Am I a ‘good’ feminist?
As the recent election results show, most issues seem to have only two sides: right or wrong; good or bad; black or white; left or right. Feminists also seem to lie on 2 sides of a spectrum: those who are ‘good’ and ‘others’. Where are the ‘centrist’ feminists? Some say Hillary Clinton is probably one.
At no other point in history, has the humble task of doing dishes become so important to an equal rights movement. Doing the dishes, or how equally the task of doing dishes is divided in a marriage seems to be one of the core indicators of how “good” a feminist you are. A 50% split equals a 100% feminist. Anything less, with the burden on you as a woman, seems to indicate you are not fighting for your rights enough. None of this is said or even unsaid of course. This is just ingrained.
Feminism seems to add anxiety in an already overcrowded world.
Everyday, I am fighting anxiety, stress, worry about my future, time and increasingly, how much I can push the feminist agenda. I am not ‘leaning in’. I didn’t know how to negotiate salary, I did not put my hand up for promotions and I always believed I didn’t do a good enough job. Instead of inspiring me to do more, demand more for/from myself and for women everywhere, this feeling restricted me. I wondered if I would ever be a Fortune 500 CEO or one of the data points for ‘number of women on boards’. While worrying about my impending Fortune 500 ambition/disaster, I was also trying to ensure the dishes were divided equally between me and my husband, and before marriage, between me and my brother.
Reflecting now, I feel that I really wasted a lot of time on this unnecessary worry. Feminism is at best a fight for equality of opportunity — for opportunities women, as individuals, want. What that opportunity is, is not defined anywhere. It could be scaling the rungs of a Fortune 500 company, starting your own organisation, quitting a career to raise a family or deciding not to have a career and travel around the world. There have been times in my short working life where I really wanted to be the lazy employee. But fear of being thought of a woman who does not rise fast enough, stopped me. I always harshly judged women who left their careers to have children or indeed, had no careers. I firmly believed women should work — anywhere and on anything. Even if it’s volunteering or part time employment. I now see how shortsighted and immature these beliefs are.
In my perspective, women do not need to prove anything to anyone.
A culture that makes women see themselves as women first and attribute failures and successes to gender, will not achieve what the movement asks for — true equality.
The decision to have children early or late in one’s life, for example, in reality is less an indication of one’s feminist tendencies and more of economics, love or a trade off between having a dog or a child (yes that is a big decision for many people!). In this same example, it seems like the wishes of men/husbands are often ignored — having a child can also a be sacrifice of career for many men. Not all of them may want to be providers; but having a child ensures they cannot willy-nilly quit a well paying job to become an unpaid poet (if they wish!).
I absolutely don’t claim to speak for all women. And do appreciate that my views probably will not be appreciated by many. Neither do I want to take away from the amazing women who have fought for our gender to have the right to vote, to equal pay, to be treated equally. But I do wish there were more voices out there that took the pressure off a little. Voices which say its ok not to put career first or be the first one to put up your hand. Voices which understand first and then seek to inspire. In the meanwhile, I hope no matter where my many life choices take me, no movement will take away from me the simple pleasure of doing the dishes.