Monday, January 7, 2013

What is a Feminist or Why Can’t I have it All?

After the gang rape and death of 23 year old, Jyoti Singh Pandey in New Delhi, India and the attention given to this rape, I have started to believe that this rape culture can truly change. The protests in India and the outcry of fury from around the world can serve as a true tool of transformation. I have begun thinking a lot about the elements of reducing rape globally. I have tried to look at each element and dissect what promotes this tragic situation. As a woman who calls herself a feminist, I am disturbed by the conflict among feminists. The definition of feminism has been hotly debated. How do feminist define themselves? How can we be a powerful force when there is internal conflict? This caused me to have some serious inner dialogue about how I define Feminism and how that reflects in my life.

I recently read an article in the Washington Post that suggested that French women have little equality. (  According to this article, France ranks 57th in the world in regards to women’s equality.  I am a language trainer that works specifically with French corporations. When I become acquainted with a new French learner, male and female, I ask them questions using various verb tense. As our initial time progresses I also ask them questions which will require more difficult vocabulary in their response. Clearly I have a private agenda but my question is, “Can France elect a woman to be president in the next election?” Most will say yes. I follow the question with, “Do women have the same employment opportunities as men?” most people will answer no. We recently read an article about French feminism. Many women had a very negative perception of feminism. They verbally conjured up images of women with bad haircuts, poor fashion taste and rigid views. I found this puzzling.

I view myself as a feminist and I am a feminine woman. I love clothes and shoes. I love textiles and the way that color can create an image. I love the creativity found in clothing design. I love my sexuality. In my opinion sexuality is a natural life force. It is a strong part of what drives human nature. My sexuality is an intimate part of me that I share with my partner but it also part of who I share publicly. It is a layer of who I am and the experiences that I have had. It is no less a part of me than my inability to ignore suffering. I believe that I have the right to be a feminine woman who is proud of her sexuality and still have the right to make decisions about my own body.

At this point in my life I am also a woman who has made the conscious decision to depend on my husband financially. Although I contribute money rather minimally my husband and I made the decision together that parental availability to our children is a priority. It is not that we feel that my place is at home with our children, it is simple math. He has a greater earning potential. (I acknowledge that women are entitled to equal pay) It is an exercise in trust and it is also a decision that I consider to be a personal. It has not come without sacrifice. I don’t believe that this decision deducts from my value as a person who has opinions or rights. 

My husband is a chivalrous man. He opens doors for me, he removes lids that are difficult for me to open and he reaches things that I cannot. My husband is also physically protective of me and our family. He would place himself in harms way to protect us in any situation. He is extremely masculine. I don’t respect him less because he honors who I am. His masculinity and grace make him wildly attractive to me. The fact that he is physically stronger than me does not discount my value as a person. I am pretty certain I could have beat Nicholas Sarkozy in an arm wrestling match but I have no delusions about my ability to have run France.

My husband and I are both significantly younger than our oldest siblings, we were both born “later” in our parent’s lives. We had the wonderful opportunity to have had very diverse experiences. Through our siblings we saw the beginning of space exploration, young people begin to challenge the government, and we saw advances in the civil rights movement and saw the women’s movement gain momentum. We also rode the wave of all the hard work put in by those that came before us. As youngest children we were also raised in environment in which we were flooded with love and opportunity. In many ways it served as a handicap, we were spoiled. On the other hand we have a unique perspective on the grace and good that others imposed on our lives.

Men and women are different, but neither is less. My life does not hold more value because I am an American living in Missouri, than that of a villager in an Indonesian Kampong. My life does not hold less importance because I teach English looking out over my neighbor’s garden than that of a Chief Executive looking out over Wall Street. The size of my house, the car that I drive, the shoes I wear, the color of my skin, the last time I bathed, my age, none of it makes me less or more. Many have gone before me in changing the world. Sacrifices were made, courage was spent, insults were shouted, humiliation was felt, blood was spilled. All of this occurred so that I could have the right to be me. I am a feminist and I can have it all. 

If you would like to discuss women's rights in your country or would like to comment on my blog, feel free to email me at I will happily exchange email or call you at your convenience. 


  1. This is a great post, and I see the world the same way. Women and men are perhaps different (though that is up for debate) but definitely equal. I also agree with owning your own body and sexuality, something that incest and rape take away from us. However, I have to disagree with your notion of having it all. You are in the wonderful position of having a partner who is financially strong and also trustworthy, but unfortunately this is a luxury not everyone has. Just sayin'

    1. Well, I'd like to respectfully disagree. I said that it came with sacrifice. We have gone many years on a shoe string and a lot of stress. We have driven cars that ran on a prayer and did without many things that other families took for granted, like family vacations. I recognize that I have more than many but I have had to live with less on many occasions. It's easy to assume the grass is greener but not a very fair assumption. Life is easier now but I put in my dues.