Friday, November 4, 2011

Palin, Bachmann and the “Feminist” Label

As a follow-up on the prior post, I read a fascinating article in the Washington Post last summer.  The link is below.  It was about how conservative women are embracing the “feminist” label and forging a new form of feminism.

A while back on my predecessor blog, I wrote a series of posts on the concept of feminism.  I explored the literal definition of the term, as well as popular connotations of the term today.  I also examined my own views of the term to discern if I felt comfortable embracing it for myself.  Many friends and colleagues were fascinated by those posts, and the strong views against “feminism” by modern conservatives also intrigued me.

In light of those prior reflections on feminism, I’m interested in this new take on feminism.  I don’t know that I’d fit Sarah Palin’s vision of a feminist: “a gun-toting, self-reliant, pro-life Christian woman.” 

My views on both guns and abortion are too complex for a simple sound-byte.  They would need to be explained in separate posts, but suffice it to say that I’m not a fan of either one.  I also don’t know if the term “self-reliant” would apply to me.  I have enough humility to recognize that self-reliance is a myth.  We’re all interconnected.  None of us can truly go it alone.  We need help from others.  (Parenthetically, I’m not sure my husband would label me “self-reliant”; on more than one occasion, he has expressed surprise that such a capable woman requests his help to kill spiders, install ceiling fans and take out the garbage.)

Nonetheless, the article above emphasizes the role of mother being central to this new breed of feminist.  The focus is on children and how that priority shapes their politics.  Maybe I don’t fit Sarah Palin’s definition of a feminist, but I can really relate to this mommy-centric view. 

My kids are my world.  Everything I do is influenced by my parenting role.  My career path and my scholarly interests are all guided in various ways by the fact that I am a mom to two amazing kids.  Being a mom absolutely rocks.  I would love to adopt a bunch more kids.  When I read that Michele Bachmann was a foster mom to almost two dozen kids, I am excited and encouraged that our family might do something like that too some day.  That may be one of the only things I admire about Ms. Bachmann, but that is a pretty important area of common ground.

But to clarify, I don’t in any way believe that women are divinely commanded to be moms.  Having a vagina doesn’t ipso factor make a person maternal.  I know plenty of women who don’t enjoy kids and would probably not be good parents as a result.  And obviously not every woman is physically able to bear children.  Adoption is not in the cards for everyone.  Some people are not open to it.  Others are not permitted to adopt for a variety of reasons (e.g., income, age, family status, sexual orientation).

Motherhood is key to my identity and my outlook on the world because I love my kids and I think children in general are amazing.  That is how God made me.  But not everyone is like that.  I fully recognize that.  I’ve known plenty of women (and men) who are just not “kid people.”  They don’t know how to relate to children and being with them is not their cup of tea.  In my opinion, that is how God made them.  They have a different purpose in life.  Being comfortable around kids doesn’t make someone better or somehow more virtuous than someone who is kid averse. 

God loves variety.  I do believe he created each of us intentionally with a distinct plan for our lives.  He has made his human children all so different.  We’re different sizes and colors. We have different talents and affinities and interests.  According to my world view, that is not an accident.  Any theological or cultural philosophy that dictates that everyone of a certain gender must be limited to certain roles in life denies the reality of God’s creative decisions.

Psalm 139:14
"I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works; that I know very well"

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