The new feminism is to have choice, especially at it regards work, but more generally in life. That women can now vote, attend Ivy League Colleges, become president, and perhaps even someday Rabbis and Popes – roles they could not play previously, is a testament to how far we have come. I am grateful that some women spoke up, and challenged what may have seemed the like natural order of things. I’m grateful for even the thought that if Jesus came back to earth again as a teacher, I could try to be one of his twelve disciples and it wouldn’t be odd. This is why I’m a feminist.
But in exploring the opportunities that we now have, sometimes we lose our humanity. Before feminism there is kindness, and love, and thoughtfulness. See the thing is,feminism is only necessary in a world where people aren’t fair, or kind, or thoughtful…in a world where you can do x because you have a penis, but I cannot do x because I have a vagina. In that world, feminism attempts to bring us all back to the middle.
Unfortunately, some women get confused. They think to be a feminist or strong woman means to never compromise, but it’s not that at all. I believe a feminist notices when there is unfairness as in a case where she is the only one compromising. All the time. One such example is when a woman gets married and is expected to drop her name and take her husbands. Some argue that what’s unfair about it is not that that the woman makes the name change, but that in some cases, she doesn’t get to make that decision. Like in Ghana, the moment you get married to Mr. Cleland, people start calling you Mrs. Cleland. Recently a friend got married, and people started calling her Mrs. X. Trying not to assume anything, I asked her if she was going to change her name. Her response was interesting, spoke of her confusion
My dilemma now is figuring out at what point we 'independent-dont-need-a-man-to-define-us' women can stop trying to get that point across in what we do and the decisions we make? Should my last name be also turned into a worthy cause for the sisterhood?
Her dilemma is actually founded on the erroneous notion that when you don’t take your husband’s name, you’re proving a point and supporting “the sisterhood”. I don’t think that’s the place from which it comes. See here for some reasons why some women maintain their last names after marriage. http://www.blogher.com/taking-my-husbands-name. Personally I have not yet decided whether I’ll take my husband’s name or not. I may take it if he takes mine as well. Or I may drop my last name to shed the constant reminder of colonialism that it is. And yet I am a feminist. My point is that independent-don’t-need-a-man-to-define-us can take their husband’s names if they so please. They may decide to make that compromise because there are many compromises to be made by both parties in marriage and that's one she wants to make.
Let me also add that I'm the kind of feminist who needs a man. When I’m not attached, I am a complete person. And I don’t have to be in a relationship to feel whole or be financially independent. However I appreciate that being in a relationship with another person (in the case of heterosexual women), a man, can enrich a person’s life. I look forward to sharing meals, sharing joys, and sadness, having children, gossiping, and sharing chores, making a life together. And even waking up in the middle of the night from a nightmare to cuddle the handsome man lying next to me. Oh and bills. I can’t wait to share them with someone instead of having to pay them alone! These are great things. These are some of the reasons why I sometimes think I’ll get married. So yes, I need a man. And yet I’m a feminist. Which kind of feminist needs a man? The Esi Cleland Type.
Again, the feminist revolution made it possible for us to have the means to thrive without a man if we so wished. So that if I were totally put off by the horror of some of the marriages I’ve witnessed, I’d still be able to live a rich full life without thinking marriage-even a horror of a marriage-is my only option. What kind of human being would remind or constantly prove to her husband/boyfriend that she doesn’t need him? No one does that. God, I hope no one does that. I need my boyfriend and he needs me. I play an important role in his life as he does in mine. I can’t imagine what kind of a person I’d be without him. I would still be smart, and hip, and whatever else I am, but he’s taught me much of what I know about love and about being a decent human being----by example. So why would I want to alienate him by saying I don’t need him? Of course I need him, and yet I can also picture a life without him, that’s rich and full and enjoyable though different from the one we now share. I don’t believe being in our relationship is the only choice for me, or even the right choice necessarily. I think it’s a possible path and I choose to take it because with him, I’m better than without him. The day I feel I’m better without him than with him, like the day he gives me a black eye like Cris Brown gave Rihanna, I’m re-evaluating that choice.
If I were to summarize my first point, it would be this: some women think a strong woman has to do this or that, has to work, has to keep her name, has to split chores 50-50. That’s not what feminism is about. Feminism tells you, honey, there are no have-tos in life. You get to decide what you do and what you don’t. There are arguments for keeping your name, arguments for why it’s good for a women to earn money and for both partners to share house-hold chores but it’s entirely up to you. The choice you make depends on your particular circumstance. For example, if you have a great career and a crappy husband, it may makes sense to choose the career over the man. But if you have a great husband and a crappy career, choosing the husband may be the way to go. Or you can have them both. It all depends.
The second confusion I’d like to clear is that some people think to be a strong woman is to be selfish. Always putting yourself first. My Swazi friend who writes the blog the Esibayeni Diaries actually wrote an article saying that women should be selfish, and place their needs first, because when they do that, they’ll be happy and that when you become happy, people will be attracted to that as opposed to a moper who is moping because she always sacrifices for her guy but the guy doesn’t. See the article here for yourself: http://www.swazibella.blogspot.com/
Now our Swazibella writes well, and it is clear that has put thought into that article. I’ll be the first to acknowledge that she makes several important points but I do not agree with her core argument. It is not true that to be happy, you have to be selfish. Or even that you can’t sacrifice and be happy. Let me tell you why.
All of us have the capacity to be generous, as much as we do to be selfish. When Swazibella says we should be selfish, she’s appealing to the selfish side of us that says err, you’re not going to be there for me and therefore I will not be there for you if you need me, when I’d rather be doing something else. I’ll grant that in some cases, her recommendation can pass as in the case where your boyfriend wants you to read to him when you’d rather be playing tennis. But where he needs you for something bigger, say helping him study for an exam or to deliver an important package. According to Swazibella, you should go and play tennis because you feel like playing tennis. That’s selfish. That’s what she tells us to be, and that’s actually scary. I am generally a positive, happy person, and I know that as much as men (read people) are attracted to that, they’re also attracted to someone who cares not only about herself. This isn’t even about men. It’s just human. Which human being wants to hang out with someone who always puts herself first, without consideration for others? Now I’m not saying that you should always put your guy’s needs first either. I think there’s a balance. I would like to appeal not to your selfish side but to your generous side. You can love you, and love your man. You can do things that make you happy and do things that make your man happy. You can have it all. It requires some communication, and but it can be done. I know, because I do it everyday. There was a time when things had to be all about me. I was the girl who wasn’t going to wait for no man to make me happy, who would say I’m not going to do “that” for a man. It was also a time when I’d been hurt a lot. A person can do things that make them happy without disrespecting their partner. You can bring your partner into the conversation, and not unilaterally decide everything in your life and still arrive at the decision that pleases you. In fact, I would go as far as to say that making decisions that impact you both together is the only way to sustainably be happy in a relationship. If you 're not willing to do that, you're probably not ready for a relationship.
When you’re single, you can make all your decisions selfishly. But when you’re in a relationship, you have to involve your partner. Your life is no longer just about you because the decisions you make affect him too. That’s a requirement for a happy relationship. A happy relationship means a happy you. I don’t know how you can keep making choices which make you happy but which makes your partner unhappy and have a happy relationship. I wouldn’t want to date a man who just thinks of himself. Feminism does not mean you should be a selfish and inconsiderate. How can you be selfish and yet claim to love your man? Love is not selfish.
This has been a very long post. I don’t have so much time to clean up the article but I believe the two points I wished to make:
1) That a feminist isn’t out to prove anything or prove she supports any cause. Just live your life. No one is taking notes and checking if you're adhering to any codes.
2) Being a strong woman or a feminist does not mean you should be an inconsiderate selfish human being. The way I see it, because I’m a feminist, I am a consensus builder. Because women have once been treated unfairly, I try to treat the men in my life fairly. I’m not going to impose my will on anyone. Feminists don’t do that.