Sunday, September 14, 2008

Can a conservative be a feminist?

When I was growing up, I was surrounded by women who didn't follow the 'traditional' roles. Both my grandmothers worked - one out of necessity and the other out of interest. One helped run a family business; the other, a divorced woman at a time when that was taboo, supported her two young daughters.

My mother and my aunts worked as well, partly for the additional income and partly because of their desire to have a career. As a sailor - more specifically a racer - there weren't very many women role models, but that didn't make much difference. While I and my female friends were outnumbered by men on the race course, we were there - along with our mothers - and were quite competitive.

My perspective of the feminist movement comes from these women. For me, it was never about the issues: equal pay for equal work, glass ceilings, abortion on demand, burning bras, pregnancy leave, etc. It was always about the philosophy: as a woman, I should be treated equally. With this philosophy, I didn't require special consideration - just equal consideration - being judged by the same criteria. Furthermore, that philosophy included my ability to decide my own life, not have it dictated to me by other's expectations.

I was once asked, during a County Commissioner candidate debate, to say something nice about my opponent. She was older than me and had been in politics much longer. I pointed out that she - and several other women in Lucas County - paved a path for younger women like me. They broke the political glass ceiling in our area before I even knew the term. As a result, the fact that I was the first woman elected as the Clerk of Toledo Municipal Court wasn't an issue. The fact that two women were running for County Commissioner wasn't an issue. Today, Lucas County continues to have a very high proportion of female elected officials. And I consider myself fortunate to live in an area with such a perspective.

Am I an example of what the early 'feminists' fought so hard for? Definitely! I chose a career path and have been successful. My sister, who chose to be a stay-at-home mom when her kids were growing up is also an example of what those early female leaders fought for. She made her choice and that was her decision.

Today, women are found everywhere - in every profession, field, and role. While there are still some 'firsts' to be achieved, we know that those 'firsts' are just a matter of time - no longer a wishful dream.

But then along comes Sarah Palin. She, too, is a perfect example of what those early feminists fought so hard for. She has a successful marriage, a fine family, and a successful career. When it came to choices, she made them and no one told her she couldn't.

So why are feminists so outraged and vehement in their opposition to her? Is it because she chose a political philosophy different from their own? Apparently. According some, it appears that you can't be a 'true' feminist unless you're also liberal.

But if feminism is all about making choices for yourself and not having them dictated to you based upon others' expectations, why is it that today's feminists expect you to adopt their collective left-leaning political philosophy? Doesn't this expectation from today's feminists contradict their core philosophy? Do they really believe that women should have 'choice' only so long as they can dictate what that choice should be?

Have today's feminists become the same as those they used to fight against? It seems so.

Today, instead of a patriarchal system dictating the role of women, we have feminists dictating the political role of women. It used to be men telling us that 'a woman's place was in the home.' Today, it's feminists telling us that 'a woman's place is as a Liberal' and woe unto those who dare challenge such a concept.

As a woman, I oppose the hijacking of the feminist movement by partisan interests. The core principles of feminism are not the purview of any one political party - nor should they be. If women are free to choose, that choice must apply to politics as well as jobs, motherhood and abortion.

I reject today's so-called feminist leaders who tell me that my choices aren't the right ones because they are different than the ones they made or support. We've seen this fight before. Stay-at-home moms used to be denigrated because they chose motherhood over a career. But saner minds prevailed.

I'm a conservative. I'm also a feminist, in that I believe in the ability of women to lead a life free from coercion. Being both is not contradictory, rather it is the epitome. And the sooner today's so-called feminist leaders recognize and acknowledge this fact, the better off all women will be.

1 comment:

Tim Higgins said...

Maggie,

As a member of the male gender, I probably shouldn't comment, but your posting caused me to do some simple research. Merriam-Webster defines feminism as: the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes. By that definition, I would say that your assessment is exactly correct.

Unfortunately feminism, like many other grass roots movements, has been hijacked by liberal philosophy. Like racial equality and the environmental movement, feminism now also embodies the concept of victimization. Race, sex, and the planet itself are all victims in this ideological battle (and probably victims of evil conservatives).

This is why Sarah Palin is such a source of fear and consternation to the feminist movement. In her Conservative form of feminism, she rejects the concept of victimhood and instead simply expects (if not demands) equal treatment as her due.

Without victims, there is no need for an expanding government bureaucracy to protect them. Without an expanding government, the liberal philosophy breaks down.

Gov Palin's (and your) form of feminism will never be accepted by liberals and a liberal media as a consequence.

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