Saturday, August 29, 2009

UMW Feminist Survey Feedback


The survey did not have a place to leave feedback, which is why I'm sending you this e-mail. I appreciated the opportunity to participate in your survey. I found it very interesting. I'm a married, homeschooling mother of two young girls and I have a JD. I left my work as an attorney for the federal government with the birth of my first and have not returned. In a completely unanticipated turn of events, I have become a homeschooling mother. I have always considered myself a feminist -- I was very active in feminist issues while in law school, volunteering with a battered women's shelter and serving on the staff of the William & Mary Journal of Women and the Law. The unpublished note I wrote was about battered women's syndrome and a proposed answer to that in the form of an abuser's profile.

While I consider myself a feminist, I realize that others may not consider me to be a feminist. In talking to one friend, she labelled me as post-feminist, I believe. My take on feminism is that it seeks equality for women in all aspects of life so that the individual woman may have the same choices are men. I strongly believe that feminism does not dictate what choices a woman should make and I have written on this subject, as least within the tiny confines of my blog.

Now, for the feedback on your survey. I skipped many of the questions that asked about what I thought a "typical" feminist might think. I don't believe in a typical feminist, in some ways, I suppose this approaches essentialism. My view is that feminism is about women as individuals, not as a group that should be told what to do. I am not interested in trading oppressive systems of male-dominance for oppressive systems of female-dominance. The survey seemed to suggest a rather narrow-minded way of thinking of feminism and that feminism is an authoritative dogma as to the thoughts and behaviors of it's adherents. The idea of feminism as consisting of a group of controlled individuals indoctrinated into group-think is disturbing and your survey's questions about what a typical feminist might think contribute to that. I realize it's part of research only but wonder if perhaps your survey if influential to the thinking of young feminists in college who are taking this survey.

Frankly, I don't see what breast-feeding, home birth, or c-sections have to do with feminism. Having the choice for any of those things is a feminist issue, but the choosing of them should not be.

The tone of the questions in the survey suggested to me that feminism is about living life in a certain way and I certainly hope young feminist college students are not internalizing that message and stand ready to accuse other women of anti-feminist activities if they don't make certain decisions deemed to be feminist choices. I'm not sure the survey questions on having and raising children aren't poised to stoke the Mommy Wars. What I want to know is where are the Daddy Wars?

I also found the questions about the roles of men very interesting and tended to answer neutrally on them. Just as a woman is an individual who should not have her life path dictated for her by dogma, so should a man be treated as an individual. I believe men are vastly different in their approaches to gender roles, house-keeping and child-rearing. Ultimately, if a woman is so timid as to be unable to approach her husband about the division of household labor and other marital issues then I fear that feminism (or something) failed her long before she got married.