Avoiding Crisis

comments on feminism

with 3 comments

I attended a friends birthday party today.  While at the party, I was asked about my blog.  What I was doing? Why I was doing it? How? When? etc. … During the in depth discussion about what I’ve been writing about, the conversation turned to a discussion, albeit brief, on feminism.  While I can say quite a bit about modern feminism – both on an academic level and a personal one – I think that I will stick to looking at one particular comment made by a friend and my thoughts that followed. 

A friend, who is older than I, and who has taken a much different route in life than I, made a really interesting point that has stuck with me for hours.  She raised the point that maybe the feminist movement changed things for the worse.  While I know that this isn’t a ground-breaking, earth-shattering, stop-all-the-presses comment, but it got me thinking all the same.

The point went something like this: A woman (let’s call her woman #1) who had been raised on the idea of being strong and independent and on the idea of getting ahead by working hard and making sacrifices finds herself either 1) miserable and alone with no partner to share her life with and no children or 2) married late in life with maybe, if she’s fortunate, the opportunity to have one child.  Woman #1 is successful at her job, highly respected in her field and independently financially stable.   Yet, woman #1 also feels as though she has missed out on a lot – particularly the opportunity to have a family and a life outside of work.  She gave up one to achieve the other.  But that was what she was supposed to so because as an intelligent and ambitious female she had to make sacrifices to remain competitive with the men in her same position, right?  Using this example, my friend argued that feminism got it partly wrong.  I mean, what’s so wrong with having a family and not following an accelerated job path?  Does that make you any less of a modern woman?  Now, another women, let’s call her woman #2, who is younger than the first, yet equally intelligent and ambitious, gets married and has kids much earlier in life.  This women puts even the idea of having a career on hold and focuses her attention on her family and their needs.  This women, like the other, grew up believing in equality of genders and the ideals put forth by modern feminism.  Woman #2 feels like a failure.  She feels like she has let her generation down, like she has reverted to the 1950 idea of the wife and mother in the home supporting the husband and children.  She feels as though she has betrayed herself, her mother, her friends, her gender. 

Here’s the thing.  Maybe feminism did get it wrong.  What’s so wrong with being a mom?  What’s so wrong with not having a career but instead supporting your family through more traditional means.  The answer: nothing.  Both of these women – #1 and #2 – made choices in life that created a path upon which they would travel.  One followed closely the idea of what an independent modern woman should do and feels cheated by having lost out on a whole other side of life.  The other didn’t follow the path that she was “supposed to” and feels as though she’s a throw back to her grandmothers time, a disappointment to her generation. 

Who’s right and who’s got it all wrong? Both? Neither? or shall we just blame feminism? 




Written by nicolemarie

January 15, 2007 at 10:46 pm

3 Responses

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  1. Nicole –

    Good light reading  – Hope BA is treating you well. Congrats on starting the blog – I’ve been trying to start one for a while – the first step is tough. Now good luck with the next 200 entries.

    Couple random comments

    1) I thought I was going to be a millionaire business owner at 30. Swore by it. I’d probably be miserable had I put the blinders on and went for it. The most interesting people are 55 years old and completely changing direction, trying new things. Good friend of mine’s last kid just graduated – he’s started a new career and is loving it. I hear you – in that you failed on some goals you set out on. I’m in no position to comment on your failures – but from the view I have – you’ve done a great job of assessing variables that appear and responding.
    2) Feminism – I think by nature, women will always be at a disadvantage in the workplace. There will always be the maternal instinct and biology dictating the need for maternity leave. Frankly, that workplace disadvantage is a life advantage. I think the value of life is the sum of your experiences and relationships. I’m (not too) secretly jealous that we’re preparing Randi to be a work at home mom. Part of the reason we’re saving so much is to give us financial flexibility in a time/money tradeoff for the relationships that we feel will be really important.

    Send our best to Arran, Owen and Abbey.


    January 16, 2007 at 12:59 am

  2. Hi there. I think feminism has given us the freedom to choose. I was in the working world for eight years and for the last seven have been at home with my kids (the last three of which I’ve managed to work freelance). There’s no reason why, when my kids are older, that I can’t go back to work and have a successful career.

    For me, it’s no longer black and white. There are so many shades, so many possibilities for women. We can thank the feminist movement for throwing all those possibilities open!


    February 2, 2007 at 5:21 am

  3. Feminism does not suggest that being a mother is a failure. If you think that feminism “got it wrong,” consider this: when was the last time you heard a man trying to figure out how to juggle a career and family?

    Please remember that feminists fought to get woman basic rights: the right to vote (not until 1920), the right to family planning and reproductive choices. It has worked to end violence against women (and still does), to ensure women have access to equal education, proper healthcare, and basic human equality.

    Feminism does not insinuate that a woman must have a career first in order to be a feminist. The right to choose to have a child is at the heart of the feminist movement.


    February 11, 2007 at 12:37 pm

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