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Defining terms

Since its been on my mind lately...

I define feminism as taking the gender out of life roles and choices, particularly with respect to domestic issues. For me, it's about opening doors and allowing choices (for men and women) and not dictating which choice is right, but rather allowing the individual more options.

How do you define feminism?

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I understand your definition of feminism, but kids change that equation. You end up realizing that, despite wishing to think of yourself as no different from your male counterparts, damnit YOU have the gestational abilities. It changes things in a way that's quite depressing for a feminist. I had to rethink my view on it. Now, I'd define feminism as being free to choose - end that sentence as you'd like.

Not at all for the same reasons, I've come to the same conclusion. I don't identify with "feminist" as a label for me. The same way that some gay kids just prefer to be queer, I prefer to be a gender equalist. It's a bit more wordy than feminist, but it's how I feel. I'm not for advancing women's rights, I'm for equalizing all human rights. I don't define feminism, because...well...it's out dated as a term in so many ways. And the word has been given too many negative connotations.

Gender equality is the belief that regardless of the sex of the body each person is born into, each spirit has the same social and economic potential as it would have in any other body.

I'm a spiritual person without a religion, so this works for me. But if you don't believe in the term 'spirt' you can substitute with human entity.

I used to think about feminism in much the same way - as a term I rejected because it connoted 'dykes with moustaches' or 'angry french postmodern writers" - as undesireable, unfeminine caricatures of what the movement was meant to be. I absolutely understand why you'd shy away from the term.

For me, I've started to think we need to reclaim it. I know that's sort of a PC idea, just as African-Americans have reclaimed negative terms, gays, lesbians and so on . . . why not reclaim and reshape feminism from within rather than rejecting it? If nothing else, it represents a banner that all woman can walk together under if they so desire, which is a thing that doesn't exist in our society. Women don't work together at all - we tend to subdivide into liberal feminists, radical feminists, third wave feminists and minority feminists and so on. In fact, the very idea that we, as women are our own worst enemies is one of the most compelling reasons I've found to embrace the title of feminist.

And now, pardon me as I get the hell off this soapbox that just appeared out of nowhere and put itself under my feet.

My definition of gender equality also fits my desire to see gay marriages legalized and accepted in society. It encompasses my desire to create an accepting environment for intersexed or transgendered people and it allows for notions of open by trusting relationships that some people are really good at making work. (not me, but then I'm still a little old fashioned :))

Taking into account your new status as a parent, do you think that beyond gestation and the newborn stages of development, say when solid foods are introduced, that there's a functional equivalent between the option of mom vs. dad as primary caregiver? Or do you think there's still some difference that would come into play? If a couple were to choose one person to stay home, do you think that a dad would be as capable as a mom? You've got a whole new viewpoint that I haven't been able to ask people about before. :)

I think Dad would be as capable, beyond the immediate obvious things like child carrying and feeding. However, by that time there are a couple of things to take into consideration:

1) Something I've noticed in the nurture thing right away. While I have absolute confidence in Hubby's ability to look after our daughter, he has somehow magically gone through his life not absorbing all the baby lore that I have. How this happened, I'll never guess since I've done nothing, it seems, besides hear about newborns and how to care for them. As a result, the knowledge pool in our relationship has a deep end and a shallow end. This tends to default me as the primary caregiver when things get tough, though I'm not trying to suggest he abrogates his responsibility. But eventually, one person has to step in.

2) By this time, precedent has been set. Mommy is who you run to when you're most scared/hurt/worried/tired/lonely etc. . . . ya know?

Neither of these things are insurmountable and neither of them are genetic or predestined based on gender. But really, the problem is that you cannot put aside the fact that you carried the child and nursed the child. Simple basic biology is the sticking point, because it's what sets up both part one and part two.

Are there exceptions? Yes. But pregnancy and maternity leave take a toll on a woman's career as much as on her mind and body. And that is the uncomfortable wall you come up against. Do you carry on pursuing the eighty hour a week job when you're trying to get pregnant or when you are pregnant? Not usually. So you start making choices before that point which best help you have a safe and healthy pregnancy.

See what I'm saying or was that just a total braindump?

No, that makes sense. Ad its one of the things I've most hated about feminist ranting in the past - that somehow, biology is irrelevant and taking time away from work for other priorities shouldn't matter at all. Biology is relevant as hell, no matter what you want to say about it, but it's not the only factor at work. My mother isn't fond of little kids and my dad loves them, so they're kind of reversed from that perspective and I could see them reversing traditional roles when it comes to their grandkids. When she was raising us, she wasn't the primary earner, so it makes it tough to tell what would have happened had it been otherwise.

And with the job thing - if a man were to do the same thing and take a leave of absence, I'm sure it would affect his pay scale. The fact that he doesn't isn't relevant to that part of the discussion.

So yeah, that's my rambly way of saying that I understand what you're saying and I like the soapbox. :)

Yeah...but realistically, Beth has a higher earning potential then me, so we've talked about it when we have kids for me to stay at home and take care of the kids. In a perfect world I would love to. I want to infact, however the world now a days isn't really down with that. We will both probably have to work.

Yes a leave of absence affects the payscale (from what I've been told) for men, and affects a guy's chance to advance like a woman. Men look at it as a serious weakness and it counts against you. "You aren't a team player...", "you aren't dependable because you have kids..." or other things that are much less nicely worded.

I'm not whining or saying "men have it just as bad..." I don't want it to come accross like that. I think the by and large male dominated bussiness world looks at staying home with the kids as "not real work", it doesn't matter who is doing it.

As for you answer about feminism...the way I understand is it the push the treatment of the two genders closer together in a variety of social, legal and economic ways. To do away with as much gender inequality as possible.

Lots of good points made here, and it would take me all day to respond to each of them. So instead I'll just answer your original question about defining feminism.

First off, I'm not going to worry about the actual term "feminism" because that's just semantics and I could spend all day on politically correctness and connotation and all that. So I'll just go with feminism for now.

Feminism in my mind is the acknowledgement that there are inherent differences in the two genders that can't be ignored, but the movement toward looking at both genders as subjectively equal, with neither being inferior or superior. It's true that women are generally more emotional and generally have less body strength than men. It's true that men and women generally have different interests and different abilities. That's an evolutionary adaptation and it can't be changed anytime soon.

The problem with society is that the male versions of these differences are overwhelmingly considered superior to the female versions. Traditionally male qualities good, traditionally female qualities bad. This is why nurses and teachers have had such a hard fight to gain acceptance and acknowledgement. A male nurse, hair dresser, artist, etc. is considered gay, and a female construction worker, is just trying to be someone she's not.

And why is it that whenever a woman runs for political office, people bring up the issue of voting for her just because she's a woman? Would that really be any worse that the hundreds of years we've been voting for men just because they were men? And why is it assumed that you'd only vote for a woman for the sake of her womanhood? When a man runs for office, nobody bats an eye. Women have gained the right to dress like men (wearing pants, suits, etc., which was unheard of centuries ago) but it's still laughable for a man to wear a dress.

I guess being an English teacher colors my opinions, but my biggest problem with gender inequality to me is in the language, which is both a symptom and a cause of the inequality. Calling a man "girly" is very derogatory, but a tomboy is okay. Historically, religiously, socially, man has been considered the default, and woman is an inadequate and inferior afterthought. It's like being a man is the ultimate goal, and so anything that brings a woman closer to that is acceptable. Gay men are lesser human beings because they're farther along the continuum toward feminine, but lesbians are hot because they do what men like to do, that is, do women.

Using "man" to represent all humankind seems natural, but to use "woman" is just too weird to make sense. There are still publishers and authors who refuse to stray from the traditional "he" when speaking in the third person. Would it be so bad to have the ubiquitous example person be female? The default a woman? Shocking!

I know this post is rambly and disorganized and shifting from mood to mood, but I'm somewhat distracted. In a nutshell: men and women should be treated differently objectively, but equally subjectively. That's a pretty awkward nutshell.

And I'm not disagreeing with anyone else's posts, because I actually agree with them for the most part. So please pardon my soapbox, which has also jumped in from out of nowhere.

This subject kind of requires a soapbox, it doesn't work without the stong opinions. :)

I think you've hit the nail on the head. Unless it comes to biological differences, gender should be a factor. Men shouldn't be the norm with the female being weird. And women shouldn't just become more like men.

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