First, Delphine is sitting next to me in her high chair eating
cubes of canned pear, using the Pincer Grasp. One, grown-up
human food, two, the Pincer Grasp. This is so cool!
Later I will find out that she has eaten only 20% of the pear,
and has dropped the rest between her legs where they will adhere
to her pants when I take her out of the chair.
Second, I'm still having some biggish thoughts about that
I talked about before. I made an alarming 180 on that topic
and I have more thoughts about it but I don't want to subject
the Suspects to any more of my mental masturbation, so I'll
do it here.
I started off the whole thread with a long weepy post, laden
with more rhetorical questions than a Carrie Bradshaw column,
about what I should do differently in order to be a proper
feminist, where I went wrong, and so on, all with the subtext
of how dare you judge me unless you have walked a mile in
my moccasins?! So everyone talked about
that for a while, about the circumstances which lead women to
make the choices they do, about the chicken-and-eggyness of
the fact that women are usually the ones who make less money,
and so on.
But everyone's situation is different, and everyone
can rationalize the choices they make, and as I thought about
it it became less about individual choices, and more about whether
it's appropriate to disapprove of a particular choice. I
decided that it is appropriate; what I said in my next post was:
The second-wave feminists did a great job changing the laws so
that you can't discriminate based on whether you think someone
you hire is going to have a baby, so that you have to pay men
and women equally, and so on, but that's not enough. But
once you have changed the laws, what more can you do? You have
to create a social climate which encourages the change you want,
and in this case that means judging women who do the traditional
thing, criticizing them just a little. Making them take a harder
look at their choices and see if there isn't something they could
do differently, a more feminist choice they can make. Maybe
they will decide that there isn't, but at least they will have
thought about it.
A real life example: I was having a conversation with a friend
a while ago, and I
expressed disapproval of women who change their names when they
get married. My friend said "I'm going to change my name!"
and I told her I thought she shouldn't. Is it any of my business?
Not really, no, but there I am having the opinion anyway. I
can't change my general opinion because one friend is doing
something out of keeping with that opinion.
And maybe my friend will encounter three or four more friends
who agree with me, and maybe a newspaper columnist or TV character,
she'll think a little more about changing her name, and decide
not to, because me and the other three people and the newspaper
columnist expressed our opinions. Or maybe she's thought about
it and will never change her mind, but at least she's been exposed
to this other point of view, and has considered it.
It's like gossip; I've read that gossip is how we share and refine
our values and sense of what is right and wrong. Talking about
how other people live their lives is a vehicle for communicating
our ideas about how we think we should behave. I guess
you could start a conversation with "So, Ellen, what are your
general thoughts on housekeeping?", but it's a lot more compelling
to say "Did you see the state of Linda's house?" Or
"Did you see what Jodi was wearing?"
Or "Can you believe Jenn quit her job after the baby came?"
I guess you could assume that everyone has been exposed to the
feminist viewpoint, that everyone has thought all their decisions
through and is satisfied that they are in keeping with feminist
ideology, but that doesn't seem like a sensible assumption to
make. I suppose it's arrogant to see yourself as the feminism
fairy, sprinkling your political ideas wherever you go, but if
you think your political opinions are correct, why keep them to
yourself? At the least, by talking about what you think you
are exposing your ideas to the scrutiny of others, so they can
potentially be discussed and improved upon.
The problem with trying to apply general, one-size-fits-all
ideology to the career/baby situation is that it's a complicated
choice, with roots in the degree you chose in university, your
career path, the role models you had as a youth, your husband's
career path, your income, your environment. There are too many
variables for the feminist choice to always be the right choice.
But if feminists make it generally known what choice they
favour, maybe young women will choose paths earlier in life
which make that choice possible later in life. Isn't that what
it's all about?