(This essay was originally published on Role/Reboot.)
Almost a year ago, I wrote a very personal piece about my struggle with being “just a Mommy.”
I got a ton of positive feedback from other stay-at-home/work-at-home
moms who felt equally as conflicted, defensive, and marginalized in
their new role as a mother.
And as the piece made it’s way around the web, I also got brutally
slammed by other women who made judgments about my choices, made
assumptions about my financial situation, accused my husband of being a
chauvinist, and accused me of being a spoiled brat. That was awesome.
Luckily, the voices of the real sisterhood drowned out the scattered
boos from the angry mob. Still, it left me with a clear impression of
some of the folks I’m dealing with here in the blogosphere. Judgmental
types with an ax to grind, a narrow view of the world, and knee-jerk
reactions to any stance that falls even slightly out of their bounds.
For all of their self-proclaimed liberalism and progressiveness, they’re
about as black-and-white in their perspective as the far right,
When I was little, my liberal parents lauded my brains, my athletic
skills, my writing, and made me believe I could be whoever I wanted to
be. My mom would say things like, “I think you should be a Supreme Court
judge one day,” and I’d think, “Ugh, law, boring,” but never, “Who me?”
They enrolled me in an all-girls school where we were encouraged to
speak up, be heard, and reach high. Ultimately, the school became co-ed,
but it never lost its feminist spirit. The teenage boys who sat right
beside us were taught to embrace the same egalitarianism as well.
I mention this because I was truly raised a feminist. The idea that I
could be anything and do anything and fight for the rights of other
women was ingrained in me from a young age. I was the little girl in Ms. Magazine
T-shirts, I was the pre-teen marching for women’s reproductive rights
in Washington D.C., I was the 16-year-old volunteering for NARAL.
After graduating college, I wanted to be a journalist, and so I went after it and got a job at Cosmopolitan Magazine. Oh yes, you read that right. Cosmopolitan
Magazine. The magazine we threw darts at in my women’s studies classes.
The magazine we wrote letters too, attacking their sexist ads.
I’m not going to deny the fact that there was a focus on appearance
and pleasing your man. But between the pages, there were also articles
on sexual health, politics and, yes, pleasing yourself. Of
course, most people never got that far. The audible gasps and
passive-aggressive attacks from other women began seconds after I
mentioned where I worked.
And I would sit there, listen to their snarky remarks, and then
calmly explain my job because I was, shockingly, smart and confident
enough to defend myself. I worked with some of the smartest women—and
men—that I’ve ever known. These women were breadwinners and
high-achievers and philanthropists and activists, not silly things,
flipping their hair and bemoaning the scuffs in their fuchsia high
heels. Our goal was to give the readers what they wanted, while also
giving them information about their sexuality, their health, and their
rights. Working there taught me that feminism is not a one-size-fits-all
Thank God, because now look at me: I’m a work-at-home mom, with two young kids, and my husband is the breadwinner. I do the cooking,
I do the grocery shopping, I organize our lives. I made this choice for
myself and for our family, and we are lucky it was an option for us.
But why should I have to explain myself? Who am I explaining myself
to? Ultra-radical feminists who think a woman’s only value comes from
working full-time? Who marginalize and belittle my life choices because
they are different from their own?
Hey, I thought the whole point of the feminist movement was to
encourage women to be whoever they wanted to be, to do whatever they
wanted to do, and to not allow any man to stand in their way. Perhaps, I
should have been looking out for the self-righteous, all-or-nothing,
know-it-alls who throw shit all over my path.
I will still proudly call myself a feminist because I am one. I am
one! Maybe I’m more of a mainstream feminist. Maybe my views aren’t
perfectly aligned with the far left. Maybe I am able to, whoa,
see both sides of an argument, and embrace other’s choices and politics.
I don’t have to agree with them, but as long as they’re not spewing
hate or intolerance, I can respect their views.
Even if I’m not exactly some kickass example of women’s rights in action, I am a feminist. And screw anyone who says otherwise.
It’s a tough thing, hanging out here in the middle, because the far
left and the far right have gotten so loud and so angry, we’re afraid to
speak up and tell our truth. We want to be heard, but we’re also
terrified of the repercussions.
And we wonder why feminism has gotten such a bad rap. Maybe because a
small radical contingent has gotten so rabid and intolerant. Maybe
because as soon as anyone voices anything outside of a certain purview,
the fired-up online activists leap onto the comments section, guns
blazing, fists flying.
To those trolling the Internet looking for a fight, I’m just
wondering, what are you trying to prove? If you’re so comfortable in
your own politics and lifestyle, why do you have to shred apart everyone
else’s, including those who are on your side? One wrong word, one
moderate stance, one admittance of “well, I can see their point,” and
you’re ready to go to battle.
Don’t you see how dangerous this is? Don’t you see how intolerant? As
women, shouldn’t we be lifting each other up and respecting each
others' choices, rather than ranting about how our way is the only way?
Because really, what happens in my little life has nothing to do with
what happens in yours. It’s my story, my rights, and my feminist
identity. So what do you gain by tearing it to shreds?