I would like to begin with an enormous thank you for paving a way in society for Women. I am truly grateful and I acknowledge the privilege I have as a result. I’m committed to help instill even more privilege where it belongs—to all children, no matter their background and “isms” our society places on them. I know your push for the right to enter the workforce and carve out a career like your Male peers was hard won. Your desire for financial independence and need to express your leadership skills in our society are valid and very important to our humanity as a whole. Again, thank you. I cannot tell you enough, thank you. My letter is not only about the celebration of your hard work, it is also to give you some feedback, which I believe is needed in all experience in order to learn from, and arrive to solutions that work for the times. In doing so, I now move on, to not only addressing my dear Feminist Elders, but to all people that take part in Westernized Society, it’s ideologies, it’s practices, and overall mono-culture.
Like many others in my generation, I am the result of the Feminist Movement— every
wave to be exact. I’ve known it as the right for Women to vote, pursue higher education, create careers, achieve financial independence and exercise their leadership abilities in society on a larger scale. I see how being pigeon-held into a role of being a “docile, submissive, uninformed,
consumer housewife and mother” is an incredibly, excruciatingly painful place to always be, as well as trained to be. It is indeed a cage and very hard to break out of as we still experience many remnants of this cage, even in this day and age i.e. Women getting paid less than Men performing the same jobs and young Women who become mothers and carry the load of housework that comes with making a home because their chosen Male-bodied partners were never trained to “make home” or even know how to share responsibilities, the list goes on.
Let me return to my previous statement, I am the result of the great Feminist Movement, which brought me many things. The great things are the privileges I carry with me all the way from being encouraged to pursue my goals, become educated in the ways that society puts much value in, to financial independence and the various freedoms albeit “perceived freedoms” that come with this achievement. All important things within the society we’ve created, participate in, and pass on generation to generation—Consumer Industrial Capitalism.
Along with these, I was taught that being a “good woman” means to be “strong” — don’t cry, getting ahead is the goal (by mimicking hyper-masculinity promoted by media, etc.) and definitely don’t bring up my period. I was also taught to be independent— Learn to stand on my own, not need anything or anyone (especially a man) and that I can (and should want to) do it all. I have found that the latter has become a bit of an issue for myself, and other Women from my generation. The issue being that Women entered the corporate career (Male created/Male dominated) workforce induced by capitalistic values of competition, hierarchy, ego stroking, posturing, and objectification of anything living (animate beings perceived as inanimate objects, products, toys, and things). In this environment Women entered into, the only possibility for survival and carving out a way was to mimic this nature, behavior, beliefs and practices. In doing so, anything relating to being a “woman” was put aside, put down, and pushed away.
I understand that at the time, this was in order to compete, prove oneself worthy, and gain respect. It’s been a hard fight ever since and continues to this day. The problem is, we left out what it means to be Feminine or worst of all, Female-bodied. Since Women weren’t a part of building the career realm, there wasn’t a place in this sphere already made for Female-bodied citizens. Instead of carving out a path that represented the differences between the needs of a Female body and the Male body, we threw it out completely. A movement was created about Men and Women being equal, which means the same, rather than equal in value. In striving to be equal, our foremothers did just that, tried to be “the same” as Male-bodied counterparts and colleagues.
Here’s the reality. Male bodies and Female bodies are different. They have different needs and even differ in some of their functionality. This is not a sexist remark, it’s a biological fact. I honor the attempt to fight for equal rights, but equal rights is not about being the same, it’s about acknowledging true differences, and treating them and recognizing them as equally valuable. Equal Rights is about fairness, fair treatment, equity. To me, the Female-bodied and Male-bodied are not equal, but are equal in value. The lack of this realization and therefore the societal practices that stem from such a misunderstanding are causing major problems for young woman today. With all due respect, I would like to lay them out for us:
- The Strong Independent Woman Syndrome. Learn to harden yourselves, ladies. Compete to get ahead and don’t even think about leaning on anyone or anything for help. If you do, you’re weak. Definitely don’t cry (or show any other emotion other than happy or stoic). Don’t show pain, just pop some pills every month, muscle through, and “man-up.” Put aside your collaborative skills and just focus on working on your own, as well as being on your own, because you can’t trust anyone, especially a man. The real skills of what it takes to “work well with others” is too much of a risk, too weak or too idealistic.
- No respect and support for Women’s natural & biological make-up in the “working-world.” Menstruation, Ovulation (Women’s entire 28-32 day cycle), Pregnancy, Menopause, childbearing and rearing, emotional health and well-being have no place, no understanding for, support or knowledge being passed down from generation to generation, between the sexes and in the mainstream job realm. Example: No paid maternity leave & sick-leave for periods.
- No respect and support for more “Feminine” leadership qualities and characteristics. Examples: The ability to soften, provide emotional support, celebrate others strengths & achievements, offer help simply to see another succeed without an agenda to financially capitalize on or profit from later, and the ability to see and feel into generations ahead, and therefore make long-term-gain based decisions, rather than short-term (financial) gain decisions with long term loss (i.e. the current state of our environment).*
- No respect and support for what is needed to make a good home— a stable,
supportive, nurturing environment for building a strong, resilient community, family unit and place for children to thrive and become quality adults and engaged citizens. This is actually an area where neither of the sexes are respected and supported.
- The suppression of the “Domestic-Goddess” and devaluing of the abilities & talents to make a good home. The realm of domestic work kept it’s significantly undervalued trademark leftover from The Cult of Domesticity (beginning of Industrial Revolution duties/roles). When Women entered the modern workforce, they shook off their domestic past and roles (understandably so!), but along with it, they conformed to their Male-bodied counterparts ideas of it, and denounced the value of domestic work as well. A conflict formed within Women that still stands today:
between work to make a home and work to make a career.
Women put themselves and each other down for choosing to be a housewife, a mom, or anything domestic for that matter. Instead of fighting for domesticity to be an equally valued career, education, or dare I say it,— paid work!! It was left behind in the shadows. It became something Women use against ourselves and each other to measure “being a good modern woman.” Those that feel more “domestically inclined” rather than “career driven,” and care about making a good home with their partners and family, face guilt accompanied with societal pressure and condemnation (whether subtle or obvious) for choosing to be “just a mom.” For those who try to do both, they are drowning in an overwhelming pile of responsibilities that separate work and home, while also feeling the anguish of their children being raised by others via daycare or nanny. Needless to say, it’s a complex, tumultuous mess. I guarantee most, if not all, are feeling it — parents and children alike are suffering for it. Our entire society is suffering for it.
As a result of these major issues, I wonder sometimes, “What if it had been a little different?” What if the Feminist Movement had been a stand that Men and Women made together, fighting for their right to make a home together? The right to create a stable, nurturing environment for their family? The right to make their home a place of interdependent productivity and community-resiliance, rather than a place of excessive externalized consumerism? What then?
No one knows, but one thing is for sure, only because of the Feminist Movement can we now imagine the adjustments and changes to make within it, in order to take it further and fulfill what I believe it meant initially — a constitutional right being upheld in word and practice that ALL are created equal in value. Not the same, but have the same value and shall be treated as so. With this, I leave you with great reverence for our whole story —from the mistakes made along the way, to the great achievements already made, to those currently underway and yet to come. For the grand learning amidst it all, now, let’s go forth…together.
Your Sister, Confidant, fellow Feminist and Collaborator.
*The author understands that “feminine” or “masculine” characteristics are found in both sexes. The reason we culturally call them Masculine or Feminine is simply because one sex generally shows that characteristic more often or more strongly. Of course, this is due to society induced imagery & narrative, creating deep stereotypes, as well as pigeon-holing each sex in “masculine” or “feminine” boxes, when in reality, each sex has both Masculine and Feminine qualities. Horomone levels and quantities also play a part in these characteristics, but that’s another layer of complexity we won’t get into.