My Problem with Feminist Culture
[This post was written in Fall 2018 and remained unlisted until today, Jan 3 2019, what would have been my daughter, Charlotte’s birthday.]
In everything there needs to be balance. To me, being a feminist is being a strong woman and recognizing that this world was not made with me in mind. Being a feminist means I acknowledge that the prejudice against women is real, true, and unfair. Being a feminist means I fight — when I see this unfairness played out systematically in issues like the gender wage gap and culturally in reinforced micro-aggression like advertising for cleaning products.
Yet, there are many things associated with feminist culture that are add-ons that are often presented as “requirements” of a “being a feminist”. As I dive into politics, running in my first election as a candidate, I was invited to an organization that promotes women in politics. I am a woman. Check. I am in politics. Check. YES, we need this. Collectively, we as a generation, need to increase female representation at the policy making level. We need laws that consider women. We need female voices in government. We need to encourage women and mothers to participate. We need to support and actively vote for those who courageously step up because it’s a fucking uphill battle.
Upon clicking through to be added to a list of “women in politics or notable women to support”, the largest headline is “Candidates who are pro-choice and feminists”. Can we not support feminist women who are brave enough to run in general, simply because we are women and we face the same challenges in a world dominated by men? If we are divided, how can we be strong collectively as feminists?
A strong humanity is an inclusive one. Isn’t that what we’re fighting for?
Why must a feminists be pro-choice? As mothers, women slave away trying to keep children and ourselves alive. It’s a success to merely be fed and in relatively good health. Personally, I don’t need to feed, bathe, or dress my daughter because she is invisible. My husband and I suffered the loss of our daughter, Charlotte, earlier this year through miscarriage.
[Warning: The following linked article may include traumatic triggers related to miscarriage. This piece is not explicit in and of itself nor in the quoted sections below.]
When I was grieving my daughter’s death and recovering from miscarriage, I came across this memoir by Alexandra Kimball ‘Unpregnant: the silent, secret grief of miscarriage’. The exert shares that Alexandra
“…felt profoundly alone: abandoned by a feminist movement that didn’t recognize her loss, accused by conventional wisdom of waiting too long to conceive, and deprived by society of the rituals that mark other forms of grief”
This is precisely why there must be inclusion of all fellow women. The world is harsh enough. Alexandra goes on to say,
“The more I considered it, the more I became convinced that the silence around miscarriage was connected to feminism’s work around abortion. How could I grieve a thing that didn’t exist? If a fetus is not meaningfully alive, if it is just a collection of cells — the cornerstone claim of the pro-choice movement — what does it mean to miscarry one? Admitting my grief meant seeing myself as a bereft mother, and my fetus as a dead child — which meant adopting exactly the language that the [pro-life] movement uses to claim abortion is murder.
Some feminist thinkers have posited a way out of this paradox, by admitting the personhood of the fetus as they champion a woman’s right to abort it. In other words, abortion IS murder, but a justified one.
This didn’t feel quite right to me, either. I began to wonder if the personhood of the prawns we carry is a result of our relationship with our own pregnancies. Unlike the aborted fetus, the miscarried child has been spoken to, fantasized about, maybe even greeted on an ultrasound or named. My precious angel.
I was desperate for someone to tell me that the child I had lost was real and worthy of the usual, public rites of mourning. Communal grief for a common loss…
Mainstream liberal feminism has glorified the good side of nature — pregnancy, menstruation, breastfeeding — while ignoring nature’s darkness: miscarriage, grief, disease, death. Unpregnant and infertile women are not the only ones left out of this equation: Elderly and sick women are ignored by mainstream feminism, too. I found myself fantasizing about what a feminist miscarriage would look like, or, on a larger scale, what a feminist approach would be to grief and death.
Currently, feminist culture can be exclusionary. The pro-choice movement is just 1 example of mixing mainstream feminist culture and feminism itself.
To me, being a feminist is being pro-woman — to stand with other women who may look, think, and believe differently than I do. And together we understand one another on the mere basis of being a woman in this man-made world.
There is enough against us that we need not be against one another.
As a political hopeful, I’m convicted to speak for those who cannot speak for themselves, care for the widows and orphans, defend the weak and oppressed, and uphold the cause of the poor. This has looked like a variety of things throughout my life such as delivering school supplies and hygiene items to children in rural Costa Rica; preparing meals for the urban poor; looking panhandlers in the eye and recognizing their humanity; and analyzing data and using strategic skills to fundraise for charities around the world.
What a politician doesn’t look like is someone that holds firmly to: if you’re not for me you’re against me. People are complex. Issues are complex. It’s not binary. It’s not pro-choice, anti-life or pro-life, anti-choice. Can’t it be pro-life AND pro-choice? Recently, I tweeted,
I like the language of being “pro-____”. Just because someone’s not for something doesn’t automatically mean they’re “anti”. It’s just that someone else’s priorities are different than yours. Can we use more generous and empathetic language?
I threw my hat in the ring because I want to stand up for the vulnerable and marginalized and whether I get elected or not, I’ll continue to do so. This is why I am in politics. Women are more vulnerable than men in everyday life and marginalized in many areas including politics. I am also a woman and I struggle as other women do. I face the same difficulties of heightened criticism and the need to be assertive and aggressive just to be heard in public politics.
We need to ban together to encourage women to stand up and participate in the privilege that is democracy. Women need to be better represented in government in order to make positive change towards gender equality. Our perspective is different than men and it matters that we are at the table. Democracy is not just a privilege, but a civic duty. If we CAN participate we must.