Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Coming Out Is Scary, and Not For the Reasons You Think

I've mentioned before that I consider myself a feminist, though I'm often afraid to say it. Not because I think people will assume I'm a "femi-nazi." I mean really, if people want to accuse me of being angry because I want the genders to be equal then they have their own psychological issues to work out. The term "femi-nazi" doesn't scare me in the slightest. I know who I am, I know I am more than capable of having civilized discussions, to the point where if the argument is not civilized it's more than likely not because of me.

No, the reason I don't like saying it is because there always seems to be another feminist out there ready to jump out and tell me all the reasons I'm not a feminist.

For starters, while my career is important and I consider myself ambitious, when I'm honest with myself, in 10 years my family will be the most important thing to me. The people in my life will be the most important aspect of my life. My potential husband, my friends, my parents. I could claim that in 10 years I'll be climbing some sort of corporate ladder, and maybe that will be true, but when push comes to shove it's not going to be my priority.

That doesn't sound particularly anti-feminist to me, though. It doesn't sound like I'm playing in to the patriarchal plan for our society. I mean, I guess maybe I am, I guess a sexist person would say a woman should only think about her family and husband, but I don't think that way because of male forces in my life. I think that way because it's what's important to me and I'm trying to make myself happy.

And honestly, I don't want to end up with a man who prioritizes his career. I want to be with a man who puts as much of an emphasis on family and relationships as I do. That wouldn't make him any less of a man any more than it makes me less of a feminist.

I think the defining emphasis for feminism is choice (and no, dear god, I am not, and will never, get in to the abortion topic here. That is not where this is going. Waaaaay too heavy for me). It does not bother me that there are women out there who don't go to college, don't become engineers, and don't go on to break the glass ceiling. What bothers me is that there are women out there who make that decision without realizing what all their options are. They choose that path because they don't know they don't have to.

I know what I can accomplish. I know full well that if I want to I could probably do a hell of a lot of things. It would be harder for me as a woman because, despite what you may think, there are still lots of people out there who think my sole purpose is as a uterus. There are people who think I don't deserve the same kind of pay as a man due to my mere potential to produce children. There are people out there who really don't think women can be engineers. Despite all those people, I know I could accomplish a lot. I just don't want to make those kinds of accomplishments.

I could look at the big picture and think it's my duty to and force myself to go on and break boundaries with my female peers from RPI. But if that doesn't make me happy, why should I? Didn't I just talk about this in the last post? Growing up is about figuring out what makes me happy, and not forcing myself to be unhappy for other people and outside forces. No matter how important feminism is, my individuality will always be more so.


  1. I totally thought this was going to be you saying you were bi or something. Anyways.

    I don't think of myself as sexist (does anyone?), but I have to take exception at one of your points, not exactly as being WRONG, but... I don't think it deserves to be lumped in with the rest of those things you listed. It is a simple fact that women can get pregnant and men can't. There's no denying it, or the effect it can have on a worker, and ignoring that because it would be 'sexist' doesn't seem reasonable. At the same time, I agree on principle that men and wouldn't shouldn't be treated differently, but in this case they ARE.

  2. I struggle with this, and I thought about writing a post about this recently but I really don't know where to start. So I'll try to sum up how I feel about this, but my thoughts are hardly fully thought out. If that makes sense.

    First of all, it's completely unfair to assume that just because a woman is capable of having children, that she definitely will and that it will definitely interfere with her quality of work. So managers and higher-ups who would rather hire a man than a woman because they know the man will never take maternity leave is grossly sexist.

    Second, I think it's unfair to assume that only women need to take a leave of absence during the time that the child is born. I wouldn't advocate making "paternity leave" mandatory, simply because I don't like govt reg, but I think it's over-looking the fact that men should be just as much a part of the child's life as women.

    You're right, biologically speaking, at the moment, this is a very stark difference. But I wouldn't propose that the solution is that women deserve less pay for something out of their control, I'd say the solution is to view both sexes as equally important in children's lives and affording both sexes that right.

    I'd finish with the thought that humanity has the capability to understand itself very well, and that understanding and technological advancement has brought the power to overcome its biology. Women are capable of choosing when they have children now, they are not slaves to their bodies anymore in that regard. Women are more than baby makers and men are more than fighters. I think we'll just keep going up from there.

  3. That's fair. Like I said, I don't think it's wrong, per se... but if, statistically, more women than men take paternity leave, then that means something, and it's hard to blame people for taking it into account. I agree that it sucks that if I'm a male who may plan on having 982734 kids and spending as much time as I can with them, I'm favored over a woman who wants nothing to do with kids or family or anything like that, and I think that paying women less because of that is a terrible solution. But... I think it's an issue that's distinct from other issues of sexism.