"A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle"
This little phrase just about put me off the women's movement when I first heard my mother discussing it with some of her hipper friends in the 70's. None of the women in question were what pased for a feminist those days, but they were thinking about it.
I wasn't even 10 years old yet and I was thinking about it. I had eyes. I could see the Betty Drapers in the neighborhood and their lives were not appealing. I could read pretty well and was sneaking peeks at articles in my mom's Redbook and Cosmo and keeping my ears pricked when she spoke with other women.
My father had a lot to say about feminists. They ranked up there with communists. This made them all the more interesting to me. My mother wasn't “allowed” to hang out with her hipper friends after they got more serious about the “feminist thing”. This seemed wrong, even to a pre-teenage girl. My dad was probably the biggest influence on my own emancipation, albeit a negative one.
Later I caught up reading Germaine Greer, Betty Friedan, Mary Wollstonecraft (because I was an English Lit. major), Margaret Atwood and the like. I could go along with a lot of it, equal rights, equal pay, equal status, pro-choice yeah!, but I couldn't go hardcore and speak in only gender-neutral terms or (God forbid) eschew men.
The truth: I like men, all kinds of men. I adore the alpha male strong, silent type. Guys with beards make me weak in the knees, add a hairy chest and I'm in heaven, no boyzillians or clean-shaven legs for me please, but if that floats your boat, ok. A deep, gruff voice and a working knowledge of the internal combustion engine or electronics will send me, but that's because I'm an idiot when it comes to that stuff. I have girlfriends who are ace with engines, electronics and power tools and I appreciate them too, as they appreciate my talents as a mixologist, and organizational skills, but its not the same kind of attraction. I like the cocky boys on the football pitch, the wisdom behind the clear blue eyes of my friend, Lucas, who is no oil painting, but attractive nonetheless, the biker dad who brings his daughters to ballet class, Jan-the-dowser who found me a well in the backyard, The Big Man, The Prince of Darkness, Uncle Hardrock, Cousin Wessel, my sons' friends who mob my kitchen in the late afternoon, eating me out of house and home and making plans for the future...
I can enjoy the irony of the male sense of entitlement as long as they don't get patronizing and start calling me “sweetie” and as long as they know that I know that sense of entitlement is just an illusion and we're both having fun. Oh come on, I can slay my own dragons, but it makes FOTI happy to slay dragons while I watch on the sidelines and cheer him on. On the other hand, he's been known to take care of business with the threat, “Look, we can solve this issue between the two of us, or you could speak to my wife, and I can assure you, if that happens you'll wish you'd dealt with me.”
The women's movement brought nothing if not choice. Women are no longer doomed to being or wanting to be Betty Draper.
A friend once asked me if I could call myself a feminist being that I am financially dependent on my husband. I made the choice to stop working when his career took off and the first Imp came along. Due to the nature of his work, we would have had no family life whatsoever if I had a regular job too. We tried for the first 18 months post-Imp; it was almost the end of our marriage. I couldn't see taking a job in a shop for a few hours a week just to say I was contributing to our family finances when there are other people who could use the income from that job more than I.
Stay-at-home mom? I dunno. I'm not in Ann Romney's bracket, but staying at home is something I've never done except when the Imps were very little. My days are filled with volunteer work and any number of creative pursuits. I'd never say that staying at home is ideal, nor would I say that a woman needs to work outside the home purely for her own good and feminist street cred. You do what you have to do and hope for the best.
Motherhood is not a career, a job or a vocation. It just happens and you deal with it. Housekeeping is not a job if you're keeping your own house and not getting paid to do it. Then it is a chore and one I prefer to delegate, because, to paraphrase India Arie, “I am not my house.”
You'd think with all this choice around that the world is a woman's oyster. Theoretically it is. We can be or do anything we want to be or do.
In practice, not so much. There is a criminal pay gap between the sexes. Child-care is insufficiently available to promote financial independence of women who desire it, lawmakers are turning back the clock on a woman's right to choose to continue with a(n unwanted) pregnancy or not...Women are still objectified and judged on appearance rather than ability or, forgive the expression, content.
Part of the problem is that in being told we can “have it all”, we've lost the ability to make informed choices. Sometimes you really don't have to need that do it right away yesterday. Sometimes “good enough” is good enough.
Another part of the problem seems to lie with the fact that we forgot the men somewhere along the way. We women were all so busy emancipating ourselves that we haven't considered the male. What does it mean to be a man? What can men and women mean to each other? Where do we go from here?