I consider myself a liberal feminist.
This term comes with a lot of baggage.
The trouble is, I don’t think I deserve the skepticism my self-claimed definition elicits.
Feminism has long been associated with radicalism. Once it was a radical concept: political and social equality for women. Though these beliefs have become mainstream, people continue to see feminists as radicals.
And, yes, there were — and are — radical feminists, but they are not the only feminists.
I’m not claiming I’m conventional or mainstream. I’m not. I don’t want to change my name when I get married or have my children take my husband’s name. I don’t want to be the kind of wife who is supported by my husband because I am a woman.
I have no problem with the idea of being supported by my future husband. I just have no problem with the idea of supporting my future husband either. I want a career too. I’m thinking of going to law school, working with international justice. I work now and have no intention of giving that up for any man.
But that doesn’t mean I can’t compromise. I have no problem with some playing out of gender roles.
I like cooking. I like cleaning. I want to be a mother more than anything else in the world. I love and adore children. I’m a straight woman and would like to get married and wear a gold ring on my left ring finger. I like pretty clothes and high heels. That doesn’t make me any less of a feminist.
The other main problem associated with feminism is the fact that its ideals have not yet been fulfilled.
When I came to Yale, I assumed that it would be an academically challenging and interesting environment. I didn’t realize in what ways I was soon to be challenged. As a freshman, I was on a Freshman Outdoor Orientation Trip with seven guys and three other girls. One of the first nights, we sat around the fire, talking marriage and whether men expect women to change their names. I said I didn’t want to. My mom still has her maiden name. I have two last names. I’d like to keep it that way. But almost all the straight guys in the group said that, while they wouldn’t insist that their wives change their last names, they did expect to have their children named after them.
During second semester, a couple of my friends and I were having a conversation about income and money shared by spouses. The straight guy in the group said, while he knows it’s dumb, he would be unhappy if his wife made more money than he. And, more importantly, if that were the case, he would want to have separate finances and support himself. He would, however, be willing and happy to support his wife.
These ideas, these ingrained prejudices continue the need for a feminist movement in our society. I don’t think that women are all held down and oppressed. That’s just wrong. But I do believe women are still struggling to find an equal place.
Part of the reason for that, I think, is the idea that, in order to be feminist and a strong, equal woman, we must reject all that is “feminine” about us. In times of war, women feel fighting is the only way to prove they are equal to men. As civilians, they insist taking on a “man’s work” will do the same.
I have no problem with women fighting in wars or doing civilian work traditionally associated with men. I have no problem with women not wanting to have families or take care of children.
One of my closest female friends dislikes children. She doesn’t want to be a mother and works her very best toward the world of academic and financial success. She is clearly going to be more successful than most men (and women), and that’s what she wants. I support her. But the difference is she doesn’t want to be more successful than her husband. It wouldn’t destroy her ego if she didn’t financially support him. She doesn’t expect him to change his name.
But I don’t like being seen as an antifeminist simply because I want something different. Or because I spend quite a bit of my time cooking food for the boys who live in the suite next door. Or because I like the idea of changing diapers and greeting my future husband at the door on his way home from work.
I just don’t think this has to be only female behavior. A man shouldn’t be considered weak if he changes diapers and waits for me at the door when I return from work.
Timmia Hearn Feldman is a sophomore in Morse College.