Friday, September 05, 2008

Feminism 101

I'm reading a book called Getting in Touch With Your Inner Bitch - yes, I know some of you think I could have written it. But seriously - it has frequent references to "Toxic Niceness," which, believe it or not, was my mantra for a little while.

My adoring dad has always said that if I had been born in another century, I would have been Joan of Arc. Maybe not - but I was born with a personality that probably would have gotten me burned as a witch. I came out of the womb opinionated, I think, and my parents tell me that I talked and talked and made my opinions quite clear even before I learned words. And I talked in complete sentences before age 2.

That said, there was a short period of time when I was a bit of a mouse, a bit of a doormat - and it got me in trouble. This lasted from about age 6, when my parents got divorced, to around my sophomore year in high school, when I learned to say, "Fuck you!" and mean it. This was in 1991. I read Susan Faludi. I got excited about Hillary Clinton. I got my personality back. I have been a full-fledged fighter of sexism ever since.

To come back to the point, I was fortunate to be raised in a household with a feminist father and parents (divorced) who both told me that I could do anything I wanted to do. I never heard about gender limitations because my parents didn't believe in them.

Before the Bitch book (which I highly recommend, by the way), I read another book about bitching, The Bitch in the House, which was a collection of women sharing thoughts (and, yes, sometimes, bitching) about home, self, work, romantic partnerships, kids, etc. I had these two books on the brain when my grandmother e-mailed me a couple of nights ago.

My grandmother is still figuring out e-mail and the internet, and it's a help to her, as it is to me, when she gets bouts of insomnia. Her last e-mail was raving about my aunt's last visit to their cabin in Minnesota, while they were out, because my aunt "left it spotless and in good order, besides beautifully arranged what was left out. I can take lessons--K- would enjoy greatly the order."

"If K- enjoys order," I wrote back, "he should do some of the cleaning!"

She chided me in a reply that he does do some of the cleaning, which I think means he may have once killed a mosquito up there and wiped up the messy spot afterwards.

Seriously, both of my grandfathers - and most American men of that generation, I think - have been slaved over their entire lives: first by their mothers, and then by their wives.

My grandfather on my dad's side remarked a few months back that he'd like to move into an assisted living facility at some point. My grandmother snapped, "You dolt! You already have assisted living!"

It's true. Both of my grandmothers do all of the cooking, all of the cleaning (even the yardwork, in my paternal grandmother's case - I think the other side, which has more money and a firmer belief in the caste system, probably hires someone to do it)and they were both responsible for all of the child-rearing.

And they each had five!

I think about this and three things come to mind:

1. I'm absolutely baffled. How did they manage to do all of this and have enough time in the day to sleep? (Maybe they didn't all that much.)

2. I'm absolutely pissed. Why was this the norm? Why is it still the norm in their homes, and most of that generation?

3. How the hell did my parents, and my friends' parents, break out of those gender stereotypes and encourage us?

It's food for thought, anyway.

I have never even considered the possibility of not ending up with someone who would expect me to be a Stepford Wife, or even a Stepford Girlfriend. (Mr. Riot Kitty, by the way, just came in to tell me that he finished doing the dishes.)

Granted, I've experienced my share of sexism - at work (remember, I worked in newsrooms for several years) and out of work. But I am thankful to come home to a partner who is willing to share the suds, as well as the cuddles.

And I am thankful to have been raised by parents who taught me to expect nothing less than that.


Green tea said...

I love your G mom.. :D

The difference with our generation is
Woman didn't have to work outside of the house if they didn't want too.
that is what I chose to do.
Volunteered at the schools my kids went to, at church at the local foodshelf and worked many Political campaigns.
Meanwhile over the years my Hubba found himself taking on many home responsibilities.
Accept I don't let him near the laundry.. *grin*

Claire said...

I'm thankful we live in times where you can choose what role you want. *Some* of my feminist friends can look down on me because I teach (women having been teaching a long time), I'm a bit mumsy, I'm caring and cosy...but you know what? I chose this. And I love the CHOICE women of my generation have. You want the be a SAHM? Do it. You want to start your own company? Do it. You want to go fight wars? Do it. I count myself as so blessed to have the option to choose what role and lifepath I want to pursue.

Loved your post!


Scarlet said...

"You dolt! You already have assisted living!" LOL (Love that line!)

Mike D said...

You Rock.

JLee said...

I actually bought this book for a friend of mine! She loved it and felt we both needed to read it. I think even though women work, they are expected to do the bulk of housework and childrearing which is completely unfair. Some of us are fortunate to have good guys that help out ;)

Riot Kitty said...

Thanks for the replies! Claire, it's probably not in your nature, but those friends should go suck it. Good teachers are RARE in this world and so necessary!

vivavavoom said...

I'll tell you as a mom of two, who makes twice what my husband does, which means I can never quit my job, I wish I could stay at home sometimes. But it was different times long ago, and I would be bored out of my freakin mind. But I am lucky I found a mate who is the yin to my yang...I am the butch, he is the bitch...and that is hard to find, so I wouldn't trade a thing.

the assisted living line is classic!!

Darth Weasel said...

I think at times the movement goes to far overboard the other way. For example, and I know you disagree, but I find some of the critiques of Palin so over the top they have ended up being offensive as people have cracked on her as if she isn't a woman because she holds some of the beliefs she holds. It is as if when certain women don't walk in lockstep with the tenets of people like Steinem then they are the "Uncle Toms" of the women's movement.

Interestingly, I grew up in a home that was very much the opposite of a feminist home. With that said, we NEVER heard anything about what the girls could or should do in the work world. They were simply presented the best education possible and took it from there.

One unfortunate side effect of the whole "everyone works and throw the kids in daycare" is the mess we have in knowing who or what is a parent, in knowing how to raise our own kids, and so forth.

There are good and bad sides to everything and unfortunately, this is one area I think is a complete negative.

Coby said...

LOL~ you are too funny! The bitch is back! or did she ever go? I don't know but it sounded nice anyway. Yes! I am finally able to ship your piece either tommorrow or friday at the latest. Payday is finally here and I am gettin drunk! lol! Thanks so much for your patience I appreciate it! Can you post a pic of it on your wall? I don't mean to be a fuckin bitch but tell Mr. Riot Kitty to pose with it!!!!! ciao!