“I am man, hear me roar, in dwindling numbers by the score …”
Perhaps I will finish my lyrics later, when I know I have Weird Al Yankcovic signed up to sing them. For now, as a product of the 70s, I have more questions than ever about feminism and just enough intelligence to know better than to answer them knowing that if I do, I might be labeled by some group in a negative light.
I can remember the burning of the bras, refusing to shave body hair, and the going without makeup movements of the “Women’s Lib” movement of the 70s. Like many males of that era, I was raised in a house where the clearly defined gender roles were modeled. As a young man, my father wanted to know what I planned to do professionally and whether or not I thought I could raise a wife and kids on my salary. As a male, my father wanted me to provide for everyone before choosing a profession out of some factor other than money. He seriously questioned whether or not I would be able to meet my responsibilities as a man if I went into teaching.
My sisters were encouraged to find a man who would provide for them the type of lifestyle they either desired or were accustomed to. Sure, go ahead and learn a skill, work for a time, but just be sure to be a stay at home mom when it came to raising kids. Your husband should be able to provide for you.
This was the “normal” women took to the streets and fought about along with having the right to decide for themselves what to do with their bodies. It seemed, from where I was at the time, all women wanted was to have control over their life and the decisions they made. Why does a woman have to marry to be happy? Why can’t she choose a career, or heaven forbid, both marriage and a career? Why should she be the one who remains home to raise kids? Why does she even have to have children in order to feel complete? Why can’t she be paid the same as a man for the same job?
All of these were legitimate questions to ask at a time in which we were undergoing a cultural revolution. Some seem positively archaic today when you look at what was being questioned. However, the movement is not over yet. Women still lag behind men in earnings and are still judged more on their looks than men. Working women have led to latch key children grown up on day care and video games with mixed results. Some question whether or not the movement was worth it; I only question what is the movement today?
The debate is no longer one between men and women over their roles in society nearly as much as it is between women themselves. How do you define feminism and what makes a person (yes, guys are now allowed in the club) a feminist? There’s no longer a clear answer like there was in the 70s, which has added to our social divide and while this has many women up in arms, it’s actually a good sign that maybe feminism has really taken hold.
Can a woman lay claim to being a feminist if she does not follow the mantra of Gloria Steinem? That all depends on your thinking. Many long time members of the movement believe you cannot be a feminist if you vote Republican. It’s not any different than a union worker or a minority who votes conservative because they are often labeled as having turned their backs on those who fought for their rights.
However, women who fought for the rights of their peers to take control of their lives should embrace those who do not blindly agree with them when it comes to politics. This assumption that all women are Democrats and will align with a female candidate was shot out of the water this past fall when Hillary Clinton, notorious for relying on the gender card, failed to win the election.
Liberal women, many of whom were part of the 70s movement and others who are well known celebrities, went postal describing women who voted for Trump. In their eyes, they betrayed those who fought for them rather than were seen as freely expressing their political views.
If feminism has devolved into a political alignment, then it seems to me it has failed horribly. Forty years after the movement, women have yet to figure out how to align in political thought to where they can take advantage of their numbers and not just elect a female as president, but also elect two houses controlled by women.
So this begs the question, was the movement really about attaining equality for women or was it really just a ruse to find a way to take control of our political system? If it was about control, then what the movement’s leaders really wanted was not equality for women, but inequality for men. As a result, they failed to convince many women along the way that two wrongs make a right.
Can Donald Trump and his followers claim to be feminists? Let’s look at what they argue. Trump boasts of hiring more women than men in his many businesses. They claim by denying federal funding to Planned Parenthood and handing it over to each of the states, he is allowing women to vote and decide for themselves whether or not they want women to have access to health care rather than having it mandated by a bunch of men in power at the federal level. The left will simply tell us this is all a lie and shows how conservatives, both male and female, are using the movement as a way to keep women down.
This is ultimately what happens when any cause becomes politicized. People look for gray areas to exploit and use to their advantage just to make their opponents look worse than they are. If people do not think the more far left-leaning women in this country do not do the same then you are naïve. It is a political strategy aimed at gaining as much power as possible.
Personally, there really is only one women’s issue I take seriously and that is what they are or are not allowed to do with their bodies. It is not the job of government to tell a woman what she can or cannot do with her body just as it isn’t the job of government to tell men what they can or cannot do with theirs.
Jobs, pay, maternity leave, childcare, and even access to clinics all are political issues. Yes, women do have the right to have an abortion in my opinion, but if the voting majority in a state chooses not to make clinics available for women, then that is the will of the voting public. We are all free to move to any state that is more in line with our thought if we so choose.
Women make up over half of the population and yet they are often portrayed by a sympathetic media as being a minority. It doesn’t matter if all blacks in this nation united politically, they will always be a minority and as a block will be lucky to control 15 percent of the vote. They rely on open minded white men and women to support their issues. Women are no longer a minority and now that two generations of children, both male and female, have been raised since the women’s movement, they should be able to take control of our elections, economy, and anything else they so choose.
The reason they cannot, I believe, is their failure to accept the thinking of women who might believe differently than they do and not the failure of men to come around to their way of thinking.
In a free society, gender, race, and religion should not be determined by one’s political beliefs. If you can call yourself a Christian and be in favor of abortion, you can also call yourself one and oppose it. The same should be true of calling oneself a feminist. There has to be room and respect for differing political and social views no matter how you are defined or labeled in this nation; not to is to is to then be the opposite of what you claim to be.
In the case of labeling one’s self a feminist and a supporter of the movement, you should be accepting of the right for any woman to believe differently than you or you just become an example of what you claim to oppose, close mindedness in thought and action.
Does all of this make me a feminist or a pig? You know what? I really do not care about the label you place on me nearly as much as whether or not you and I are both free to disagree or agree. Call me what you want, but I will see myself as a free thinker just as we all are, unless there is now a group out there that has laid claim to thought.
Top photo by Tim Maier
Jim is a life long resident of California and retired school teacher with 30 years in public education. Jim earned his BA in History from CSU Chico in 1981 and his MA in Education from Azusa Pacific University in 1994. He is also the author of Teaching The Teacher: Lessons Learned From Teaching. Jim considers himself an equal opportunity pain in the ass to any political party, group, or individual who looks to profit off of hypocrisy. When he is not pointing out the conflicting words and actions of our leaders, the NFL commissioner, or humans in general, he can be found riding his bike for hours on end while pondering his next article. Jim recently moved to Camarillo, CA after being convinced to join the witness protection program.