The views of this article are the perspective of the author and may not be reflective of Confessions of the Professions.
Women and Feminism: To Be Or Not To Be
Throughout history, aside from the few Queens and women that were able to rise to power, women were either daughters of their fathers or wives of their husbands. Daughters could be used to pay off debt, married to ensure partnership, unite a kingdom, and prevent war, or even be bought as property. This remained unchanged and unquestioned for centuries.
I was born in a time where feminism had already been established and women were able to work in many different areas, have jobs, and establish careers. The principal at my elementary school was a female and very well respected. Both men and women worked, despite the infamous line that has been drilled into all of our heads, and might just be true: “Women make $.77 (seventy seven cents) for every $1.00 (one dollar) that a man makes.” Growing up, this was a common line that I had heard often and still to this day, over 20 years later, it is a line that has hardly changed, and one I often hear.
I grew up in a household where my mother went to work and so did my father. They both worked two to three jobs and seemed to still find time for their children, and despite working all those jobs, we were not rich, but the entire family was comfortable. The mindset instilled into me was that both men and women can and do work. Before my time, however, it was starting out that women did get jobs, though more opted to stay in the home, be housewives, cook, clean, and raise their families. Before that time, women may have helped their husbands, but they did not work.
While my mother was never a prominent feminist, she was very independent and preferred to make her own money, buy her own things, and basically live her own life. My mother was the primary female role model in my life and how I looked at other women, though I was taught that I should always open and hold doors, be courteous, and treat both men and women with respect.
As I grew up and applied for jobs, it was both men and women in the unemployment pool looking for work, battling against each other for a single position. Men and women seemed to be treated fairly equally. Considering the time I was born in, I developed the belief that both men and women go to work, and this is how my mindset has always remained.
Several years ago, I took a class at my university called the Psychology of Women thinking that I could learn the secrets to this delightful mysterious other human that is not male, but female. At the time, as serious as it was, there was humor in taking a class on women. Why did my university not offer a class on men? Are women so mysterious, puzzling, and confusing that a class needed to be taught about what goes on in the minds of women? The class covered an assortment of topics, from women’s place in the home as a mother to her step up in the workplace and all the the obstacles she would face, from having a voice, to voting, and working. It was basically an Introduction to Feminism class in disguise of trying to understand women. It was also a class where there were about 35 students and 4 of them, including myself, were male.
Every so often, I felt the guilt of being a man in the classroom, of being a man born on this Earth, thinking I had caused all these women’s issues, though it was not me! Through speaking to some women on the side from my class, while they agreed with some of the ideas of feminism, they did not agree with them all, and surely, none of them hated me for being a man, nor did any of them hate their boyfriends or husbands. What I learned from this class was that there were several versions of Feminism, from Conservative to Moderate to Extreme or Radical Feminism.
Conservative feminism of sorts holds that women have their place in the home, but if they choose, they can go to work, but it is not necessarily important that they do, choosing to raise a family instead, but are still equal and just as important as their male counterparts. For example, a woman stays at home and cares for her family, while a man goes out, makes money, and brings home the financial means to support his family. Extreme feminism takes the view that women have been oppressed by a patriarchal society, and true equality can be achieved only by eliminating social constructs of gender.
Where do the two types of women in the world come in? There are those women who support feminism and those who don’t.
This is not to say that women who do not support feminism feel that feminism is wrong, but they may feel it has destroyed the structure of how a society and family should function. For example, the grandmothers of many of these women stayed home and did not work. Their husbands went to work, made money, and supported the family, while the mother stayed at home, took care of the children, and even educated them. The duty of a woman was to ensure that she raised her family properly and to take care of the general household.
There are still plenty of societies around the world that abide by this gender construct, including Orthodox Judaism. Though women are allowed to work, many do opt to stay home and tend to being mothers and wives. I once asked an Orthodox Jewish woman how she felt about men going to work and women staying home. This woman told me that she once did work, but she chose to no longer work, so that she could remain at home and care for her younger children. I asked her if she missed working and her job, and she quickly responded that being a mother and a wife was the job she wanted to have. She said she had responsibilities of having dinner ready for her husband, ensuring her children did their homework and were being educated properly, and of course, her household duties. She said she did not mind any of it, as she felt her job was to keep her entire family structure strong and close together.
There are plenty of other women who feel this way as well, some more extreme, feeling that feminism has actually destroyed society, and they are now forced to go to work, as most men and women are simply not willing to adopt the old ways of how things used to be. There are many variables in all this, including how men were raised, as I was, in a feminist world, where men and women are equals and mostly share equal responsibility. The economy is another factor, in which a single household family income would have no choice, except to live in poverty-like conditions.
These women also feel that they have to make a choice between family life and a career. Choosing one or the other may prevent them from experiencing the opportunity they could have had. For example, a woman who chose her career over a family may become past her prime and too old for children, while the woman who chooses her family over a career may have passed up a great opportunity to be the CEO or head of a company.
In a humorous way, you could say that their grandmothers and mothers fought for their right to get out of the house and would no longer have to tend to household duties, which they still find themselves stuck with after going to work. Of course, men too, should be just as responsible for household chores.
On the opposite side of the coin, there are plenty of women who are very happy with feminism or still fight for what it stands for, agreeing that men and women should be equals, get the same pay for the same work, and have to work. They also feel that women do not have to choose between family life and career, but that they can have both.
Women are not the only ones who can be feminists. Many men are feminists and anti-feminists. There are plenty of men who feel lost, confused, and struggle everyday to understand how to function in a world where they must discover new ways of “being a man.” For example, “being a man” might mean making more money than their female counterparts, or wives, having bigger muscles, or being successful. Men have often been told they are the breadwinners and caretakers of their family, and when viewing history, learning about history, and even watching older movies, this is true. Yet what they come to learn is just the opposite: If both men and women are making the same amount, than they can share equal responsibility, and therefore, men are not breadwinners or supporters, but simply equal opportunity partners in the relationship.
This means that women can open the door for themselves; a man does not always have to pay for the date, a woman can buy her own things, including jewelry, beauty accessories, a car, and even a house. There are some men who feel that feminism has castrated them from feeling like a man and being a man. They are completely turned off of women who are independent or act like it, and they certainly want to care for women, as they feel it is in their nature to do. They feel that feminism has destroyed society and the family. Of course, there is no shortage of women in the world who want to be taken care of, who want to take care of their children, and want their man to support them.
There are men who completely agree with feminism, coined Mennists and feel that women should go to work and work alongside men. A man and woman who are making around the same amount of money can be and are equal partners in the relationship. While they do think that they can be the husband and wife, they feel that everything in the relationship is and should equal. Equal chores, equal bills, equal responsibility with everything in their lives.
Whether you love or hate feminism, feminism has changed the world completely and once the change was put into play, there was never any reversing it. The workforce is almost half of women and in the future, will likely increase, putting women as the dominant ones in the workforce, especially as more women become educated and strive for work and careers. Feminists fought for many years to be recognized, to be given a voice, and the chance to vote, and will never want it reversed. Feminists will stand up and fight for their right to not be dominated by a patriarchal society any longer. In fact, feminism continues to make its way into other countries where women still lack a voice and are mistreated and abused. Feminism does have its place in the world, and while some may think it is not good, the true mission of feminism is to recognize women as human beings and not objects, and especially to be treated as equals to men.