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May 31, 2008

Comments

Sarah M

what a powerful article, thank you.

Alexandra Foley

Wow. That is powerful stuff. I am so glad that the children of feminists are starting to speak up. I remember reading here about another daughter of a radical who had similarly disparate views from her mother -- but I cannot remember who it was. Anyone remember that?
Thanks Mary.

Leah

I think this is a wonderful realization had by someone brought up in less than favorable circumstances. What a great thing to be able to rise above how she was raised and come to realize what real joy in womanhood feels like (something at which feminism today has dismally failed) I hope that there are more out there like you, Rebecca!

L

I am so perplexed at the constant assertion that having sex with more people and at an earlier age is somehow empowering? That is what control is supposed to feel like? I'm glad Rebecca has realized that misery is the only company for that kind of behavior. Some may feel differently, but I doubt at the end of anyone's life, they will feel empowered by how many sexual partners they had and how many emotional scars they bear.....

Talia

Props to her for speaking out and for finding another way of life for herself, but honestly, feminism has done more to free women than to enslave them. We were already enslaved. Not all feminists are "sex-positive", pro-porn, pro-abortion manhaters. Actually, probably the majority aren't.

Laura

I've never been a big fan of Alice Walker.

I don't know if I agree with you, Talia. These days, it seems almost profane for a woman to say that she wants to get married and have a family. Everywhere, I keep hearing that it's more important to be established in a career before even thinking about getting married and having children.

So, why is it so bad to say that you want to be a mom?

And I am happy that women have the same career opportunities as men, but I wish there weren't such heavy emphasis on it to a point where saying you want to be a mother is as bad as saying as saying you want to be a drug dealer or something.

Talia

Please don't misunderstand me, I'm not at all against motherhood and raising families. I do think that whether a woman chooses to stay at home and raise kids, or be a career woman, or somewhere in between, she should feel like she can make the choice herself. And I believe that stay-at-home moms deserve as much respect as career-climbing women. And vice versa. What I'm tired of is just people assuming that families and motherhood are antifeminist when they're not.

I'm a women in my upper 30's who was raised as an Orthodox Jew. I got married young, had children, and became an speech-Langauge pathologist because I knew that that career choice would blend better with family life. I can honestly say that, yes, maybe I was resentful in my 20's when I listened my fellow students discuss their parties, conquests. When I listened I knew that I had to rush out of class because my babysitter was waiting at home for me. However, now that I am older (and wiser) I see women my age who are are desperate to have a baby and find happiness in living a normal family life. I am happy to say that it all worked out for the best. However, we still have to thank the feminsit movement because even in my religious ciricle it's ok to have a career and family. In short there has to be a balance in life and young women need to be told that. If you choose an all encompassing career; well, that might affect your ability to have children. There are consequences to all actions and that's the reality. Let's not throw out the baby with the bath water, so to speak, just give young women an accurate picture.

Sharon

I think there are different gradations of feminist, just as in everything else. But it is significant that the daughter of a radical feminist has chosen to break with her mother in such a public way -- and a good time for people to rethink radical anything. On an unrelated note: I'm really glad there was another post on this blog -- you guys don't update nearly enough!!

Lori

So Alice Walker seems to have deeply regretted having children, but Rebecca Walker is glad she had them. Both pretty much followed the zietgeist when making major decisions. Shouldn't the lesson here be to think for yourself?

Emily

I've often thought that having children in early 20's wouldn't have to be a career-killer. Many young women- and young men- dilly-dally for a bit before knuckling down to a career. Say you marry/pair up in early 20's and have a child. Say you;re in school. its easier to fit classes around family life than around the demands of a workplace, where there's not often the flexibility with deadlines etc. By the time your baby is grown-up and ready for daycare or going to school itself. then you can take on more responsibility at work in terms of hours. and you've probably got a bit more maturity, more sure of what you really want to go for in your career.

Of course, for this to work, men would have to 'settle down' and, well, act more mature, at younger ages than what they seem to happy with these days! Often you hear of surveys that find men don't want to get married before 30. haha- the only reason they can hold out this long is.... well, many women seem to let them. Perhaps if women stopped letting men have their cake and eat it too- ie allowing them to live with/sleep with/in effect 'try out' women for years without having any respect for commitment or for a woman's biological clock!- Time to see that this notion of 'playing the field' and 'dating around' for the time-waster it really is. It's the wasting of WOMEN'S time that makes THIS feminist pretty steamed :o)

Luthor Rex

"Of course, for this to work, men would have to 'settle down' and, well, act more mature, at younger ages than what they seem to happy with these days!"

Or, you could marry an older man.

"Often you hear of surveys that find men don't want to get married before 30. haha- the only reason they can hold out this long is.... well, many women seem to let them."

Let us? Please! You don't get to determine our life-schedules. The real reason we are marrying later is because we've seen the devastating effects of divorce on men. The sane men have gotten a lot picker about who they marry, and most women just aren't marriage material.

"Perhaps if women stopped letting men have their cake and eat it too- ie allowing them to live with/sleep with/in effect 'try out' women for years without having any respect for commitment or for a woman's biological clock!"

You can't turn a whore into a housewife. So you ever think maybe these women have nothing else to offer? When it comes to a serious relationship, men need to "just say NO to hoes"!

Emily

Lori, I think you may have hit the nail on the head.

Rofigo de la Mancha

In response to Emily's June 4th post:

Hey hey now. Some of us guys are fully capable of not "playing the field," and respecting a woman's biological clock. The problem is, guys like sex, a LOT. Personally, I'm not willing to give that up just so you can feel biologically fulfilled. Guys don't like settling because women have a tendency to ignore and discount guys' sexual needs after having kids.

Whereas (most) women feel biologically fulfilled by having children, given their distinct ability to do so, a man feels likewise fulfilled by being able to partake in _his_ part of that process (sex). Oxytonin (I think it is), the "happy" brain chemical, is produced in women after child birth as well as in both men and women after sex. So the woman gets pregnant after a mutual oxytonin high, and then gives birth giving her another but leaving the man in a vacuum since she'll be pre-occupied with child rearing afterwards.

A compromise is the often seen situation of women with slightly older, established/matured men. The man is then given plenty of the woman's time on her biological clock for the youthful sex that guys are so attracted to, while the woman doesn't have to worry that she won't have the time to be able to have children.

So I guess if women want to have kids and marry younger, that's fine. However, it should be noted that getting less than a 2 year age difference between partners doesn't seem as likely if that's what you want. Note that the chauvinist nuclear family archetype was also based on this too. Please be careful with wanting to marry younger and then expecting a guy to be able to provide for a new family before the woman is likewise established herself.

Laura S

I think that it is important to remember that there is more than one "feminism". It's safe to assume that everybody here is a feminist, just not perhaps in the same kind of feminist as Alice Walker, who sounds as though she lost sight of the heart of the matter.

The feminist movement in all its forms is intended to improve the lives of women. Rebecca Walker is most definitely a feminist, as she has found and pursued the path in life that brought her joy. My goal as a feminist is to do the same.

Michelle

Mary, do you think it is possible that you could email me? Im trying to get into contact with the women from Modestly Yours, but the email address I tried did not work, and I'm having difficulties finding other ways. It is in regards to a major work project of mine from school.

Meri

I have always believed that the central point of the feminist movement was/is to give women the ability to decide for ourselves what we wish to do with our lives. Feminism, in my mind, is not about women acting more like men, or having more masculine jobs, or being career women. No, feminism is about me determining what I want to do with my life, instead of my father, brothers, or husband deciding for me.

I've chosen a fairly traditional life: I stay at home, raise our child, take care of my husband. I am shortly to go back to school (business admin, with the goal of starting a home business in a year or two). But I chose this life for myself. I'm not stuck here because of my male relatives. Truthfully, my dad, and mom also, would probably be happier if I was more career oriented! But this makes me happy.

Rofigo de la Mancha, I did marry an older man. But I'm still running into biological clock issues because fertility is not always simply a matter of a young woman having sex with a man who wants to procreate with her. Which I'm sure you realize. I'm just pointing that out.

Ken

A compromise is the often seen situation of women with slightly older, established/matured men. The man is then given plenty of the woman's time on her biological clock for the youthful sex that guys are so attracted to, while the woman doesn't have to worry that she won't have the time to be able to have children.

Up until the late 1940s, this was actually common. A woman's status was largely determined by her husband's status, and an older man would have the time to become established and successful -- a more valuable, high-status catch. Result: Men would "get established" before marrying young women, resulting in more age difference than today. In the 19th Century, it was common for a husband to be up to a generation (20 years) older than his wife; at Gettysburg, General Pickett (late 30s/early 40s) was engaged to a just-came-of-age (around 20) fiancee.

I've also heard from a couple sources that a woman reaches stable adulthood at a slightly younger age than a man, so this age difference would give better odds of a couple who are the same psychological age.

However, shortly before I was born (the 1950s), everything switched to where a wife could be no more than three years younger (and no older) than her husband. You had to be effectively the same age.

If women do reach psychological adulthood earlier than men, this would result in couples with the husband psychologically younger than the wife, with a good chance of fixating into a perpetual Mommy-and-Adolescent-Boy dynamic. Which can't be good.

Where I grew up, the pattern revolved around high school; senior boys would glom onto a freshman girl, they'd go steady for four years, then marry as soon as she graduated. Marrying young, with no more than four years' age difference. I lost out; now in my early fifties, I have probably reached psychological adulthood (a long hard task for a Baby Boomer kid genius) only to find out I am Too Old.

Rofigo de la Mancha

Meri,

I'm glad your life is as you've chosen. I wasn't implying otherwise, or that it's specifically male relatives that have the "responsibility" to make sure women grow up correctly.

I'm only 24 myself, and it looks like my future wife will likely be younger than myself as well. It would seem though that I am ignorant so far as what determines fertility. I had thought a woman's youth played a very significant factor and so drew up my theory from that.

Ken,

Age doesn't define maturity. It only provides the potential for it. I've known both 40 year old men and women who act little better than high school children. Both genders have their own immaturities, and among women is that of being unable to identify and accept their own ;)

Mrs. Gunning

Luthor Rex,
While the words were harsh, it does not take the truth out of what you said.
As a wife and mother (not perfect by any means), I can see easily why many men would not want to marry the majority of women available today - they're simply not marriage material.
Partly because they were trained up by a generation of feminists (radical or of a "quieter" variety) that did not teach them how to be giving and thoughtful of others, only themselves. And partly because they chose to believe the lies and not to learn how to be a good and loving wife, for a future time.
It takes some time, but there are women out there that want to work as a team, looking to the best interest of the marriage. :)


This was an inspiring article and I am looking forward to reading the book. :)

Dana

Um, there isn't anything inherent in feminism of *any* variety that encourages women to be selfish. It is not selfish to want other people to quit treating you like subhuman garbage. And as society has shifted from blatantly treating women like subhuman garbage, onto being a lot more subtle about it... we still have a long way to go.

The fact is that men have been selfish too. Traditionally, marriage hasn't been about husbands and wives being equal partners at all--it's been about women and children serving the needs of men. This is why so many self-avowed "radical feminists" reject marriage. They figure that since we can't change other people anyway, only ourselves, we also have no hope of changing the way the institution of marriage is expressed so why bother in the first place?

Marriage IS about partnership. The trouble is that NOBODY seems to want to be a partner. This attitude Luthor has, for instance, that "whores don't make good wives" is an excellent example of a man caring more about his own masculinity than about empathy with someone else who's made stupid mistakes in her life. Because I promise you there are lots of women out there who had trouble settling down in their youth but who are ready for it later, only to be discarded because they are not "pure" enough. Whatever. Pardon me while I go chase down the eyeballs that have rolled right out of their sockets. (I'm a touch typist.)

There. That's better. So, yes, I'm a feminist. I'm proud to be a feminist. I disown all the crap being associated with feminism but which is only sometimes espoused by feminists (more often it's ascribed to feminists by people who are anti-feminism!), who after all are only human and aren't any more perfect than the sexists against which we fight.

Alice Walker didn't neglect her relationship with her daughter because that was the feminist thing to do. She neglected it because she's human with human failings.

And by the way, in the current societal setup, children *do* somewhat enslave a woman. Think about the differences between trying to work for a living before and after you have kids, and about how much children anchor you to the spot if you wind up in a bad marriage, and you might have an inkling of what I mean. But this isn't children's faults, and it's not really even the fault of women who bear them. Society's squarely to blame for that one. For the record, there are lots and lots of feminists--even radical ones!--who would like to see society change for the better in that regard. Having children isn't a crime and shouldn't be punished.

Dana

And I know this goes against the whole "modesty" vibe here, but let me just say this. I've lost track of how many guys I've been with over the years. I was really promiscuous in my twenties; I am now thirty-four. I married in 1995 and things slowed way down after that. I was unfaithful once; my husband later got into big trouble with the Army and at that point the marriage ended. Since that time, age twenty-five, I've been with seven men.

Your jaws are dropping in horror. You're all ready to point your fingers at me and stone the whore and yell at me about how selfish and stupid I am. Let me go ahead and do an end run around that right now by telling you I've heard it all and I'm not interested in your crap. I've probably said about a hundred times worse things to myself than you ever could to me, so don't bother.

My point in bringing this up is to give you the perspective of someone you so readily condemn. Some of those so-called "relationships" WERE for selfish reasons, I'll admit. If nothing else I just wanted to get laid at the time. To this day I'm not sure why. I don't remember being molested as a child, so that's probably not it. But I would have been just as content being that sexual within the confines of monogamy, I just hadn't found the "right" guy yet. And in some cases I *thought* I had found the right guy but it didn't work out. That was especially true after my marriage ended. In other cases the guy more or less imposed himself on me and I am not good at saying no or could not see a good way out of the situation because I didn't know whether I would get myself hurt. Probably not rape under the legal definition, especially not back in the early and mid-nineties, but being sexually insistent without checking in with your partner to make sure it's OK is still not an ethically OK way for a guy to behave. Those situations, however, were in the minority for me.

And none of this means I'm "not marriage material." If I had to sit down and put a prospective marriage partner through some kind of fitness test I'd be more interested in things like whether we have the same attitudes about finances and childrearing, whether we had the same goals in life, and whether we were both psychologically healthy. And a lot of getting married, as with any other human relationship, is taking a chance. If you wait until all conditions are perfect before you proceed, you will remain single the rest of your life.

It's easy to say, "Oh, promiscuous women spread disease." Yes, sometimes, and unless we're lesbians, we get those diseases from men. And a woman who's had sex once is just as likely to have an STI as a woman who's had sex with fifty men. (In fact, I've been tested several times and have come up clean. Go figure.) It's also easy to say, "Oh, promiscuous women are more likely to become single mothers on welfare." I had my first child entirely within wedlock, including the whole term of pregnancy. I was engaged when I got pregnant with my second and he flaked out on me. And I am not currently on any government program. I don't think sexual history has much to do with outcomes, as a result. Anyway, what about mothers whose partners die? Is that because they screwed around too?

I'm kind of amazed, also, that in all this condemnation of how women behave or discussion about how modest women are, there's virtually no discussion of how men should behave. Similarly, in discussions of what men want from marriage, there's virtually no discussion of what women want in *their* marriage partners. Ain't that something? Because I promise you there are things WE want too, and they are not limited to "kids and a nice house." Seriously. Get real. If you really believe marriage is a partnership then it's time to get the men on board. Hint: It's no more OK for a man to have had fifty partners than it is for a woman to have had them. If you're going to condemn one, condemn the other too.

Patricia

I really think contraception and abortion lead to all this confusion. We women can enter sexual relationships with no chance of childbirth. Even if you "accidentaly" get pregnant, there is abortion. Imagine if this weren't the case. There would be thousands and millions of babies born without committed fathers. what would this tell us? That sex in the modern age is as Shalit writes, literally "divorced" from love. We would wake up, to a sea of "unwanted" children and ask why? why are they unwanted? how? how have we come so far? What? What can be done about this?

Certainly it wouldn't be sex-ed, it would be "love-ed" ...learning to love selflessly and achieve inner peace. Religion is absolutely not useless or backwards for this reason.

Dana, thank you for posting. Your story is totally honest and I'm sorry that we have hurt your feelings. We're all in this together.

On the topic of Rebecca Walker. Amazing article. I also recommend Betty Friedan's book "The Second Stage" which she wrote in her late adulthood. She also talks about family and finding fulfillment in children. Her conclusions are quite different from what she advocated before in "Feminine Mystique". Germaine Greer, another notable radical feminist in a recent interview admitted that contraception makes women into modern "geishas".

the most radical feminists are changing their minds, and for good reason.

Sue

It amazes and terrifies me how my own gender is trying to turn back the clock and make women second class beings again. Why do you literally ask to be less than men? All feminists want is to be EQUAL to man, not LESS. We don't want to be a notch higher, just not a notch lower. Why is that so terrible? Why do you not value yourself more than that?

The mistake feminists of past made is they let up with their message. Sadly, sexism is growing again. We won some major battles but we're going to lose the war in the end because of some of our own gender's misguided attitudes.

Come out of your "comfortable little boxes" you seem to want to be in and think more highly of yourself. Respect yourself, if you don't then no one else is going to.

You deliberately put yourselves into your bubbles and ask your men to "take care" of you. Why are you not capable of taking care of yourselves and thinking for yourselves? You have a brain the same as a man does. Please use it.

And by the way, feminism does not mean hating men, not ever marrying or having children, or not staying home and raising them. It simply means we want to have the same right to choose what we do with our lives as a man does. Period.

If I choose to have a career, fine. If I choose to stay home and can afford it, fine. If I choose to not have children, fine. To have children, fine. Get married, fine. Not marry, fine. To be able to choose what is best for each of us personally is the whole point. Just like a man. Convince me what is wrong with that.

And if a woman makes the choice to marry just as a man makes his choice, then the marriage should be a partnership, not one in control of the other as it was since the beginning of time. Why would any sane woman want a marriage where she is not an equal partner?

There is a huge misconception today about feminists, that we are all the same. No one person is the same as another in everything. There are feminists who you call radicals and ones who you would never know was a feminist, and all the ones in between. We just simply have a common thread...we don't want to be thought of as less than men. And did you ever think maybe some of the "radicals" are reacting to really bad experiences in their personal lives, or those of someone they know?

No matter how anti-feminists try to spin things, sugar coat them, or quote the Bible to show our "different but still important roles", you can never make it right to treat one gender differently than another just because they were born with different body parts.

It's a shame that this still has to be a topic of discussion in this day and age. Everyone should just naturally respect each other's value as much as their own.

I'm betting you think I'm a single woman? Nope. Married to the same man for 35 years.

Maybe you think I'm a career woman? Nope. I've been a stay at home wife for 35 years, except for a few years in the middle when I went back to school, got a degree, and worked...because at the time I wanted to and because we were struggling financially for a while. Now I'm back at home and loving it.

Maybe I'm childless then? Nope. Have three children, and wanted to have them and miss them now that they're grown.

My husband? He's a feminist also, and proud of it. He's never made me feel that he's any more important on this earth than I am.

I really wish all anti-feminists would open their minds and see the wrongs they are committing onto themselves and their own gender. You don't have to be a screaming person with a sign on the street to change things. Just start with yourself.

Mrs. Gunning

"You deliberately put yourselves into your bubbles and ask your men to "take care" of you. Why are you not capable of taking care of yourselves and thinking for yourselves? You have a brain the same as a man does. Please use it."

Oddly enough, feminism is about women making choices and respecting them for that. I always get a chuckle when feminists become indignant to women CHOOSING to keep a home for Biblical reasons, for allowing a man to provide while the woman nutures... they scream from the rooftop that they should be respected and then turn around and spit on people who don't follow suit. Not using our brains? Why, because we don't conform to your idea of womanhood.

"No matter how anti-feminists try to spin things, sugar coat them, or quote the Bible to show our "different but still important roles", you can never make it right to treat one gender differently than another just because they were born with different body parts."

It's ridiculous to try to treat a woman as a man or vice versa. Regardless of how one wants to spin it, women as a whole are not able to carry as much of a physical load as men, men are unable to conceive children. Women and men even think differently. It is GOOD to treat men as men and women as women, and be treating them two seperate ways. It causes chaos to try other wise.

"I really wish all anti-feminists would open their minds and see the wrongs they are committing onto themselves and their own gender."

And again, we're not only stupid, but committing evil against the entire sphere of humanity...wait, not men, just women. Whoops.

You made good choices for your life, but only because it's what you wanted. If your husband had asked you to not go to school, would you have listened and done it, trusting he has a good heart and insight into who you are, etc.?

Patricia

Sue,
You make some excellent points. I think I speak for all of us when I say we agree with you. Women are no less than men. But as Mrs.Gunning points out, we are unique and different. Some feminists have asked us to deny our femininity, which is like asking us to pee standing up.

We simply feel that fertility, femalehood, sisterhood, whatever, is something to proud of. For this reason, we can't allow for ourselves to be degraded by being sexually exploited. Sadly many have been convinced this is freedom, at the expense of their emotions.

Lisa

I think at the forefront of living you have to be human first; maybe this is the downfall of becoming trapped in the perils of being a woman. That is the lessen I have learned from my mother. There was a huge obstacle that early feminist had to mount, and they did, and I am grateful because the sacrifices are obvious. There will always be work that needs to be done but I think a more humanist approach is necessary now. Many women seem to wait for children because the world is in a strange state and US culture is twisted into knots and very confusing. It is scary! I love truth and self expression but analyzing too long can become very sticky. I believe there are times in people's lives when we go through things that our loved ones should not witness and there will be a time for connection when the trouble has passed. Seems like this is one of those times for Rebecca and her mother. Good Luck!

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