it ironic that no one who is “pro-choice” ever addresses the father’s rights. Regardless of the issue of life – the father has no choices until the child is born, even fathers who are married to the mothers.

I love Betty’s blog for the reason that it brings up ideas that make her readers think – whether they agree or not. I applaud you all for supporting your pro-life stance so clearly. I believe that thoughts and ideas need to be shared, argued and examined in order to challenge "modern thinking".

Pandora's box has already been open, so I am not sure that we can truly put hot button morality issues away again. I believe it is our most important mission as parents to teach our children and help influence the education of children who's parents don't know any better (my plug for participation in public schools).

Emily said...

I was the one who deleted, because like Kate, I had blogger's remorse this morning at Mass after making some derogatory Ashley Judd jokes. At any rate, I still wanted to throw in my 2 cents, because that's what the women's movement - and blogging too - is all about: getting a say, right? Hurrah! A few years ago Canticle magazine was going to do an issue on our debt to the women's movement, from the perspective of the New Feminism, the Susan B Anthony List type, not the Emily's List type. So I did a little research into original sources and found that a lot of print was used complaining about being enslaved in the home. Who doesn't feel that way? But who are you going to pay? Another woman to clean your house? Being a flunky at housework myself, I ought to save my family a lot of laundry woes and hire some help and go out and get a real job. Then I wondered how different, really, are our lives from our female forebears? We still have anxiety, heart ache, restlessness, a desire to be heard and to create without a toddler destroying all efforts in a short amount of time. And an interest in who's marrying whom. Coming from a worldview that believes there is virtue in self-denial, I feel a little Hobbesian with the caveat that it is in our little sufferings where we find redemption - transcendence of time and space. Thus, I suffer the humiliation (self originating or insinuated in the queries of those who ask?) of admitting that all I do is stay home. So my complaint would be that the feminist movement has taken away some of the self-confidence that women had in raising their children, creating a home, and building society from the inside out. As a home schooler, I hear way too often from women who feel they can't teach their kids themselves, but really there aren't any tricks or trade secrets. Just persistence and a little love - and a good library. Crafts optional, Betty Duffy.

Emily said...

I forgot to get to my point on the last comment, about being grateful for the women's movement, or movements, while at the same time, disagreeing with some of the directions it has gone off in. For example, I am grateful that women can participate in sports, and win scholarships and wear shorts and tank tops on hot days. After the last couple weeks of soccer it looks like Annie may be one of the best soccer players in the family, although John is really dominating the 3-4 yr old league. I am not grateful for having to wear bunhuggers that did not reduce any seconds during a 5K. I also question whether those beach volleyball gals really needed to have less restrictive clothing than the men. So should there be another movement for women to be allowed to wear MORE clothes?

Betty Duffy said...

Krista, welcome to the conversation. You called me out on the birth control comments, and I'll admit to imprecise wording. I did not mean to imply that NFP and the heirarchy of emotion are mutually exclusive, nor that contracepting couples don't operate on moral principles. Only that pharma methods offer no biological reason for periodic abstinence, which is in essence why they are used. As I believe that abstinence is at times a good thing, for couples to communicate in non-sexual ways for a short time as an alternative to intercourse, it's hard for women to make an argument to their husbands that that is a good thing. I hear from friends who contracept crying headache here and there, or else engaging in "charity sex" which they hope will be over as quickly as possible, and while it certainly happens as well with couples who don't use pharma methods, my point is that husbands need more compelling (biological) reasons to respect their wive's need for non-sexual communication at times, which pharma methods take out of the equation.

I am following this discussion closely though, and enjoying everyone's thoughts. You made a lot of good points.

Kate said...

I think Elizabeth (can we call you Mexi-Liz for clarity's sake?) :) made a great point - modern feminism has misstepped in that some women are seen as anti-women b/c their choices are out of line with the feminist agenda. ?!? That is crazy. Wasn't the whole point so that we could do what we wanted instead of being boxed into traditional women's roles/occupations? But let me say again - so that we COULD do something different, not be required to. Traditional roles were not the problem - the problem was that they were the only option. So yeah, it stinks that b/c we're women it seems like we should naturally be feminists. And because of that, there's social pressure to make certain life decisions. Sounds kind of like pre-feminism!

All the above being said, I still believe it completely impermissible to choose a life course that requires ending the life of an unborn baby. In that regard, I could never align with modern feminism, even if the movement began to accept or even encourage traditional wife and motherhood.

[To open another can of worms, I think gender and race politics have run the course of their usefulness. We have protective legislation against groups who were previously held down by their non-white-malehood, and it really seems like the continued movements only serve to further divide us, and make us all see each other as a gender or a race instead of just fellow humans and citizens. But that should probably be a new thread.]

Some responses to Krista's comment - YES I completely agree that women can be awful to each other. I think it arises from the need to be defensive about our choices because it seems like no matter what you do, someone thinks you're a bad person for choosing to do it. And I blame that too on modern feminism, as I said above.

Is it accurate to say you're a better mother after taking a break? Or is it just easier? I have NO argument about how much an hour or two's (or more!) break helps - sometimes it's necessary to get through a week. But I don't think I'm a better mother - I just have less trouble being a good mother. Maybe that's just semantics and I misread your point. But I have heard the argument that SAHMs are depriving their kids of the more well-rounded mother they could have had if she spent some time out of the house. Now, I will be the first one to say that I get easily fed up with being at home some days, and the biggest challenge of at-home motherhood so far is the struggle with feelings of inadequacy and loneliness because of the scarcity of adult contact and intellectual challenge. BUT I think those are personal struggles and that as I (hopefully) grow more virtuous in my vocation, those struggles will be eased. And, unless I'm really doing a bad job, those personal struggles don't make me any less of a mother to my children than personal struggles with my role in an office would.

Betty-Liz, I'm glad you clarified your earlier comment - I didn't get the argument for biologically-compelled abstinence before, but it makes more sense now and I agree that it provides an external structure and schedule in which the wife's needs can be met, instead of the wife forcing her needs at random times according to her whim. Although I still feel like that allows for a bit too much of the old "guys just need to satisfy their impulses" thought (which I thought was the reasoning behind your comment at first, but now I get it.) I think it's kind of a given that the male sexual impulse is much more intense than the female, but I still don't like the idea of allowing that impulse to rule relationships, whether by a sex-on-demand mentality, or by creating the view that when a woman doesn't feel like it, she's being emotional and manipulative. Men tend toward the physical and women to the emotional, and I think a marriage relationship is about tempering each other's tendencies and learning to satisfy each other's needs, whether you're doing NFP or not.

Kate said...

I mean that practicing NFP does not excuse you from the challenging life-long work involved in balancing each other. Yes, I would probably argue you're saved from some of the pitfalls that contraception presents, but it's not a given that you'll have perfect interaction just by choosing NFP, and it's not a given that contracepting couples are worse off or less balanced than NFP couples.

John said...

I'm not a Husted woman, but I know some of them, so I'll go ahead and contribute.

How about the detrimental effect the feminist movement has had on boys in schools? That is, the part of the feminist movement that has been aimed not at promoting the feminine, but at demoting the masculine, has leached into the school system and its effects have, generally, been detrimental to boys and young men.

Speaking in broad generalizations, and acknowledging that not all of the blame lies with feminists, and acknowledging that some of these trends can be just as detrimental to girls, the list of detrimental phenomena includes:

(1) The "feminization" (read: boring-ization) of school curricula, primarily in the areas of literature and history. This contributes to the increasingly poor performance by males and dwindling college matriculation of male students;
(2) Changing from a competition-based P.E. curricula to a fitness-based curricula;
(3) Eliminating or shortening recess, and/or otherwise restricting the activities allowed at recess. Young boys tend to need more active play;
(4) Broadening the definition of, and punishment for, “bullying”;
(5) The elimination of men's sports programs by schools trying to comply with Title IX; and
(6) The villainization of, or at least antipathy toward, certain "masculine" virtues to which boys are naturally more inclined.

This is just a quick, crude, and possibly unfair list, and it’s probably a bit off point, but these are things that I’ve been noticing lately.

Kate said...

I disagree with #4. And do you really want to argue that bullying is masculine?

John said...

No, I don't. That one was poorly put. I guess a better gross generalization is that certain kinds of discipline for certain kinds of actions can be contrary to what's best for the kids involved. That said, kids should always be helped to develop good character and bad behavior and bullying should be discouraged.

Kate said...

Maybe I should just let this post be over? But I really liked this article:

I disagree with Paglia on many issues, but she would definitely be on my dream dinner party list, along with Jesus and Lincoln. Haha. But seriously, she is articulate and intellectually honest and I'm impressed by her.

Betty Duffy said...

Kate, I read that the other day too, and I was tempted to send her this thread.

Kate said...

Do it. Maybe she'll publish us and we can all pay off student loans with the ensuing blog ad revenue.