Feminist has become such a loaded word. The mental images it conjures are often not pretty. It’s become an insult in certain circles and even given rise to the ardent anti-feminist movement. Both terms and sets of believers have moved to further deepen the divide between women as a whole and mothers in particular. And that is dissapointing. It is dissapointing because I believe women, and mothers in particular, could be an unstoppable force for good in this world if only they would quit fighting with each other.
My handy-dandy, old and raggity dictionary defines feminism as the “theory of the political, economic and social equality of the sexes” and as the “organized activity on behalf of women’s rights and interests.” Perhaps I’m delusional, but it seems to me that at both ends of the spectrum, this definition would still fit the actions and philosophy of the “radical feminist” and the “anti-feminist.” Both ends believe in the importance, value and acknowledgement of women’s chosen work. Both ends organize to support women in their chosen interests and the rights they wish to protect. Wait. Stop. What word just appeared in both of those sentences? That word, to me, is the essential beauty and power of what I view as true feminism. It’s about choice. And that’s the stumbling block that seperates the radical from the anti. They make very different choices. But what they are missing is that it is the act of making the choice that is the most sacred thing. Not the content of the choice. Each woman has a different genetic make up and a unique set of life experiences that come together to create the elements leading her to her individual path. No two are the same. And they shouldn’t be.
Women need to begin paying close attention to this concept. We need to actually choose. And, pardon the terribly corny cultural reference, choose wisely. In my opinion, a feminist is a self-aware woman. A feminist is a woman who has taken the time to be introspective, to examine her core values carefully and make mindful choices that allow her to live her truth on a daily basis and support those who do the same. What does this woman look like? She comes in countelss varieties. She may look like a career woman who has decided that the calling she feels to her work outside the home is the best way to honor her true self and set a powerful example for her children about following their dreams. She may look like an at-home mother who feels that her true self is found in her devotion to the daily growth and development of her children. She may be an atheist. She may be a Biblical Christian. She may be an ardent liberal. She may be a staunch conservative. She may forego politics altogether. She may cook a four course meal for her family every night. She may be on a first name basis with the take out delivery person. She may have no children at all. She may have twenty. If she has consciously chosen her path, believes she is honoring her calling in life with all her heart and is striving to mindfully live her truth to the best of her ability every day of her life, then in my book– she’s a feminist.
Once our choice has been made comes the tough part. Honoring our fellow feminist’s right to choose differently. This is where things tend to fall apart. Tempers flair and potential is lost. We don’t have to agree with each other’s choices by any means. That would be impossible. And quiet frankly, I myself, have absolutely no patience whatsoever for women who make what I perceive as uneducated, unmindful choices. They frustrate and anger me beyond rationality. This does occasionally get me into serious trouble. I’m working on it. But I am proud to say that I have friends and family who have made dramatically different choices than my own and I like to think I do a decent job of honoring them as they travel their mindfully choosen path of feminism. I am stronger for having them in my life. They push me to keep my heart and mind open and for that I am grateful. They help me to live my truth by living their own. Imagine the potential power if women as a whole could all strive for this kind of womanhood. The mere thought of it gives me chills.