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I recently read and LOVED a blog post by my friend Sarah Lehberger about redefining Feminism (read it here). Her post really got me to thinking about my own definition of feminism.
You see I consider myself a feminist, but I am afraid to claim the title. I don’t call myself a feminist, and I rarely share any articles or stories that include the term.
Why am I so afraid of embracing that part of me? Why do I feel embarrassed or ashamed to be considered a part of the feminist movement? Reading Sarah’s post made me realize that is is because I feel like feminism needs to be redefined, just as she does.
When I chose to leave my job in the Marine Corps after eight years I was counseled by several leaders along the way that I was ruining my career and possibly my life. Many of them tried to convince me to please at least go reservist so I wouldn’t lose my career.
As a mother of a large family who works from home I have been treated like I am betraying feminists everywhere because I chose to embrace the traditional gender roles for my family.
I have endured many odd looks and rolled eyeballs when I have answered “what do you do?” with “I’m a stay at home mom.” The looks get even more incredulous when I add “I have 9 kids and we homeschool.”
People still look at me like I have two heads when I tell them I work from home as a blogger and an artist. The work from home title, apparently, demotes me to a hobbyist not to be taken seriously.
The idea that I could choose to be a stay at home mom of a large family and still be a feminist would never even cross most people’s minds.
In fact during a conversation with friends Michelle Gardella said to me “The work I have dedicated myself to for years and years has been deeply rooted in my declaration of myself as a feminist. I have never thought that being a Mom makes me less of a radical feminist. Or my other fem friends. However, I have never considered if it is possible to be a mother of a large family, full time, and still call yourself a feminist. And, if it is possible, I want to hear how the women feel they are feminist, OR, why they even care about being or not being one. Why is that title something that is important to them?”
I loved that she asked me this question which forced me to think more deeply about my role in feminism.
I believe that every human being has the right to embrace whatever role in life they choose and be treated equally as the opposite gender within that role.
It isn’t about wearing pants to church or having the same percentages of women as men in business. It isn’t about being the same as men. It is not about denying what makes us soft and feminine. It’s about protecting our rights to be whatever we want to be and to be allowed to excel (or fail) because of our unique attributes and not because of our gender.
I am not a stay at home mom because I am too weak to seek out anther role in life. I am a stay at home mom because I CHOSE to leave the successful career I had in the Marine Corps to raise my children.
I love the following exchange between Katherine (art history teacher) and Joan (student) in the movie Mona Lisa Smile:
Katherine: But you don’t have to choose!
Joan: No, I have to. I want a home, I want a family! That’s not something I’ll sacrifice.
Katherine: No one’s asking you to sacrifice that, Joan. I just want you to understand that you can do both.
Joan: Do you think I’ll wake up one morning and regret not being a lawyer?
Katherine: Yes, I’m afraid that you will.
Joan: Not as much as I’d regret not having a family, not being there to raise them. I know exactly what I’m doing and it doesn’t make me any less smart. This must seem terrible to you.
Katherine: I didn’t say that.
Joan: Sure you did. You always do. You stand in class and tell us to look beyond the image, but you don’t. To you a housewife is someone who sold her soul for a center hall colonial. She has no depth, no intellect, no interests. You’re the one who said I could do anything I wanted. This is what I want.
Exactly Joan, this is what I want. I haven’t sold out. I have made a choice. it doesn’t make me weak or stupid, and I have no regrets.
When speaking about her Harry Potter series J.K. Rowling said
“Very early on in writing the series, I remember a female journalist saying to me that Mrs Weasley, ‘Well, you know, she’s just a mother.’ And I was absolutely incensed by that comment. Now, I consider myself to be a feminist, and I’d always wanted to show that just because a woman has made a choice, a free choice to say, ‘Well, I’m going to raise my family and that’s going to be my choice. I may go back to a career, I may have a career part time, but that’s my choice.’ Doesn’t mean that that’s all she can do. And as we proved there in that little battle, Molly Weasley comes out and proves herself the equal of any warrior on that battlefield.”
Like Molly Weasley and Joan I choose to stay at home.
I am not weak or overly submissive (read more about how I define a biblically submissive wife here). I am strong, independent, and powerful. I have thoughts and ideas. I have education and talent. I am an amazing person who has made a choice to dedicate my life to raising my large brood rather than dedicate it to working an outside the home job.
This doesn’t make me any better or any less than any woman. It simply means I have made a choice. We all have a choice. If you are truly a feminist then you must support a woman’s right to make that choice.