Reclaiming The “F” Word

Cover of "Big Girls Don't Cry: The Electi...

Cover via Amazon

Is it possible to write a post about feminism while doing laundry and watching What Not To Wear?

Thanks to Rebecca Traister’s Big Girls Don’t Cry, an account of the 2008 election and its two high-profile female candidates, I began thinking about feminism in a way I haven’t previously.  If I’m going for honest self-reflection, I’ll have to admit to not spending a great deal of time thinking about it at all. I fall firmly into the generation Traister describes as the “backlash inheritors” of the ’80s and ’90s, the girls who came of age saying, “I’m not a feminist, but…”  Because, after all, weren’t feminists people who burned their bras and refused to shave their underarms?  Heaven knows no self-respecting Texas girl at the height of preppydom would have willingly admitted to supporting something like that.

But I remember even then feeling outrage when the media recrimination rained down on Hillary Rodham Clinton’s head during her husband’s first campaign in 1992 when she showed enough spunk when questioned about her career choices to state, “I suppose I could have stayed home and baked cookies and had teas, but what I decided to do was to fulfill my profession.” Traister adds in Big Girls Don’t Cry that few remember the follow-up to that comment,

I’m a big believer in women making the choices that are right for them.  The work that I have done as a professional, as a public advocate, has been aimed at trying to assure that women can make the choices they should make–whether it’s full-time career, full-time motherhood, or some combination…[That] is a generational change.

 And, of course, Clinton went on promote that change in a completely different way in 2008.  A generation of young girls witnessed someone like them stand on the podium as the winner in state presidential primary–in multiple state presidential primaries–even if, like my daughters, they didn’t witness their own mothers supporting those efforts.

No, I didn’t vote for Clinton in 2008, and I don’t regret my decision.  But isn’t that what real feminism is all about?  It’s about choosing a candidate on merit and not on gender identity.  It’s about the opportunity for equal education and equal job prospects.  It’s about making our own choices about marital status, reproductive health, and professional work. 

So my answer, is yes.  I can thoroughly enjoy caring for my family and looking fashionable (and, trust me, no one wants to see me going braless these days) while pursuing my own interests and career ambitions. And that said, I admit it. I am a feminist, no “buts” about it.


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