Saturday, September 1, 2007

Me, a feminist?

A comment from a reader:

'Anna, I hope I don't offend you when I say that by my definition, you're a feminist (and I consider that a compliment).You chose your own path in life, chose what's right for you and you're acting on that decision.You do not consider yourself weak, feeble-minded or incapable. You respect yourself and you respect others around you.'

Well, I'm certainly not offended! On the contrary, I appreciate this comment, because it gives me an opportunity to dig a little deeper into the equation that has been deeply ingrained in our minds, the association of feminism with everything good, right and beneficial for women, and all that opposes feminism with oppression, weakness and incapability.

Some time ago, I wrote a post called 'Feminism vs. Women's rights', trying to give some good airing to the myth that we women weren't even treated like humans before feminism came into the picture and gave us 'rights' and 'liberation'. What a lie. Women's rights – human rights – are God-given, written out very beautifully and explicitly. What we need to do is enforce them, not resort to immoral practices that cause the deterioration of our society.

Here, again, I'm of a similar opinion. If being a strong, capable, intelligent woman means being a feminist, and being an anti-feminist means being a brainless weakling, then I suppose you could call me a feminist. But as far as I know, feminism didn't monopolize feminine strength, talent, virtue and wisdom.

All we need to do is look at what women are called to be. Remember the Proverbs 31 woman, eishet chayil? Interestingly, the word 'chayil' is of the same root as 'warrior'. Not exactly a description of the weak and incapable, is it? The one who 'girds herself with strength' and 'reaches out her hands to the needy'? The one who is 'clothed with strength and honor', 'opens her mouth with wisdom', and 'does not eat the bread of idleness'? What about Proverbs 14, where we are told, 'a wise woman builds her house'?

Very clearly, we aren't called to lead a life of incapable, unproductive, feeble-brained dimwits which are, at best, pretty ornaments. We are called to be valiant, virtuous women. If we look at the characters of Sarah, Miriam, Ruth and many other wonderful examples, we will also see strong, wise, capable women. Sarah wasn't afraid to confront Abraham about his son Ishmael. Miriam protected her brother Moses, ensuring his safety. Ruth the Moabite chose to leave her former life behind and follow the one true God. And indeed, there are more examples to beautiful, virtuous womanhood than I can possibly mention in the short time I have.

Yes, they were strong women – but not feminists. And similarly, I strive to be a woman of valor, virtue, wisdom and talent – but I do not consider myself a feminist. Why?

Because I embrace my God-given feminine calling, entirely and wholeheartedly, not seeking to twist it to better fit my views. This is the path I took, not what is convenient or socially acceptable, or what fits my whims and desires at the moment. I seek to submit, willingly, to strong and wise masculine leadership, not looking for ways to overrun it.

I feel the calling of marriage, motherhood and creating a beautiful home is a truly wonderful and empowering one; a precious gift. I focus on the home and family, and have no interest in pursuing a man's job of leadership, protection and provision. I don't think men and women are the same, or should be the same, or should take on the same duties; this is how God created us, and I see nothing offensive in it.

And this, you see, is why I'm not a feminist, and don't want to be one. Strong, wise, capable woman? Yes. Feminist? No thank you!


Mimi said...

you're correct...
you appear to be a very strong and capable young woman who will make the right man a very good wife and mother to his children one day...
keep your head on straight and stay strong in your beliefs!

Kaye :) said...

Hi Anna,

Great post!

Alexandra said...

And therein lies the confusion, but your clarification is wonderful. As Christians we do not chose what's good for us. We are obedient to God. God is the light of the world. There is no weakness in those who truly love and follow Him. He strengthens and sustains us.

As Christians we love our neighbors which does not mean that we need to develop emotional connections with everyone we meet. It does mean that we need to respect them as human beings. We put others before ourselves following the example of Christ. It also means being able to disagree within the bounds of Christian charity. I think you do this beautifully.

Tolerance is Christian virtue, but it does not mean that you change your beliefs based on what works for you. It is not relativity.

Autumn said...

Feminist you are not, but your are definitely feminine!

Michelle-ozark crafter said...

Bravo! Well said my dear!

Lily said...

As usual, you are right on the money!

I've written on that before too! But I took a slightly different approach. I argued that the real feminists are the ones fulfilling their God given feminine roles and the political feminists have it all wrong. LOL.

The post I wrote is called, Is Chivalry Dead?

The culturally accepted definition of feminism is NOT what I want to be associated with.

This brings up an interesting point I've pondered repeatedly, with a little prompting from a friend, word usage and meanings. It is interesting, and here in the word feminism we find a fine example, how activists can take a wonderful, expressive word and redefine it for their own purposes. It confuses issues, reassigns words to concepts which are sometimes very wrong, thereby slowly bringing an idea to cultural acceptance. It is a very menacing practice, to be sure.

Anna S said...

Lily, I loved reading your essay about chivalry. It was so insightful - and so true!

Seung said...

As an erstwhile English major, I feel I have to comment about this.

Languages evolve over time, sometimes very quickly. That's just the way they work -- a word may mean something today that it did not mean a decade ago, and it will not mean a decade hence. Take "fabulous", as an example. We use it today to describe something that's good or superlative, right? Well, actually, the word originally meant something to the point of "related to or having the characteristics of a fairy tale". A piece of fabulous writing therefore is not a piece of superlatively good writing, it's a piece that closely resembles or has the characteristics of a fable. Except we don't use the word "fabulous" in that manner anymore, do we? It's kind of a shame.

Same goes for a word like "feminism".

I say that Anna was right the first time around; don't try to take back that word, not now. The battle over it has already been waged, and it cannot be fought again. Better that we use other words, that we write other pieces, that we bend our ears and our hearts to the voice of He who is other than the shadowy cage that is this world.

Lily said...

Thanks, Anna! :-)

Anonymous said...

I confess I am a new lurker who disagrees with many of your views but fully affirms your right to live as you choose! I enjoy your blogs as they force me to analyze the way I live my own life.

Now, a question that you may have addressed already: Do you vote? If so, what is the extent of your participation in political processes? How much is appropriate?
If this is two personal a question, please ignore it. I don't mean to pry too much! :)

Blessings, Amanda

Anna S said...

Seung, you're right; and as a matter of fact, 'femininity' and 'feminism' come from the same root, which also might be confusing!

Anna S said...

Amanda: I do vote. Otherwise, I'm not involved in political processes. When I get married, my vote will be affirmative of that my husband will hold.

Gothelittle Rose said...

A note to the lurker Amanda (besides "Welcome!" and "Hi!"...

The old voting laws in the U.S. were not set to exclude women. They were set to give one vote to one family, as the family was considered the unit of society, rather than the individual as it is today. Not all men could vote. They had to own property and they had to be literate. An adult son in his father's home could not vote. The women who choose to not vote as a manner of 'anti-feminism' are doing so in honor of the family as a societal unit, not out of a misguided feeling that they are not sufficiently intelligent. (Just countering some common feminist propaganda I heard in my college days.)

In Ancient Israel, among what people label as some of the harshest laws regarding women within Scripture, women had equal access to the political system. They not only were considered equal as witnesses, even to the death penalty, but often judged court cases. They owned their own property and could personally profit by it. It was not unusual for a daughter to inherit from her parents as well.

In fact, among European Jews, before they were forced to adopt last names, men and women were referred to under their father's name in the temple and their mother's name in the marketplace. (So I would have been Joy bat William at the temple and Joy bat Deborah at the marketplace.)

I don't think that it's wrong for a woman to be involved in politics. Neither do I think it's wrong for women to choose not to be. My extended family are mostly made up of quiet, single-earner men and homemaker women, leaving the woman with more time and inclination to find articles to read to her husband after suppertime and write letters to our representatives enclosing the views of the couple. My own personal family is much the same way.

I think it's a sad thing when a husband and wife vote opposing viewpoints. My husband and I participate in a political discussion forum under one user account, simply listing after each comment/entry whether this one was written by husband or wife. I think this would be a fascinating exercise for married couples.

Anna S said...

Gothelittle Rose, thank you for your input. I'll add that even today, Jews are often referred to by their mother's name; for example when a prayer is said for someone, the mother's name is used. Masculine leadership doesn't mean ignoring women's intelligence, contribution or importance!

USAincognito said...

In regard to the voting issue:
I think it is very important to be aware of our nation's politics. This is a country where the people's vote is important - and if we enter the voting booths without the proper knowledge, how can we truly say we are voting in good conscience? More people need to take a more active part in politics - know who the candidates, know what their stances are on issues, know what is going on in Washington (laws in the making, etc.). This is OUR country and we need to be ACTIVE citizens!

Lily said...

"Languages evolve over time, sometimes very quickly. That's just the way they work -- a word may mean something today that it did not mean a decade ago, and it will not mean a decade hence."

This is true, but I was referring to not a natural evolution of a word, but when a word is taken, arbitrarily redefined for a political cause, and causes confusion while advancing an agenda. An example of this would be the word 'gay.' It no longer means happy and content. In fact if you use the word in its proper, original context, people giggle and smirk. It still holds the same meaning, but has been taken over by a political group who is oftentimes primarily comprised of very unhappy people who struggle to find contentment in many aspects of their lives.

As an English major, I'm certain you will agree that words hold immense power. The old saying, "the pen is mightier than the sword" is true. That is why the deliberate alteration of meaning can be very menacing. There are more examples, but no need to keep going. In this case I think we are both right. One position does not exclude the other.

I wouldn't try to take back the word now. Being feminine in all respects is in fact unsettling for many feminists. When engaged in debate with a feminist, it is always fun to relate the fact that the true feminists are the ones who are living up to their feminine calling, not the activists who are actually anti-female in some respects. Obviously I realize we could never reclaim that word, nor would I want any association with the current meaning. It is fun to come out of left field sometimes, and this one throws the feminists off when discussing what it really means to be a woman.

Jordin said...

Bravo, Anna! You made your point beautifully! :)

Anonymous said...

I wanted to chime in on the voting comment.

I had not registered to vote until very recently, a number of years after official voting age (my mom has never registered to vote! She says her opinions aren't strong enough. :P ) My first time voting, I did my own research and voted my own way. (My G-ma stills says that even G-pa doesn't know how she votes, ever!) Then I found an article somewhere (if anyone recognises it, please let me know) about how it used to be one vote per household, which naturally meant the man, as he was head of the house. Then when other family members were able to vote, their came a small issue of votes canceling each other out. The article I read related a story of a husband and wife in church voting about something and he said "yes" and she said "if you say yes, I say no" or something to that effect; essentially canceling each other out (and her undermining his self-respect by saying this in front of a lot of people).

Basically, the article counseled the woman to not vote. I think the better thing would be to vote the same as your husband (if you have one, if not, do exactly like USA advises, you do have a voice!), this way your whole house is supporting what is (I hope!) right and good.

The next voting opportunity, I researched the options and decided how I was going to vote. The night before we discussed the proposels and I ended up changing almost all my positions, mostly because his positions were better researched than my own (he has always been fasinated by political-science) and I recalled this article and thought it would be best for me to follow his lead. (Hmmm, following the husband, where have I heard that before? :P )

God Bless!

Anna S said...

PandaBean: I agree with you! Once we come back to seeing the family, vs. the individual, as the social unit, the voting issue won't even be that much of a question anymore.

Valerie said...

Excellent post! I am also not a feminist, for the same reason you aren't. But I have another reason also - I don't want to be associated with the "pro-choice" (what a misnomer - it should be pro-death), man-hating, down-with-motherhood mentality that so pervades modern feminist women. That attitude goes against all that God has told me to be, and it is the last thing I want to be associated with. I am not a feminist...I am a Christian, a lady, a wife, a mother, and that is good enough for me even if the world sneers at it. Keep on doing what you're doing!

Anna S said...

Valerie, the point you touched - not even wanting to be associated - is the reason why I'm so cautious about all the 'moderate feminism' rhetoric. There is simply, when you think about it, no such thing.

Mrs. Pear said...

Excellent post!

When I returned home from work (married, but no children) I simply said I did not think a woman should be forced to choose between work and family (the feminist mantra) and I was tired of being asked to make that choice every minute of the work week. Therefore I was returning home full time! No more daily choices of who gets my best - now it is always the Lord and my family.

Anonymous said...

As a feminist myself, I am writing in support of your disavowal of your commenter's description of you as a feminist. You are undoubtedly a strong, intelligent, and capable woman, but I agree with you 100% that that in itself does not a feminist make. Otherwise, the term "feminist" would have no meaning at all!

While there are many different forms of feminism, and many disagreements among feminists, it is clear that a belief in masculine leadership and female submission is fundamentally at odds with feminism.

-- Pendragon 3

Anonymous said...

A second comment from me, this time in response to the comments thread:

I don't think it is fair to characterize feminists as anti-motherhood, especially since many feminists (probably most female feminists) ARE mothers. To give just one example, every feminist I have met has believed very strongly that women should be able to breastfeed in public without stigma, and that the workplace should provide opportunities for women employees to pump breastmilk. This is hardly an anti-motherhood position and it is hardly a position that tells women they MUST choose between parenting and career.

Where feminists differ from the readers of this site is that we do not believe that societal and family roles should be rigidly dictated by sex. I think we can disagree on this issue without creating inaccurate caricatures of each other. Just because most of you are homemakers who believe in traditional femininity and gender roles does not mean you are stupid doormats who get bullied by your husbands. By the same token, just because a woman is a feminist does not mean she is a nasty person who hates children and hates men.

I would also disagree with Lily's comment about feminists often being "anti-female." (Again, what can be more female than breastfeeding?) Feminists just dispute the idea that all women have or should have a particular set of characteristics commonly associated with femininity (such as meekness, gentleness, love of sewing, etc.) I don't happen to equate those characteristics with being female, and I want those of us who are female to have the freedom socially and culturally to deviate from what is traditionally considered feminine if we choose to do so. (At the same time, I would certainly defend your right to knit and cook and sew to your heart's content, and may even enjoy some of those activities myself.)


-- Pendragon 3

Anna S said...

Pendragon 3,

While I agree with you that not all feminists are anti-motherhood, I don't think being a mother automatically means being pro-motherhood, either. Only a week or two ago I read an article by a mother of 2 children (Maier, I think her name was...), who was *very* strongly against having children, and said almost explicitly she wishes she didn't have hers. That's very sad.

Anonymous said...

That's true -- anyone can become a parent. Being a good parent or a lover of children is a different story. Not every woman or man is cut out for parenting (as the article you reference sadly illustrates). Feminists are not anti-motherhood so much as against the idea that women should always be considered in their roles as mothers first and foremost. Also feminists tend to believe that every child should be a wanted child, which we believe means that women should have the freedom (via contraception for example as well as social acceptance of childlessness) NOT to have children. Motherhood should be a truly voluntary choice. I think a lot of those arguments get confused with being anti-children and anti-motherhood.

-- Pendragon3

Mrs. Pilgrim said...

Anna, may I address something rather self-contradictory in Pendragon's comments to you?

Pendragon, you advocate that women should be permitted to breastfeed or breast-pump at will and without restriction. However, I would propose to you that this is an absolute infringement on the rights of the employer, for instance, or the public in general.

That's not freedom. That's special treatment. Is that fair to the employer? It's definitely not fair that he/she/they already have to hold her job open while she takes maternity leave.

Pendragon, let's be frank. Feminism is not about freedom. Feminism is about "us vs. them"--"them" being "people we want to impose upon." Many of the positions taken by feminism are positions which DEMAND accommodation by people who really don't have a moral obligation to twitch a finger.

Please consider whether sexist tyranny is something with which you wish to be aligned.

Anna S said...

Another something about motherhood: some women may decide not to become mothers. I might have an opinion about it, but I'll keep it to myself for now. A greater problem, in my eyes, is that most women *DO* want to become wives and mothers, but are convinced they can "have it all" - motherhood, family and career combined. It causes excessive stress and impairs quality of life for everyone involved.

Anonymous said...

You stated that "some women decide not to be mothers". State your opinion about it. I am interested in hearing about it. With all due respect you are a christian woman so please refrain from judgement.

Anonymous said...

I am still waiting for your response.

Anna S said...


I will not respond in this thread. Feel free to contact me by email.

Anonymous said...

Having read a few of your articles in research for an article for school, I did find a number of points I agreed with. I was raised by a mother and father - my father worked and my mother stayed at home and raised my brother and I. She never went to college - she instead pursued a work opportunity after completing high school - and made the decision not to return to work after giving birth to my brother.

However, my mother was always fiercely opinionated and, while she always respected my father and his position, she often disagreed with him, especially politically. I was raised with a deep respect for both my parents and the work they do, and for other people's opinions. I learned that being a housewife, while not a career I myself would pursue, is by no means disrespectable. I have respect for every person's opinion, even those I disagree with.

I'm seventeen years old and not a member of any religion. (After attending a Christian church for a few years in my childhood, we decided as a family that it wasn't the right place for us.) Naturally, my values differ slightly from yours, though our basic beliefs are the same - respect for others, peace, honesty and love.

Now, here's where we differ. I'm a feminist, but not the kind who believes that men are evil and that women are superior. I don't think that women who work in the home are inferior or incapable in any way.

What drives me to feminism is the opinions I hear from young men my own age: that women should "speak when spoken to" and those who act in a certain way "deserve to be raped". I'm talking about when one girl "hooks up" with one guy, she's a "slut", but when one guy "hooks up" with multiple girls, he's a "player". I, as a girl who often has an opinion and is not afraid to voice it, am labelled as a bitch. (It may seem like I'm being extremist for the sake of my argument, but these are actual examples I encounter almost every day.)

Yes, I think some feminists have gone way off and there's a lot to be said about men and women's powers when they work together, as natural opposites. But to paint the entire feminist movement as evil and bad is nurturing beliefs that are potentially harmful to ALL women.

Please don't take my comment as disrespect for your beliefs. I commend you for your strength and honesty.


Anonymous said...

Great comment, Michelle.

By the way, the "family" vote of the late nineteenth century is completely incorrect. I study women's history and have come across this only in more radical states.

Anonymous said...

the word "strong" applied to women is a huge turn off. it brings to mind toughness, arrogance, masculinity, & someone who is not human & unapproachable. there must be a better word.

Anonymous said...

Feminism isn't about strong women or who's in the kitchen and who's not. The true meaning of feminism is a philosophy based on equality between the sexes - equality to choose whatever path we want.

I'm a proud feminist, and I will fight for my sisters' and brothers' rights to be stay at home mothers and fathers, just as much as I fight for my own rights to work my way up the corporate ladder.

It does take a strong woman to stay home and raise her children, just as it takes a strong woman to work in a board room. It takes an especially strong woman to realize the path God has put her on, and to stay true to her vocation. I commend you for staying true to the path God has set for you, and hope that you can someday commend women like me for our choices and our fight to be true to the path God has set for us.

Anonymous said...

I just found a link to this article while doing a research and must say I am very impressed and happy to hear of this way of viewing feminism.

I'm a seventeen-year-old student from Germany and currently doing a class project called "feminism and theology", which also features the question how women can be Christian, since the bible, as suggested by our female teacher, is pretty much discriminating women.
Sadly, all of my class mates, who are mainly female, too, connect "feminism" with all positive traits a woman can have while the bible really requires to be renewed.
So I am pretty much alone with my opinion on feminism. Or so I thought. When I flipped through the texts of my class mates, I was very disappointed seeing they all focused on the "good and wonderful" feminism, and the "discriminating" bible, so I wanted to deal with the other side: Not all women are feminists, and our topic was actually: "Can WOMEN be Christian?" During my research I found out that they, indeed, can be. Without thinking they're being discriminated by men, or even God.
Hard to believe, but really, no one even considered this view. Always idiealizng the feminists and, as you said, thinking that women who don't support its ideology are just weak and stupid.

I must say that I don't belong to any religion (oddly enough, I judged our topic more carefully than anyone else who might be more religious than me), for several personal reasons, but I still support many, well, actually all the values that every human being should support to make the world a better place. It's all a question of humanity, not feminism.

What I am here for, is to say that I am truly happy about your article, and very touched that there actually are women out there who think like me. And I want to thank you, and every woman, and man, who just takes time to think before judging, either feminism or religion.

Lastly, I want to apologize if I somehow might have offended anyone who reads this. If so, it was done unintentionally, due to a wrong choice of English vocabulary or my inexperience on this topic.

A now very content young woman

Christine said...

I used to think that my philosophy was anti-feminist. So when I realised that one of my degree requirements (engineering) could be filled by taking a women's studies course, I figured I ought to take that, since I argued against it so much. I discovered that feminism isn't as bad as I thought. At least, the world of women's studies isn't.

My main complaint with the academic feminism, is that it assumes everything is based on gender, and that controls everything. The crazies who assert that women who stay home are betraying feminists don't actually have that much in common with modern feminist theory. In fact, the articles I read seemed more to argue that the women who are trying to convince the rest of the world that staying home and doing the domestic work are worthwhile, are much more feminists than those who degrade the work.

Pihlajatar said...

Dear Anna.
This is the first time I visited your blog and already I want to comment. I'm a girl from Finland and English is not my mother tongue so I hope you and other readers can forgive me if I'm not always able to find the best expressions.

I recently wrote on my own blog about similar subject as you - only I ended up with different conclusion. I do find myself as a feminist - even though sometimes thoughts arqued as feminist point of views make me angry. How ever not all feminist think the same way about everything.

Actually I think this is the main reason I do want to call myself as a feminist - I want to be part of defining what feminism is! For example domestic work should be recognized as something as valuable as working out side home - and for me this is a feminist argument! I even think that men should also have to right to stay home with children if that's what they want for their lives. That's a feminist argument to me too.

I also agree you that women have always been strong, wise and capable and that it's not true these would be thing feminism bring to the world. How ever feminism has important point - such as the once I pointed out before.

Anonymous said...

Anna, I love what you say, and am so inspired by much of it. But what would you think of wise, feminine (maternal, perhaps?) authority, for the benefit of both sexes--such as you could provide? No one would ask a talented young man to simply keep his opinions and his abilities within the family sphere, and I hate to see that asked of a young woman. My family is the most important thing in the world to me, second only to G-D, but it does seem a sorrowful thing not to make some genuine use of the strengths and talents He has given us, in order to help others in this afflicted and suffering world--in a way that creats real change. Yours from an admiring sister, Jenn

mimisleepwalks said...

Hello Anna,
I am with you on a lot of points in your article. I am a mother, and I enjoy taking care of my baby 24/7 while my husband works. However, I consider myself a feminist. I feel that feminists are well-intentioned people who are fighting hard for women so they do not have to be suppressed. You are lucky that you are a happy women with the privileges that you can enjoy. Not every women has those privileges, and not every women want those same privileges. Feminists are often fighting for the honour of women, and are trying to discourage violence against women for example. I feel that being a feminist is an honourable thing to be. The fact that you stand up for your views and act on them is applauded by feminists. There are many different types of views when it comes to feminism. I feel that feminism is often misjudged and misrepresented these days. Thank you for your excellent blog, and your time for reading this comment.

Anonymous said...

Wonderfully put! I admire women with the wit and class to express their side without being bitter or defensive. What a concise way to get your point across! As an aspiring editorialist, I am truly in awe of your grace with words. We need more mothers out there that are family-oriented like so. May our Heavenly Father bless you and your family and the lives you touch!