This is the tip of the iceberg. There is certainly more to it than I can say in a blog of moderate length. Probably a novel if I were really trying.
I know that I am lucky to have had people come before me to demand that women have the right to vote. That we can have jobs (even if men are still thought of as the bread winner in most households), that we can hold office (even if we don’t hold as many), that we can wear pants (even if we choose not to), that, in theory, we can make decisions about our bodies including who we marry, have sex with, if we have children, when, how many, and so much more. Someone else fought for most of these things for me but so many things still need to be available before our society will be anywhere near equal.
Most feminists have to, at some point, explain that they don’t hate men, they don’t think men are inferior, and they simply want equality and the freedom to make their own choices and live their own lives. But then some of them turn right around and tell other women and other “allies” what choices they should make and how they should live their lives.
That is the part that is hardest for me to grasp and something that I am still struggling with. Why was it right to tell women in the 1920s or 40s or 60s that they should be able to vote or wear pants or NOT wear makeup or have a job or get divorced if they weren’t happy or WHATEVER it is that feminism is supposed to be about? Why was it right for some people to decide that their way of life was better than the status quo? I’m really really glad that I don’t get funny looks, or you know… stoned, when I wear pants. That I can vote. That, theoretically, I can choose a family planning method that is right for me. The culture I was raised in tells me it is ok. Feminism tells me these things are ok. Unfortunately, feminism often also says it’s NOT ok for a man to make all the important decisions in a relationship. For a woman to wear only dresses or want to be super feminine. For a family to choose to have a dozen kids because birth control isn’t natural or right for them. Unfortunately, it puts us in a position where we “know better” than women who want to stay home and be housewives because they should be “leaning in” and “succeeding.” Unfortunately, it allows our “enlightened” culture to say that women who wear certain garments (from bras to burkahs) are “oppressed” because feminist culture says that we should be able to go topless if we choose. And I’m not sure I am ok with that.
I support choice. I support a man who chooses to marry a woman who chooses to be “submissive” because that choice is up to the individuals involved. I support a woman who chooses to be a sex worker or a bee keeper or executive or stay at home mom. I support a government that supports and protects the right of its citizens to choose the life that is right for then and I support men and women who support and respect the choices of others. That is what feminism means to me.