FeMOMism and My Three Year Old Love Letter to Elisabeth Badinter
Please welcome new guest writer Chachi Bobinks with a fantastic article on the dangers of a “one true way” feminism.
I used to hate the word “feminism.”
Coming from an ultra-conservative, impoverished community nestled in the rolling hills of the Central Texas countryside, we were taught that things like “empowerment” and “independent thought” were admonishable sins. We, women, lived lives of servitude. Our value was placed on what we could offer our future husbands, cleverly disguised as claims that when a woman supports a man, his successes become hers as well. Learn to cook! Learn to clean! Care for the children so he won’t have to; he’ll get nowhere with them, after all, but your steadfast devotion to the household unit allows him to serve the Lord and all of that bullshit. Now, I’d love to say that post-graduation I went on to a super liberal art school where I banished razors, grew in my womanhood, and burned all of the bras in the tri-county area. Gone were the days of subservience!
Instead, I went to a private Christian college to continue my spiritual downfall.
Feminists were the ones who told us that we couldn’t be the people we believed the Lord intended us to be. It wouldn’t be a reach to say that these goals weren’t our own; honestly, who wants to give themselves up completely for another person’s gain? But we were raised to buy into the theory that they were God’s goals, and his were better than ours. It took sacrifice. Anything that told us to live otherwise was a test, not sage advice from the women who had broken free before us. That’s what those nasty feminists were: destroyers of dreams. Satan’s little allies.
Not too long before I would have graduated, I dropped out of school (where I had been pursuing a BA) to marry and support the manchild of a Southern Baptist family. Holidays flew by and I watched as my life was reduced to working 60 hours a week–cleaning the house, cooking all the meals, doing the laundry, and even doing those dreadful “manly” outside tasks like mowing. All the while, my then-husband watched NASCAR and drank away our life’s savings. Sometimes he’d go to school, too. He was getting his Masters in Accounting and would totally support me some day. Totally. Any move I made to buck the status quo resulted in his family flooding into our home, screaming that my job was to love him as he was and any indication otherwise meant I was any one of…many gendered slurs.
That’s when I was tempted. Oh goodness, was I ready to embrace any movement that would make me strong enough to leave that situation. That horrible “feminism” thing was starting to appeal to me. I read, I searched, I joined the ever-reliable LiveJournal communities. I thought and pondered, building my own life with an empowering base. One of the resources I clutched on to was, possibly surprisingly, the magazine Marie Claire. Fashion was a foreign thought, this world where women communicated using fabrics and spoke wordlessly. The features were brilliant as well. I learned about sex trafficking and tribes in Africa that fattened girls up so that they’d be appealing to suitors. I discovered what poverty was like for women in other countries, and how repressive other religions were, some much like my own. And then I discovered poison in the form of “The Modern Motherhood Conflict” by Pamela Drukerman & Elisabeth Badinter. Yes, that Badinter.
Concepts I had come to embrace were challenged and it was ugly. I discovered that deep inside I was most comfortable and free when I spent time in my private garden. Learning about herbs and tonics thrilled me. I figured out cloth diapers and threw myself into attachment parenting, which included extended breastfeeding (nothing smashes the patriarchy quite like letting their wank material be used for nutrition instead) and co-parenting (because my bed didn’t need to be filled with a man). I thought that by being who I wanted to be, the very best version of myself, I was empowered. I had believed wholeheartedly that feminism wasn’t about filling roles, but feeling free. Badinter challenged this by saying that natural parenting–the very lifestyle I had adopted for myself–was another way for women to be repressed. She found it impossible that any woman could actually want to be a mother. She implied they would be slaves to the patriarchy as long as they weren’t businesswomen with nannies, and I couldn’t agree with that. Introduced as a leading expert in feminism, Badinter had failed me. It wasn’t the patriarchy keeping me down anymore: it was a feminist.
I spent years reverting back to where I had been before that spark ever hit me. I married again, got buried in duty and religion. Wash, rinse, repeat. Knowing that some big, important feminist lady believed that I was a tool of the patriarchy even when I lived to my heart’s content was incredibly damaging to not only my fledgling flight through feminism, but my soul. It took me years until I was comfortable with that word again; watching women like Anita Sarkeesian and how feminism plays into popular culture helped me ease back in.
Now I’m of the firm belief that there are many different versions of feminism, just as there are many different types of women from all walks of life. If we can embrace female ice road truckers and praise those in the adult industry for being who they want to be, why would we deny the same to mothers? Why does motherhood have to be inherently patriarchal? It’s silly to assume that all women want to be power players in business, just as it’s silly to assume that we all want to play soccer or wear high heels, too. As a strong, bad-ass mother, I’m able to not only be who I want to be, but play a key role in the raising of wee feminist daughters. I can’t guarantee that even the highest paid nanny would do the same. Raising my childrenisn’t an obligation. It’s an honor. See, what matters in the end is that our choices are our own. It is far more important to become who you honestly want to be than to fit into the cookie molds built by society or, yes, by feminists like Elisabeth Badinter. It doesn’t matter if you’re radical or eco, cultural or “femomist” (like myself). I believe in my heart of hearts that feminism is about you.
Chachi Bobinks is a feminist podcaster and BioWare nerd. She lives in West Texas with her two kids, two cats, and a mabari hound named Duke. She enjoys few things more than smashing the patriarchy on a lazy Sunday morning. Find her at her website or on Twitter @chachibobinks.