I really, really am.

I am taking a Women’s Studies class right now, wherein the topic of feminism is discussed every day at great length and breadth. Incidentally, the subject matter is not altogether different from several other classes I have taken in recent semesters. In my experience, higher education literary professors like to champion feminism any chance they get, whether in American Lit. or Poetry 101 or Victorian Novel or just plain Remedial English. So in every class I’ve taken over the past two years, feminism has been discussed at least a little, but mostly a lot.

This does not make me an expert on feminism.

But it does make me a little bit educated on it.

And I think that’s why this post from the well-known (and generally beloved) CJane, which I read four months ago on its original publish date, has bothered me ever since.

I really do urge you to read the post before finishing this post of mine, because it will give you the background necessary to see where I am coming from.

If, however, you choose not to read the post, I will summarise it this way: CJane purports that, according to the definition of a feminist as one who “believe[s] in, support[s], look[s] fondly on, hope[s] for, and/or work[s] towards equality of the sexes,” she is NOT a feminist. And here’s why (in her own words):

“Equality has never done any good for [her.]”

“[L]ife is not fair. So how can it be equal?”

“Male and female will never be equal.”

This particular post of CJane’s bothered me instantly, but I never pinpointed exactly why until just this week. I thought at first it might’ve been the annoyingly cliché photograph at the head of the post, showing Courtney in a flowery dress sitting demurely, cross-ankled on a loveseat, bottle-feeding her infant; while her husband sprawled out on the sofa perpendicular, sleeves rolled up, glasses perched atop his masculine head as he poured over the day’s newspaper (the business section, no doubt).

Or maybe it was simply my general tendency toward liberal-mindedness that forbade me to make peace with such a concept, I thought.

At length, though, I could not accept that general explanation. I needed to know why it irked me. I needed exact reasons. Details. Similes!

Of course, being the pathetic excuse for a crusader that I am, I pushed the entire experience to the back of my mind for several months while I took time to finish the semester, and holiday in Arizona. Still, throughout the course of my denial, the thought popped up on occasion: Why does CJane’s declaration that she is not a feminist bother me so tremendously?

And now, as I find myself slowly reacclimating to the university environment, especially in a Women’s Studies class, I have finally given myself the time to sort it through, and I think I’ve got the answer.

CJane’s post is not, as she purports, discussing equality, but instead discussing sameness.

Equality is defined as “the state of being equal, especially in status, rights, and opportunities.”

Same, on the other hand, is defined as “identical; not different; unchanged.”

I fully agree that men and women are not, and will never be the same. Physiologically, emotionally, whateverally. We were created differently. We are innately different. We will never be the same.

And yet, I fully believe that men and women are and will always be equal.

For a woman in 2010 to publicly announce that “equality has never done [her] any good” seems the epitome of ignorance. Which doesn’t make sense, because CJane has never come across as ignorant to me. Always before, she has seemed intelligent, educated, open-minded, thoughtful. (In fact I always have, and continue to enjoy reading her blog. I don’t intend for this post to become a let-me-hate-on-CJane heyday.)

In one of the 679 formal responses to said post—responses of which the first 150 (I couldn’t muster the stamina to read more than that) seemed pretty equally divided between support for and rejection of CJane’s assertion—a commenter said that she didn’t really think women had it all that bad 100 years ago.

I was aghast.

100 years ago, in the year 1910, women still couldn’t vote. Not much before that, married women couldn’t divorce their husbands; if their husbands divorced them, the children automatically went into the custody of their father. If married women earned any money, it belonged to their husbands. If their husbands squandered it, too bad, so sad. If anyone else ripped them off, their husbands had to sue on behalf of their wives; if he didn’t feel up for a legal battle, again: too bad, so sad for the woman.

So here, in 2010, is Courtney Kendrick, a woman who runs her own (presumably lucrative) business, who not only votes but also campaigns publicly for her chosen political candidates, whose mother is on Provo City Council, who served a mission for her church, who has been divorced by her own free will and choice…and for whom equality has never done anything?

I don’t follow.

Putting my CJane-anxiety aside, all I can really say is this:

I am a feminist.

The way I learned it (just last week), there are several main types of feminism, and a score of subtypes.

In my generation, feminism often gets a bad rap leftover from the bra burning hairy-legged radicals of the 60s and 70s. A lot of people in my university classes refuse to consider themselves feminists based on the belief that doing so will be yoking themselves to said “fanatics.”

By this definition, I am not a feminist either.

I mean, look at me:

I am married.

I shave my legs.

I wear a bra (often an ill-fitting one, but still).

I am unemployed.

By the radicals’ definition, I am an horrible feminist.

But according to the definition from the original post that sparked CJane’s claim of nonfeminism—feminism n (1895) 1 : the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes—I am a model feminist.

Because if you look a little closer, you’ll see a woman who…

…wields a sledgehammer right alongside her husband as they tear out their picket fence (an interesting symbolism in itself, I think).

…attends university, and outscores 95% of her fellow students of both sexes.

chooses to vote. And sometimes chooses not to.

…feels comfortable enough in her own skin to skip shaving her legs if it suits her (sometimes for months at a time).

…goes to her husband with difficult decisions, not for his permission, nor even for his blessing, but simply for his opinion, as an equal (yes, an equal).

…is plotting a career, and fully expects to accomplish her goals someday.

I am a feminist.

I do subscribe to the theory of political, economic, and social equality of the sexes.

Biological sameness? No, never.

But equality?

Absolutely.

No bra-burning necessary.

(Though I really should see about replacing mine one of these days.)

About Camille

I'm Camille. I have a butt-chin. I live in Canada. I was born in Arizona. I like Diet Dr. Pepper. Hello. You can find me on Twitter @archiveslives, Facebook at facebook.com/archivesofourlives, instagram at ArchivesLives, and elsewhere.
This entry was posted in in all seriousness, introspection, Married Life, self-actualisation, what I'm about. Bookmark the permalink.

23 Responses to I really, really am.

  1. Alexa Mae says:

    Camille– this post is brilliant. and written wonderfully. i guess i really need to read up and study up on feminism because you see, when courtney wrote that post i could totally see where she was coming from and what her definition of feminism was/is. which was what i was interpreting feminism in her post as meaning: the same. i agreed with her honestly and whole heartedly. and now reading yours, i take feminism as meaning: equality. i love this and agree honestly and whole heartedly with your definition and the points you have made. this is really great. you should send courtney a link…she probably would love a good read. i know i did.

    p.s. that picture of you in the long mirror: Hello Good Lookin’!

  2. Tisha says:

    I completely agree!!!

  3. hmmm, her post didn’t bother me at all, but i get where you’re coming from.

    after reading this? pretty sure i’m one too.

  4. Sharon Blackwell-MItchell says:

    thumbs up, millie.

  5. Chloe says:

    Great post, Camille. I think you’re so right.
    I agree with every word of this post. So true. I wouldn’t like to be back in 1910! Thanks God, it’s 2010 and things are changing for good!

  6. chelsie says:

    I am the type of person who will always do something to prove I can do it. However, when I know my dad or brother can do it in a fraction of the time, I don’t waist my time. I don’t think I am being less feminist, just smarter.

  7. Molly says:

    Very very well written. I enjoyed reading this. I am a feminist too under said definition.

    Unfortunately there are a lot of women out there who want to have their Men think for them. They don’t like to independently make decisions. As long as their husband brings home the money they will have dinner on the table at 5, and the kids in bed by 8 with absolutely no help, as their DUTY.

    but well done post. I think it takes balls (ok maybe the wrong word… gumption) to be able to think through and vocalize when something doesn’t sit right with you, in an eloquent manner. So wise, you are Camille.

  8. Kristen says:

    I think the problem with Cjanes post was that her definition she has for feminism is not correct. I know I am feminist and I am thankful for the feminist movements that have occurred so could reach this point in history where a girl can make her life as she sees fit. In my opinion that would be my definition for feminism: that we would be able to make and shape our lives as we see fit, just as man as done since the beginning.

  9. Kelly says:

    AMEN! Oh and no bra burning here, however I do have this awful one that has wires sticking out and pinches me all over, that if given the opportunity, I would totally burn b/c of pain, not feminism.

  10. Alaina says:

    Being that I work in a career field that before recent years was predominantly male and requires you to see yourself as equal to your male colleagues, I couldn’t agree more. Equality and sameness are not one in the same. I know that I am not the same as T, but I deserve equality in rights and opportunities to him. We make decisions in our house as partners and equals, and I want it to stay that way. Thanks for posting this!

  11. This post is brilliant – so perfectly answers CJane’s. Skye and I spent hours that night talking about CJane’s post, but your response is so much more concise and well-thought out.

    Sigh, you’re awesome.

    But that’s my eBBF’s prerogative to think that.

  12. Agreed.

    I always just assume that people know and get things (like the difference between sameness and equality – going CJanes direction or the opposite), and then I walk outside and see that’s not true. It’s really frustrating sometimes.

    I’m the main breadwinner (currently) in our household. I’m a controller of (annoyingly) the three different companies my bosses run. Out on the trail I pass strong men going up (and then again on the way down) (doesn’t mean I could take them in a fist fight).

    I think women today are afraid to declare themselves as “feminist” because main stream associates that word so strongly with the stereotypes you listed (which I’ve never gotten – they say we’re just like men, look I’ll even dress and be nasty like one, but at the same time say men are crap and worth nothing), when really, a true feminist is one who recognizes the equal worth of a woman and encourages and celebrates her own feminism and womanhood.

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  14. DeAnna says:

    Amen!!! Great post!

  15. Liz Wood says:

    I completely agree with you. I took some courses at ASU that discussed feminism and the meaning behind it. Many people really do think to be feminist or feminists are radicals that do not shave or burn their bras. I am a feminist and I do not have to be a radical to be a feminist. I think that both sexes should have equal rights. Of course we are not the same but the way in which we are able/choose to live our lives and the opportunities that we seek can surely be equal.
    Thanks for this post! I enjoyed it!

  16. Katie says:

    AMEN and AMEN! we should be friends.

  17. Lisa says:

    Wow I love this post! Thought I have to admit I had those same typical thoughts at first – “feminism? the post is probably not for me, but I’ll keep reading…” – turns out apparently I really am, too! I have just never really thought about it, especially they way you put it. Thanks for sharing your perspective.

  18. What a great post! Thanks for this. :)

  19. I just wrote a really long comment and then deleted it because I do not feel you are open to reason. It’s all in the definition. I think you and CJane are both right. You want men and women to be equal and she doesn’t want men and women to be the same. Based on your definition, I could see very few people saying they are NOT a feminist.

  20. Emily says:

    Sorry. I wasn’t meaning to attack you, just have a friendly debate. For people who come back and read this, I am going to post your email response here so it will make more sense: “Yes, but then, that’s the point, isn’t it? I don’t think anybody SHOULD say they aren’t a feminist. And yes, that’s by my definition, but it’s the same one CJane was using for her post.” There was more, but, yeah. I think that’s good for here.

    So this is what I meant…

    She is talking about “equality” (her own definition, or “sameness”). Even though she quotes the same definition you used, she does not hold to it. If you read the article she links to, that author starts talking about examples of ways you can be a feminist. CJane went another way and started listing her own examples of ways she was not a feminist because she didn’t think life was FAIR. Life is not fair and thus how can it be equal? There, she has substituted ANOTHER word for equality. Fair and equality are the same to her. Whether or not you agree (I don’t), that is the definition she uses and that is why she writes the things she writes.

    I am, it turns out, a feminist. I just don’t agree with the way you came to decide that you were. Especially since it seems like it was more of a backlash to CJane’s post. I came into this post with my mind already made up because of your facebook status which said, “This one might get a little touchy.” And when people assume that their post is going to get a response, I seem to always want to give it to them. I am betting you are loving this right now. I had never before read CJane so I am not siding with her because I like her or something.

    CJane talks about equality within a marriage and how it “makes a measuring stick out of [their] relationship.” The definition of feminism often denotes that men and women have the same responsibilities; or are ALLOWED to have the same responsibilities, if they wish. But God created us to excel in different things. Just as Shirley Elizabeth said above, “Out on the trail I pass strong men going up (and then again on the way down) (doesn’t mean I could take them in a fist fight).” In general, men are stronger than women. Women have their own talents; these talents may be GREATER than man’s. CJane closes her post by stating that she wouldn’t WANT men and women to be equal. Dick Van Dyke said, “Women will never be as successful as men because they have no wives to advise them.” I do not want to be equal with Sam in our marriage, because my life is a million times better than his. However, I vote more often than Sam does, I am more politically active overall, I deal with business owners more often, I take care of managing our money, and I get the oil changed in our cars. I also shave my legs if I feel like it, change the majority of the diapers, make meals, nurture Alex, and clean our apartment.

    This is straight from lds.org: “‘The Family: A Proclamation to the World’ emphasizes a father’s vital role: ‘By divine design, fathers are to preside over the families in love and righteousness and are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families. Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children. In these sacred responsibilities, fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners.'” Now, this assumes that the man and woman are married and have children. Before children, the responsibility can be seen as belonging to both members. However, in God’s perfect plan, the woman should not need to work because she will be “multipl[ying] and replenish[ing] the earth.” I didn’t want to get all churchy but we both believe in this religion so I think it is a good argument. Even while we were both working before we had kids, I still cleaned the apartment and made dinner. Because I WANTED to. That was my way of showing my love for Sam.

    We can’t both do everything so we split up the responsibilities in a way in which we can make the most for our family; based on our own talents, that leaves Sam at work/school and me in the home. If I decided I wanted it another way, Sam and I could work it out. How can this be if I am a feminist? I am not a feminist just to protect my ego. I use my rights as a woman to CHOOSE to do the things that I would have done even if I did not have rights. In addition to those “subservient” tasks, I also use the moral and legal rights that the women’s rights movement provided me. Those rights give me the power to CHOOSE. Being a feminist does not make it impossible for me to do the things a mother in the 40s would do; I can do those things in addition to voting. Sam, even as a man, can choose NOT to vote.

    I am all for political, economic, and social equality. But I do not feel equality in the home falls into any of those categories. My husband and I are partners. Additionally, he is a good man. He doesn’t order me around or tell me to do ridiculous things. Sam is here to preside, provide, and protect. As long as he has a righteous request for our family, I will follow him. As his helpmeet.

  21. Tessa says:

    Camille,

    I totally agree with you. This post was very well written and is awesome!

  22. Maple says:

    Camille – this was a very well-written post. I had a huge interest in women’s studies, feminism and sexuality when I was in university. Yay for being a sociologist!

    Pretty much every girl of our generation is a feminist or believes in a feminist principle. If you are a women who believes that she can make her on choices for herself, you are participating in feminism. It might be low key or even seem invisible, but if a woman believes that she is her own independent creature, to do as she pleases when she pleases…means she is a feminist at the basic of levels.

    I am so proud to be able to call myself a feminist and support the ideals of the women that came before me. Yes, there are many different veins of feminisim but they are all working towards true equality of the sexes. We are not the same – of course not. But I shouldn’t be denied access to anything in society simply because I am a woman.

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