Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Are you a feminist?

An interesting debate broke out on a message board I read the other day. They were discussing whether or not taking your husband’s name shows you are a feminist.
One side argued that if you “keep” your name - you are taking a stance against the “man” and therefore a feminist. (They failed to note that whether or not their last name matched their father’s or mother’s.)

The other side argued that fighting for the choice to make that decision is what defines feminism. That feminism means having options.

Both sides agreed that feminism has become a bad word due to the anti-man connotation that it has been saddled with. I cringe when people ask if I am a “feminist”. I usually answer “Yes, I believe that men and women should have access to the same opportunities.” That’s my definition of feminism – access to the same opportunities.

Growing up in a post-Title IX world, it’s hard sometimes to see the clear lines of the battlefield. Do I think that women still have to fight to be equal because there are people who genuinely believe that women aren’t as smart or as capable as a man? Absolutely.

But I also struggle with how to define myself as life gets more complicated. Does the joy I get from taking care of my husband by making dinner and folding the laundry mean I have to turn in my women’s rights card?

I think there are real gender differences that need to be accommodated in order to create an equal playing field. Study after study has shown that boys and girls relate to the world differently. And if you talk to any mom who has had a boy and a girl, they can tell you it starts at a very early age. Does this mean I can no longer claim that I believe men and women are “equal”?

What do you think? Is “feminism” relevant today? What does it mean to you?


  1. Feminism is absolutely still relevant. It is, however, morphing in ways I don't think the "Old school" feminists ever saw coming (the fight for birthing rights and children/babies). To some, I suspect these look a lot like what women did when they had no choices. So they don't know what to make of this new generation of Feminists and their struggles.

    When it comes to cooking, raising kids, or other things of the sort, if we make the choices to do those things, it's a whole different ball game than what those who came before dealt with. We can make the choice to do those things or not and THAT is what Feminists have always fought for.

    IMO, Men and woman are equal. We may (in general) do things differently and experience things differently, but neither one is "Better," and neither is, "Less." They're just different.

    As far as the name thing, my husband and I BOTH hyphenated our last names. My husband's mother's (who is the daughter of Holocaust survivors) family name ended when she got married. After we both agreed to hyphenated, she didn't speak to us for weeks. She fumed, "The last name was good enough for me. Why isn't it good enough for you?" I was absolutely floored by that. I never understood how she could leave her maiden name knowing she was the last, but I never dreamed she'd be so hostile to how we decided to work things out.