Wednesday, March 24, 2010

In defense of feminazis

I adore my daughter. And all things considered, she tolerates me pretty well, too. We are well on our way to a happy friendship as she approaches adulthood. But when it comes to women’s rights, we are definitely not riding on the same train.

Here’s how the subject usually comes up: She loves Led Zeppelin and puts it on her mix CD, which we play in the car. I call the group sexist and refer to their music as “oppression rock.” She challenges me: what makes them sexist? I get performance anxiety and freeze. God, I used to know. What was so bad about it again? While I’m trying to think of the answer, I mumble incoherently about women as objects. She gives me a blank stare and tells me to lighten up. We move on to another subject.

To sum it up: My daughter feels pretty darned liberated, and she thinks it’s time for us old crones to relax already.  

Sometimes I want to give in to that seductive prospect myself.  We are all happy, we are all one, we are all fulfilled. We are woman, et cetera, et cetera.
When my kid thinks of “feminists,” she pictures bitter, crabby old women with birkenstocks and absolutely no sense of humor. And I have to admit, some of us fit that stereotype. Hey, I’m sorry, but some of us just do.

Of course, there are plenty of bitter, crabby old men too. Like Mr. Wilson  from the original Dennis the Menace TV show.

And the second Darrin from Bewitched.(The first Darrin was way more fun. Just sayin’.)

And Oliver Wendell Douglas from Green Acres. 

(By the way, I’ve lived Green Acres, and trust me, Oliver had every reason to be irritable.)


Once I’m away from the immediate performance pressure of being all-knowing Crunchy-Granola Mom (Oh, hey… maybe that’s who I can be for Superhero Bingo night!), it’s easier to remember why feminism is still relevant.

I was born in 1957. That’s only 37 years after women got the right to vote. The culture of my childhood reflected that. I wasn’t allowed to wear pants to school. I wasn’t allowed to take shop. In home economics, they taught me how to sew and shave my legs. Boys with pony tails didn’t have to wear bathing caps in the pool, but girls with buzz cuts (if there was such a thing) did. Before me, no girl had ever joined either of my high school's jazz bands, and I had to make my case before they let me in. In college, my economics professor explained economic theory using analogies about buying dinner for a woman and expecting to get laid in return.

I know, I know: That’s all in the past. And we really have come a long way, baby. But we’re not there yet. Our rights as women are still not acknowledged – much less protected – in the U.S. Constitution. Today, out of 100 U.S. senators, only 17 are women; in more than 200 years, there have been only 38 female senators. Just two months ago, the New York bar planned to present at its annual meeting “Their Point of View: Tips From the Other Side,” in which “[a] distinguished panel of gentlemen from the legal field will discuss the strengths and weaknesses of women in the areas of communication, negotiation, mediation, arbitration, organization, and women’s overall management of their legal work.”  We persnickety feminists were not amused, so we got it changed

Around the world, women are still subject to genital mutilationhonor killings, forced marriage, and other types of violence.

It comes down to this: I don’t want my daughter to have to wage the same battles as her foremothers and forefathers. Maintaining our rights requires vigilance, because while my kid enjoys the fruits of our forebears' labors, darker forces are biding their time.  

Now if I can just remember all this the next time we listen to Led Zeppelin.


  1. Not only is the battle still being waged the possibility of back-sliding always looms large. Those right to life guys really want us back in the kitchen, barefoot and pregnant. Women made great strides toward equality in the 30s and during WWII, all easily removed with advertising and social engineering after the war. I worry that young women don't understand. It could happen again.