Tuesday, September 4, 2012

At the intersection of feminine and feminist…

As I slowly enter the world of adulthood I find myself grappling with these two words, femine and feminist, and how I identify with them. Only two letters apart, with the same root word, meaning woman, yet I feel like I have forever been told these were contradictory adjectives and one person could never be both. This paradox emerges in my life in a multitude of ways.

Simply for starters, can I be a feminist and have manicured nails, false eyelashes, extensions, and wear a push up bra and a short skirt? Can I partake in the revelry of Halloween in a revealing costume or am I perpetuating the objectification of women? Am I a part of the problem in the subordination of women, or does volunteering for an organization providing support to victims of domestic violence make me a crazy crusading feminist who wants to bust balls and man-hate?

On a more elevated level, professional concerns arise. I am pursuing a J.D. and hopefully will have a wildly successful career as a lawyer. I have been told this path will render me unable to have a fulfilling family life. I will supposedly have to give up the soccer games, dance recitals, fresh baked cookies and home cooked meals for nannies and late nights at the office.

Is it truly unfeminine to want to pursue a professional career? Will I be incapable of being a good lawyer, and a “good mommy” or wife?

Daily on the digital life billboard that is Facebook® I see another update from a girlfriend from high school, my age, and sometimes even younger, pregnant, celebrating a child’s birthday, getting engaged, married, or even divorced, and reconsider my endless pursuit of education. I often find myself the subject of upturned noses and shocked expressions of the same said friends when I reveal I am still in school, still without husband or child.

I have found myself questioning whether I am missing out on life, or delaying it, or ensuring I have an outrageously “better” life with limitless opportunities, and more disposable income? I cannot deny I have thoroughly enjoyed prolonging my youth, but I cannot help but what wonder—Is it “settling” and the fear of the unknown that drives the desire to live in your hometown, marry your high school boyfriend, and have a mediocre middle class life, or is there beauty in this simplicity? Are these people truly happy, and am I on a path of chronic dissatisfaction, always wanting more?

I do not know if I will ever know if I am feminine or a feminist. Though the cliché reads, “You can’t have it all”, I am determined to have it all and more. I would rather live my life exactly how I want, than continue to try to understand these words, or define them.


Sam said...

“I would rather live my life exactly how I want, than continue to try to understand these words, or define them.”

For me, this is the essential feminist insight. Feminism isn’t about replacing one system of prescribed behavior with another. It’s not about replacing 6-inch heels and manicured nails with Birkenstocks and domestic violence clinics. It is about having the ability to fully express your unique and individual desires regardless of what your body looks like. To quote the musician Amanda Palmer, “the most powerful feminist can do whatever she wants.” (http://amandapalmer.tumblr.com/post/29415876584/real-feminists-dont-gaze-at-males)

KSergent said...

I agree with Sam in that, by living your life exactly how you want, you hit on a key feminist insight. For me, feminism is a way of thinking. It is about feeling empowered and helping other women reach that sense of empowerment. Regardless of whether you decide to pursue a professional career, raise children, or both, feminism is about being empowered to make that choice on your own.

Mo said...

I, too, agree with Sam, and I feel like you’re touching on a theme that is sort of developing in our class rhetoric. That is, must we reject certain stereotypes or can we effectively reclaim and redefine them? Or, can we be feminine feminists?

I think so. I hope so, anyway, because I think failing to embrace what you want and are drawn to is a sacrifice that is really antithetical to Feminism. And, I think we would be doing a disservice to ourselves by giving up what we want in order to be what others think feminists are or should be. In addition, (hopefully) the more diverse the feminist image becomes, the larger the audience it will attract. I firmly believe that successful women have an obligation to help other women, and I think one of the most effective ways of achieving that is leading by example. Like KS said, Feminism really “is about feeling empowered and helping other women reach that sense of empowerment.”