Attacks on Feminism–My evolution

Me, at Lucy Stone’s final resting place.

So a facebook friend, a lovely woman, posted something today by a twitter account by some person calling him/herself April Tru Body, or some such nonsense. “She” calls herself a nonconforming feminist and posted this long diatribe about a guy holding a door for her. The account was started in Sept 2016, around the time that it looked like Hillary Clinton would win the presidency. I scrolled through the feed and came to the conclusion that the account, far from promoting feminism, was created to make feminists look bad.

My mother, before Alzheimer’s stole her brain, was a feminist, although a quiet one. She had feminist books and I believe taught at least one feminist class at a college level. Her father was the commander of the 67th evacuation hospital in WWII and was credited in at least one report for awarding the first medal to a woman in the European theater. I’m sure that neither he nor my grandmother would ever have claimed to be feminists, although she had a college degree in teaching and they had three daughters, all of which they encouraged (re: ordered) to go to college. My father, a Southern republican would never have called himself a feminist either. He not only encouraged his two daughter (along with his son) to attend college, but forced us to think. The only time it occurred to me that women couldn’t be anything they wanted was when I left my house.

So why would these people, who on the scale of feminism–like all isms it’s not either/or, but goes from Barefoot and Pregnant to President, with a lot of stops in between–would have measured a good bit beyond the 50% mark, why would these people not claim to be feminists? Why would my mother not proudly proclaim it? Because I grew up in the 70’s and 80’s when feminism was both on the rise–and under attack. Like feminism has always been.

This is what I knew about feminism back then and for years later–feminists hate men. Feminists hate men because they resent men and want to be men. Feminists hate women who don’t want to be men. Feminists hate women who are happy being mothers, feminists hate women who aren’t aggressive and ambitious. Feminists are mean.

Seriously, that’s what I learned, even though my mother was a feminist. She did not say this; she did not believe this. This is what I heard from society. Feminism is about female equality, but that is not what got through to me or a whole lot of women at that time.

I went to college. I graduated with honors with a degree in finance. I spent 5 years as an accountant. I was still not a feminist. I have always believed in equal pay for equal work. I sought out women as doctors because I liked them better. I cheered for and encouraged female friends for taking on typically male-dominated professions. I was not a feminist.

Not. A. Feminist.

I left work to stay home with my two sons and write romance novels. Definitely not a feminist. I loved (still do) cooking and baking. I washed diapers (cheaper, but mostly I didn’t want my kids’ diapers to fill landfills) and made baby food. I read romances and I wrote them. I was so not a feminist. When Hillary Clinton became first lady, I didn’t like her. She made fun of me staying home and baking cookies (she didn’t, but that’s what I was told). She was a feminist and I was not.

Not a feminist–even though my first book had a heroine who was an accountant (not much of a stretch, I know). Even though my first historical, The Wild Half started when I was young, featured a woman who could shoot a gun better than any man, could survive in the wilderness on her own, and wore jeans in the U.S. West, and the hero loved her for all of that. Even though I loved football and typically “male” science fiction movies and shows. Not a feminist, because I had two sons and a husband and I loved writing romantic heroes. I loved men. I loved males.

My first published book was about a woman escaping a tyrannical father who tried to marry her off to an equally tyrannical husband. Midway through the book she goes on a short rant about how society treats women. The hero of the book was raised mostly by his strong, smart grandmother. Two books later, that couple have a daughter who is a suffragette, in Running Wild.

Not a feminist????

Embed from Getty ImagesI’d bought a book a few years earlier–The Bloomer Girls by Charles Neilson Gattey–that featured Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Amelia Bloomer and I read that the former wrote the latter a frustrated letter about how she thought boys should learn how to sew. Something like that, and I oh so much related. These women came to light as women. Like me. Stanton had sons like me. And the more I read, the more they became real women who didn’t hate men–they were happily married!–but wanted women to have the right to vote, to create laws that protected women, often from male abusers who they stayed married to because they could not support themselves.

This was where my character–Star Montgomery–came from. I wanted people to see that suffragettes were not man haters. That they were women, just like me.

But I still didn’t want to call myself a feminist. Because feminists were man-haters, weren’t they? Still, from that point forward, as I read about men and young women claiming feminism, as I heard women speaking, as I listened to my sons’ female friends and girlfriends, I started to realize, yes. I might be a feminist. And maybe what people sold me about the movement was wrong.

Then came 2016.  I had a choice to vote for a woman president, the same Hillary Clinton who made me feel like I wasn’t supposed to like cookie baking. I had the choice, so I researched and when I looked deeply into this woman’s life,  I came to realize how much of what I believed  was colored by anti-feminism, sexism. For decades. The same anti-feminism that had convinced me, a woman who strongly believes in equality for women, that I was not a feminist, although that is basically the definition of feminism.

One day I looked at the bumper stickers on my car, for my two female representatives and the fight was over. It was on my car and in my writing.  I’m a feminist. I love men. I loved being a stay-at-home mom, and I love romance novels. I love Cinderella, and the idea of being saved by the prince. I also love my female reps, I loved voting for a woman for president, and I love reading stories about women “saving the day” like The Hunger Games and Divergent. You can be both, feel both, and be a feminist, because feminism is about equality between the sexes. Period.

But now, again, I’m starting to see the same push back from the late 70’s and 80’s that warped my thinking. The same “man hating” trope being applied to feminism that makes us think that all suffragettes were angry, man-like, unmarried women who probably hated children. NOT TRUE. This twitter account, the one I started this blog post talking about, is symbolic of that push back. I don’t believe a women is in charge of it, but even if she is, this is not what feminism is. If somebody holds a door for me, male or female, I thank them. And I hold doors for men and women too. It’s just a nice thing to do. Feminists–the ones I know–would never say something like  “So fed up of these Saudi women playing the victim card for sympathy points…” because they–we–understand that Saudi women live under an extremely anti-female government, in which women are not even allowed to drive. Play the victim card? They are victims! Feminists are more likely to rally around these women and the treatment they receive. If they come to this country and want to wear a hajib because of their beliefs, that’s fine. The point of feminism is equal rights, equal pay, equal expression, whether it’s in writing, talking, or practicing religion, and ultimately equal representation in our government. Equality. It’s that simple.

A group of women created a march that spread around the world and started a movement. Women did it, and there is going to be a whole lot of pushback because sexism is alive and well in the U.S. and the world. A lot of people–even feminists, men and women alike–have subconscious sexist beliefs and reactions. Me included, in case it didn’t come out fairly clearly already. It’s going to take a long, long time before that is gone. We all have to, over the next months and years, put a lot of thought into any anti-feminism speech, and subtle and not so subtle sexism, and the way we are being manipulated. Let’s not allow a third round of Feminists Hate Men catch on.


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