We are Not Raising Feminists

How do you read blogs?

I subscribe to a few blogs.   I read a lot more–blogs of friends online and a few that I’ve met in real life.   I enjoy seeing the day-to-day happenings, especially of fellow homeschoolers.   I am also intrigued with sites, blogs, and articles of fellow businesswomen from whom I can learn much in my own presentation, my savvy in using the resources available to me, and in general, how to continue to improve in fulfilling my God-given purpose.   Once in a while, I see something that really forces me to stop and think–something that stays with me and makes me check my own direction.  This level of reflection is often a function of transparency moreso than eloquence, but occasionally, you get both.   So I thought when a friend sent a link to an article written by the daughter of Alice Walker, famed author of The Color Purple, among other books, and noted feminist.

As the daughter of a feminist, one might expect that Miss Walker, the author, would talk about women’s power and where we are, and what is the gap between where we are and where we need to be.    So, color me surprised when she began to write her heart about all that didn’t happen between her and her mother as a result of her mother’s feminist views.   This article was heart-breaking; you could almost sense a tear in her words.   A friend of mine and I talked for a while about whether the article was meant to truly heal the relationship, or whether it was meant to rip to shreds the small bit of affection that might have remained.   My friends perspective was that the article could have been written as something other than a tell-all; to “air dirty laundry” in this way was disrespectful.   Maybe, but had she not been so transparent about her hurts and pains, would we have spent time talking about them?  However differently her words touched either of us as readers, the article left us both thinking about the women in our lives–sisters and mothers who grew up in this same era, friends who grew up as offspring of those ideas, and then our children.   I thought about what unconscious messages might I have given our daughters about women inside and outside the home, and I thought similarly about what messages our son might have received.  As the mother of three small sons, I imagine that the words hit her a bit differently, but in the last few days, I’ve thought hard about the word ‘feminist,’ and the way that we use–and misuse–words in general, and the impact of our ignorance.

‘Feminism,’ in my mind, is one of those words like ‘homophobic,’ or ‘bully,–words that people in our culture are hypersensitive about, but sometimes overuse to the point that the word takes on an entirely different meaning and message than might have been originally intended.   As an example, I was watching a Disney commercial recently where a group of school-aged girls were about to have lunch together.   Another young girl eyed them longingly, wanting to sit with them, but they chose not to invite her to the table.    At that point, a voiceover gives a strong message about preferred behaviors, calling the behavior of the group of girls “bullying.”   The scene is then replayed, and the girls invite the lone stranger (I assume she was a stranger) to come and sit.   Nice ending, but was the first act that of a group of bullies?   It might have been hurtful, and it might have seemed cruel to the one who was ostracized, but no, it wasn’t bullying.   I can decide with whom I want to share a meal, and I in turn respect the fact that everyone might not want to be around me, either.   Even as a school-aged kid, I can remember being ostracized for various reasons.   Those kids weren’t bullies, although I’ve faced one of those, too, at a younger age.   They were jealous, they had more in common with each other than with me, and/or they were with people that weren’t a good crowd for me.   In any case, those days weren’t my best memories, but I can look back from here and see that my life might have taken a different turn had I “fit in” with the crowd.   Sometimes we are set apart with very good reasons, even if we don’t understand them at the moment.

Back to the word feminist.   I think that there are a number of women in my generation and younger who think of feminist as synonymous with independent.   I found it almost laughable that in the sidebar of this same article, there was (as of this writing) an article highlighting the superstar Beyonce, who stated that she is a modern-day feminist.   Really?   Why do you say that, I’d love to ask.   But again, I think the feminist moniker is another way of saying, “I make my own money, I have my own life/ career, and I’m not dependent upon a man for my living.”   Fantastic, but the current feminist agenda is so much more than that.   I personally think the goal of any individual, male or female, should be first God-dependency and second self-sufficiency.   And though I personally chose to give up some of my financial independence when we moved into our season of home education, I know that I could be of more help to my husband if I had to be.   My calling to be a wife, mother, and home educator (among other roles) doesn’t negate the fact that I have a Master’s degree and a marketable set of skills.   Nor does one calling outweigh the other; I believe that I was obedient to what God called me to do when He said to do it.   If anything, having worked both inside and outside of the home, I took on a harder job when I left the corporate arena, that’s for sure!

So, what am I saying?   We’ve raised our daughters to go to college; for various reasons, we’ve not made this decision an option.   Similarly, we’ve raised our son to seek out a woman’s goals and desires for her life before he invests much time or energy in winning her heart.   He needs a HELPmeet, a partner, not a leech.   Having said that, if the Lord orders the steps of either daughter such that they never work a day outside of their homes, may each one work and manage the home to the very best of her abilities.   Similarly, may our son know that household management is not women’s work, and may he step up to non-traditional roles in his home with the same sense of pride that he steps into a car to drive to an office (or something of the sort).

Two final thoughts.    In reading her biography with our youngest, I found this portion of the book  You Want Women to Vote, Lizzie Stanton? quite fascinating.   Elizabeth Cady Stanton is now famous for her role in establishing voting rights for women.   She could have been considered a feminist in her day.  Yet, when Lizzie and her husband left her parent’s home and moved to New York, Elizabeth had to leave an environment in which she customized areas of her mother’s home, and instead had to establish her own dwelling place.

‘Leaving her children in Johnstown with her mother, Elizabeth went ahead, hiring carpenters, painters, paper hangers, glorying in what she called a “full display of my executive ability.” ‘    What??!!   Running a home as a show of executive ability??!!   Kinda reminds me of a section of Home Comforts: The Art and Science of Keeping House by Cheryl Mendelson I read years ago when I was trying to develop a home ec curriculum:

‘Housekeeping requires knowledge and intelligence as well, the kind that is complex, not simple, and combines intellect, intuition, and feelings.   You need a memory good enough to remember how things are done, where things are, what the daily routine requires, what everyone in the home is up to as it affects housekeeping, the state of supplies, budgets, and bills.   You have to be able to decipher insurance policies, contracts, and warranties, manage a budget, and master the technical language of instruction manuals for appliances and computers.  The ability to split your attention in several ways and stay calm is essential.  You need to exercise creative intelligence to solve problems and devise solutions: efficiency measures that save money or time…steps to improve physical comfort; anaylses of why and how some routines break down (Mendelson, page 10-11).’ 

Being a judge like Deborah, a wealthy cloth manufacturer like Lydia, a wife and mother like Mary, or a mixture of all three ladies like the Proverbs 31 woman all takes mental and physical energy.   All of these women accomplished great things and created memories that outlasted them for thousands of years.   And that’s what I really wanted to say, and how that author’s heart spoke to me after reading the article: whatever the Lord gives you to do, remember that you are creating a memory.

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