Feminism: My Paradoxical Struggle

I had a recent conversation with a friend, which turned into me being forced into self-identifying as a walking contradiction. Let me first say that I was born during the end of the second-wave of feminism, and was raised during its third waive.  I bopped my head and twisted my neck as I sang U-N-I-T-Y along with Queen Latifah.  I constantly struggle to seamlessly adhere to society’s characteristics of me as a woman, and my feminist beliefs.  I’m not sure when being a feminist carried with it a negative connotation, but it only takes me saying a few female-empowering statements before I am given looks of fear and disappointment.  This is primarily because feminism has been redefined by extremists.

My definition of feminism is similar to Webster’s version—the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities.  However, in some aspects of my life, I adhere to a less literal meaning of the term “equal”.  I guess this paradox makes me a quasi-feminist? My conversation with my friend left me with three puzzling questions: (1) what does it meant to be a quasi-feminist; (2) are my contradictions a bad thing; and (3) when it comes to classifying someone as a feminist, does it have to be all or nothing?

For the purpose of this piece, I  define quasi-feminist as someone who believes men and women should be treated equally in most, but not all, aspects of their lives.  As a quasi-feminist, I find it difficult at times to reconcile my feminist views with my desire to fit into society’s social norms of what my role should be as a woman and a future wife and mother.

Are my contradictions a bad thing as it relates to my role as a woman?  As feminism has evolved over decades, so have my sentiments as to what it is to be defined as a woman. I oftentimes say that chivalry is dead, and receive the response that feminism killed it.  But why can’t chivalry and feminism co-exist?  There are many things that are distinct about a man and a woman that should not be lost on feminism.  Yes, I know how to open a door for myself (and for a man), but it is the sweetest gesture when a gentleman does it for me.  Yes, I could learn to change a flat tire, but if a man offers to do it, even better!  I’m not the only person struggling with this notion.  There have been many recent discussions on whether Beyoncé should classify herself as a feminist as she prances around on stage and in videos in her underwear.

My inconsistencies become more prominent when the conversation changes to the role of men and women in the household.  I become a complete feminist with the expectation that my partner will equally share almost all of the household and child rearing duties.  Like feminism, the roles of men and women in relationships are evolving and the manner in which my partner and I redefine these roles should not cause the feminism gatekeepers to shun or exalt me.  For example, I prefer that my partner take out the garbage, mow the lawn and do more of the backbreaking chores around our home.  But in return, that does not mean he should expect me to cook and clean daily without any assistance.  I am on the fence about whether I would be comfortable with him being a stay-at-home-father even if it made economic sense for our household. Something about me being the sole breadwinner makes me uncomfortable.  And when he wakes up with our child at night he will not be awarded an extra badge of honor for doing so. I can see the jaws dropping as you read those seemingly selfish words.  Will I cook him dinner and wash his clothes?  Yes.  But not because society says it’s my duty as a woman, but because that week, I happen to have more free time than he did.  Would I take out the garbage or mow the lawn? If necessary.  The point is, in my household, no expectation will fall on either my partner or me as it relates to societal mores.  If our primary goal is to keep each other happy, then we will have to nix then it will take a team effort.

Finally, is it all or nothing when it comes to being a part of the feminist movement? Is it possible for a feminist to co-exist in a world where a man’s use of the term b*tch insults her, yet use it loosely amongst her girlfriends? Can she ask for chivalry to stay alive while being unwilling to define her role as a woman in a relationship? Can she ask for equality in her household yet prefer for her partner to take the garbage out and mow the lawn?  Yes she can.  The key to making any relationship work is communication and compromise.  Will I struggle at times in feeling like it is my duty as a mother to rock my child to sleep instead of her father while I’m still in the office? Will it pain me to conclude that my husband knows our children’s favorite foods better than I do?  Yes, because my innate nature and societal influences whisper to me that as a wife and a mother, it is my job and not his to know and do these things.  But despite those feelings, I will not concede to societal beliefs that I have fallen short as a wife and a mother if my partner takes the lead.

Does this make a walking contradiction?  Perhaps.  I am simply a woman with the paradoxical struggle of finding her place in the new wave of feminism—simultaneously trying to sing along to Beyonce’s “Cater 2 U” and “Run the World (Girls)”.

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4 Responses to “Feminism: My Paradoxical Struggle”

  1. The Punisher Says:

    I think this is a intriguing article ,but no real African-American men will be cool with a stay at home DAD!!
    Can you as a woman really take him serious? The reason I say this is the first argument you get into with him you going to throw up in his face he don’t have job and I do not need you for anything!!!

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  2. Northeast E Says:

    Despite popular belief, based on your definition, I am a feminist as well. I’m disappointed that people would question whether Beyonce can be classified as a feminist. She is a champion for equal rights and equal pay. In addition, she is a relatively good example of a woman who is more than willing to display the sometimes “contradictory” dimensions parts of her makeup. I believe the next step in the feminist movement is for us to be less judgmental when women stray from the norm.

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  3. Fat Kid Says:

    This is interesting….As I read your blog, the last lined summed up my thoughts “I am simply a woman with the paradoxical struggle of finding her place in the new wave of feminism—simultaneously trying to sing along to Beyonce’s “Cater 2 U” and “Run the World (Girls)”.” #CONFUSED. There are sooo many different angles I could take while commenting on this post. I’ll share a few initial reactions and thoughts.

    1.) If you are confused, then what the hell you think I am?
    a. In all honesty, If people were truthfully with themselves, I believe a number of women in your demographic (born during the end of the second-wave of feminism, and was raised during its third waive) would share the same thoughts you share. Personally, I wonder if that confusion has created or elevated the lack of black marriages “singleness epidemic” in black America. To me, Quasi-feminist creates confusion. I agree all people are created equal, however, the confusion comes into play when you pick and choice what aspect of your life is not “equal”. By saddling the fence, inconsistences are created in relationships which creates problems. How in the hell can I partner with you if you are confused and inconsistent – not a way to create a solid foundation. A house built on sand will wither away, but a house built on a solid foundation will last a lifetime. Personally, I tend to be a simple guy that knows exactly what I want. For example, I order a Venti Caramel Macchiato made upside down (backwards as my friend likes to call it) at 185 degrees. Or when I go shopping I know exactly, what I want and the store it is in – I’m in and out. Women are no different. I know the type of women I want – a partner that can trim the hedges while I mow the lawn or get the garbage together while I take it out. The issues come into play when you meet the quasi-feminist that tends to aspect inequality when things are convenient for them. As Sweet Brown so eloquently stated “Ain’t Nobody Got time for that”…

    Disclaimer: The following comment is probably an entirely separate topic and one that would trigger a lot of conversation for the sisters. In addition, if it triggers a reaction, it may take away from readers fully understanding what I’m trying to say in my response to this post…BUT the HELL WITH THAT .

    Not trying to take it here, but taking it here…I wonder how white women deal with this confusion and quasi-feminism. Having attend an predominately White University, I saw most white women get in relationships and married right out of college. From the outside looking in, they didn’t struggle with quasi-feminism. Point being, the confusion illustrated in this post, I believe directly and indirectly effects black relationship between partners which effects the lack thereof of both black marriages and lasting black families.

    2.) To Thine Own self be True…
    a. Which leads me to my second reaction. Why can’t people be themselves anymore.. What happen to Authenticity? I know what happen….I’ll being by quoting a close friend ” We spend so much time looking for labels and wanting to be a part of a group or movement. “Be your damn self and do what makes you feel comfortable.” One of my favorite quotes is by Shakespeare “To Thine Ownself Be True”. With the different movements (i.e. Feminist Movement), Reality TV (i.e. ROHA), Social Media, nobody knows how to be themselves or be a human being. I believe people suffer with the confidence to be themselves and Authentic. They spend so much time trying to portrait an idea or give off a perception they say on reality tv show or read on FB they can’t even be themselves. They try to identify with that so called success or so called living the life that they aren’t confident or in tune with themselves. Now a days, you have folks walking around here confused and not sure how to respond to simply task. I would agree with the same friend I quoted above, “As far as relationships go, men and women should strive to do the right thing, be respectful of their mates, and be team players.” BE YOUR DAMN SELF AND DO WHAT YOU FEEL IS RIGHT!!!! To hell with what society labels as men vs. women.

    3.) Be a Team Player.

    a. Which brings me to another point….We spend so much damn time on roles and what a man should do or what a women should do that we don’t know how to be partners and teammates. I watched the Super Bowl this weekend and saw two great TEAMS fighting it out for the Lombardi trophy. Both Teams had 11 players on the field playing together for a common goal. Do you know how hard it is to get 11 guys on the same page playing in unison? Only the best teams are able to accomplish this task. My question is why is it so hard to get two people on the same page playing together as a TEAM. You know why? Because people walking around confused, using Quasi-feminism when it convenient for them or all the other stuff I said above. No a day’s people so damn confused or not team players that you very seldomly do you see partnerships reaching the level of competing for the “Lombardi Trophy” that papa/grandmamma love that lasted for decades 50 years +. You know why? Because we focus on “my partner taking out the garbage, mowing the lawn and do more of the backbreaking chores around our home”. Let’s work on “a partner that can trim the hedges while I mow the lawn or get the garbage together while I take it out”

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  4. Anonymous Says:

    Good examination. I think we’ve been given so many mixed messages that our being confused tells us we may be on to the right train of thought. I’ve actually been grappling with these very thoughts myself and have comes to the conclusion (and finally accepted) that I am a walking hypocrite. I am okay with this. The two most important words are compromise and communication. I would also throw common sense in there. Our actions and behavior have to make some sort of sense. We can’t scream at our husbands from the nail salon about putting out trash. Doesn’t make sense. If we have time on our hands and are able to put the trash out — just do it! I’ve come to the conclusion that I need to make decisions and do things that when and if I have a daughter, she can look at me and be proud of me. If I achieve that goal, I think I will be okay.

    As much as it pains me to give Beyonce credit — she was on to something, we can cater to him and run the world!

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