Monday, August 26, 2013

The Dirty Word: A Hobbit-ish Paradigm Shift

Hey Humble Readers...

Feminism was never on my radar.  The idea of being a feminist, someone who burned their bra and participated in protests, and screamed about women's rights wasn't someone I wanted to be.  Not intentionally, but through learned behaviour. 

"Feminist" was as bad as the other "f-word" in my bio-family when I was growing up.  Not that it was ever stated outright.  Implications, unspoken lessons, and unwritten rules shaped who I was as a girl and young woman. 

My bio-dad would make drunken comments about that 'femi-nazi' at the bank, the liquor store, or the post office who didn't serve him in the manner he felt he deserved.  From my bio-mom I learned that women who spoke up or spoke out didn't get love, because the love of a man, any man, was better than being alone.  Women were supposed to be sweet and agreeable, and never push too hard for what they needed because the man's needs were more important, and women get their worth from the man who loves them.  From my bio-grandma, I learned that women are the caretakers, the cleaning ladies, and the child-bearers... and as such women didn't have the authority to speak up for their own well-being and safety, and that a woman wasn't equipped intellectually or spiritually to be able to teach boys over the age of 12 at church (seriously, she practically disowned me when I told her I wanted to go into youth ministry).  Even the pastor who performed my confirmation tried to steer me into a 'more appropriate' career path, to be a Lutheran deaconess (ministry professional) rather than youth ministry, where I felt called. 

My other family, the family of my heart, was much more vocal about rights, although they certainly aren't anything close to activists.  There the anti-feminist message was more subtle.  Mom would always look to the douchewaffle (formerly known as Dad) for the final word on a given situation.  Not that I see that as a bad thing in and of itself... in any family there sometimes has to be someone to make the final judgement call.  But given how things have played out in their relationship, I do see it as a power play that left my Mom in a vulnerable spot.  Mom has always been a strong lady.  I think she downplayed her own abilities to make the douchewaffle feel better about himself, and she did it so often that she started to believe it herself.  As an aside, the douchewaffle actually said to me once when I was in my late teens or early twenties, when we were discussing donating blood, that women technically could donate more often because they 'get rid of their bad blood every month', of course implying that menstruation is somehow dirty and the blood from our uteruses is tainted (rather than just unneeded). 

Throughout my college career, I was surrounded by strong women and men who taught me that spiritual giftings know no gender.  That women and men are equal in the eyes of God.  I was encouraged, challenged, and grew to understand that as a woman, a woman of faith, I had a role to play.  In my church, in my family, in my world. 

But still, I wouldn't ever have considered myself a feminist.  That was still some kind of dirty word. 

I have been blessed with a wonderful husband, who genuinely supports me in anything I do or want to do.  He doesn't see value based on gender, but in the actions and accomplishments of the individual.  He has never treated me as anything but an equal and a partner in all our endeavours as a couple and a family. 

It wasn't until I was deep in the trenches with my battle with IF/RPL that I began to sense a change in my attitude toward feminism. 

Part of it came from what I started to learn about reproductive rights, and what was going on south of the border.  In Canadian politics, reproductive rights are not talked about all that often.  The abortion issue was decided in 1988 when "the Supreme Court of Canada struck down the abortion regulation which allowed abortions in some circumstances but required approval of a committee of doctors for violating a woman's constitutional "security of person"" (Wikipedia).  Since then, the issue is strictly avoided by Parliament, most of the time, and when it does rear its ugly head, it tends to get kicked to the curb pretty quickly.  This doesn't mean, however, that there is availability or access everywhere across the country (there is no access to abortion in Prince Edward Island, and in New Brunswick it isn't covered under the provincial medical program).  Assisted reproductive therapy is a different story though.  The legalities are still a bit on the fuzzy side.  Cloning is, of course, verboten.  And it is illegal to sell gametes (sperm, eggs), but they can be donated.  Surrogacy is complicated by both federal and provincial legislations, which don't always agree.  Coverage of fertility treatments by provincial health care also varies across the country. 

Part of my feminist awareness arose from a statement that I read on Mel's blog several years ago now, that opened my eyes in a way I never expected.  She said that if we want to fight for reproductive rights as they pertain to assisted reproductive therapies, we MUST ALSO support a woman's right to choose.  They are part and parcel.  You can't have one without the other.  I had to really think on that for a long time before I could say that I agreed.  Would I ever get an abortion?  No.  Would I suggest it to someone?  Not likely. Would I counsel someone against it?  Probably.  But I cannot, in good conscience, say that it is wrong for a woman to be able to determine what happens with her body.  No one has that right, except the woman in question. 

But the tipping point for me, when I felt that I had to change how I thought about feminism, was when we finally had children.  And not just because we have a daughter, but also for our son. 

I want them both to grow up in a world where their gender does not define their abilities, their opportunities, or their limitations.  I want Ginny to be able to do and be whoever and whatever she wants to be.  I don't want her to ever think of herself as less or more, simply because she has 'indoor plumbing'.  And in the same way, I don't ever want Pippin to think of himself as fundamentally better or worse than someone by virtue of his genitalia. 

I recently read an article about men's rights organizations (advocate for fair custodial settlements and for those who are falsely accused of sexual assault), about how their demographics are changing.  No longer are their ranks made up mainly of fathers who just want equal opportunity to raise their children, but angry young men (primarily 18-25 year olds) who generally use threats of violence, usually of a sexual nature, against women who speak out for gender equality and equity.  The article scared me a bit.  I don't want my son to grow up thinking that feminists are all vitriolic man-haters, and I don't want my daughter to grow up thinking that all men are out to push women down and prone to violence.  I have never liked generalizations like that. 

I will teach my wee-lings that gender does not limit or solely define who we are.  That we all have the right to determine what happens to our bodies.  That marriage is a partnership between equals, not a battle to be won (don't get me started on all those engagement photos on Pinterest that imply 'the hunt is over', etc). 

For better or for worse, this hobbit is a feminist. 


  1. Really really great post.

    Do you know Caitlin Moran? She is a columnist for The Times in the U.K. (among other things) and she is just wonderful.

    She has a book called "How to be a Woman", which I wish every woman who doesn't think she is a feminist would read.

    She has two questions for people who aren't sure they are feminists or not:
    1. Do you have a vagina?
    2. Do you want to be in charge of it?

    If you answer yes to both, you're a feminist.

    The situation in the U.S. is insane. Insane. I cannot believe we are even still having these conversations in the twenty-first century.

    The other real eye-opener for me was the #everydaysexism on Twitter. I don't even have a Twitter account, yet this keeps cropping up in articles I read, and every time the examples just make me shake my head.

    I think it is just as important for my son as it would be for any potential future daughter that his mother AND his father teach him and model for him a loving relationship between equal partners. I want E. to grow up to love and respect women. I would like to hope that any potential future daughter will grow up with the same choices and opportunities as E., but right now I can't say I'm holding my breath.

  2. Wonderful post!

    Like you, I never really thought of myself as a feminist until I realized that even today, rape victims are still blamed for being attacked, that there are songs that celebrate rape and violence against women, that living in the American south, I am expected to shut up and let my husband make all my decisions for me. I don't want my son to be raised to think like that and he won't be, even if I have to be the "uppity bitch" that tells him differently from everyone around him.

  3. OMG I have had a nearly identical post bouncing around in my head for the last couple of months. Watching all of the "little girl" movies and tv shows really opened my eyes to how much gender role brain washing is done when our children are little. Anyhoo, terrific post :)


Hobbits are social creatures, and love hearing from friends old and new. Pull up a comfy chair and let's get to know one another.