This is what a Feminist looks like.

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Fighting the War on Women…with a Watergun.

Ah, my three-year-old daughter…shirtless, wearing a Hello Kitty skirt, rain boots and carrying the biggest gun she can find…

So why does this make her a feminist?

Because she’s chosen to be girly, manly, brave and silly all at the same time.

Because no one told her to dress or act this way.

Because she has the “choice.”

My mother was a feminist. She was a member of NOW (National Organization for Women) and the NCJW (National Council of Jewish Women). She protested. She marched. She even sued an employer for discrimination—and won. She chose to get married, have kids and stay at home. She fought for her rights to be the same as my father’s. She worked, she volunteered and then she “chose” to stay at home with her kids.

Growing up, I thought that the fight for women’s rights was over. I figured my parents’ generation, had fought the fight and won. Ah, the blissful ignorance of the 80s!

It was all leg warmers, slouch socks, pegged jeans and big hair. Spoiled, yuppie child that I was, I didn’t see that the battle wasn’t over. Now, 36 years after my mother chose to stay at home, we fight again. They are calling it “The War on Women.”  I think it’s an apt title.

We fight the government officials who introduce “personhood” amendments, who try to require transvaginal ultrasounds prior to an abortion, and restrict access to birth control. But it’s not actually about abortion or birth control.

Regardless of your personal feelings or religious beliefs on either matter, it’s about the belief that, as a woman, I have no autonomy; I have no say in what I do with my body; my body must be controlled by the state.

This is a slippery slope.

When the state takes away one right, it sets the precedent to take away others. Restricting access, to what are fundamentally personal choices, tells us that women are incapable of making those choices on their own. How far will we be rolled back?

Life isn’t black and white. It isn’t right or wrong. There are many shades of grey.

You don’t have to like what your neighbor does. You don’t have to agree with what your neighbor does. You should understand and respect that you neighbor is an autonomous individual. When we take away rights, or explicitly disallow rights (think Jim Crow laws) we set a dangerous precedent.

What else can be taken away? What will be taken from you?

In Germany they first came for the Communists,
and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist.
Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew.
Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Catholics,
and I didn’t speak up because I was a Protestant.
Then they came for me –
and by that time no one was left to speak up.

~ Martin Niemöller 

But it isn’t just the state that looks to cement the belief that women are incapable of making their own choices. We fight the doctors and nurses whom we trust with our pregnant bodies and our babies. When tests, procedures and medical interventions are done to us, not for us, it shows a severe disrespect for women.

When all laboring mothers are given the same “standard” procedures, even though we know every birth is different and there is no “average” or “standard.” When episiotomies are cut without informed consent, when a mother is told she doesn’t know her body or her baby well enough to trust them during birth—when women are pushed through the assembly line of a hospital birth and spit out the other end with a C-section scar, breastfeeding challenges and no support—we fight.

We fight the popular media. We fight them on many fronts, not the least of which is pregnancy, birth and parenting. We fight them on misinformation. This: “Pacifiers and Breastfeeding”  is not a published, peer reviewed study! It is, in fact, not actually news because it hasn’t been validated. Yet, it’s been all over all the news outlets. In February 2012, the American Academy of Pediatrics put out their Policy Statement—Breastfeeding and the Use of Human Milk. But yet, it gets little news coverage, and little coverage in the blogosphere. (Well, okay, “I” covered it.)

The media also focuses on things like how quickly can a celeb lose weight and can “real” mothers match up? Yet, we allow it. We allow ourselves to be compared to what we know, intellectually, is unrealistic. Emotionally, articles like this are hurtful.

They pit working moms against stay-at-home moms and call it “Mommy Wars.” I think the media started it. They picked up on our insecurities and this is what we get.

I don’t like the term “Mommy Wars.” It makes it sounds like women are taking up arms against each other over what are fundamentally personal choices.

There’s been quite a bit in recent media regarding feminism and parenting choices. I know women can be catty; they can bully and they can make other women feel guilty. I also know that a lot of the “Mommy Wars” talk is hype and doesn’t match the reality of life.

Take this fabricated debate regarding “Attachment parenting: Feminist or Not.” There are multiple bloggers on both sides of the issue. But really, the whole debate isn’t feminist!

Feminism is about equal rights, civil rights—the right to own land, vote, equal pay for equal work, play sports, etc. When we are truly equal we will not be looked down upon for choosing the “traditional” roles of wife and stay at home mother.

Who’s tradition, anyway?

My maternal grandmother did the books and managed the family bakery, my grandfather did the baking—oh, and they had four kids—nope, not “traditional.” My paternal grandmother was pregnant out of wedlock, divorced, and a single, working mother to four boys. Hmm…nope, not “traditional” either.

We only are truly free when we have the rights to choose our own path. When the opportunities are there for everyone, and when no one group tries to take away the freedom of choice.

You don’t have to like my lifestyle, my parenting or my politics. You do need to have some respect for that which is different from your own.

My daughter is a feminist. She doesn’t have the limitations in her head about her own gender. I want her to continue to believe she is limitless.


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About Deena Blumenfeld

Deena Blumenfeld RYT, RPYT, LCCE is a certified Yoga instructor at the 200 hr level, a certified Khalsa Way™ Prenatal Yoga instructor and a Lamaze Certified Childbirth Educator. She is also a mom of two – a son, born via c-section and a daughter, her VBAC. She is an active member of the local ICAN chapter and a member of the Coalition for Improving Maternity Services. Deena is also the owner of Shining Light Prenatal Education, where she teaches prenatal yoga, childbirth education, breastfeeding and much more.


17 Responses to “This is what a Feminist looks like.”

  1. mhh says:

    Infanticide should be abhorrent to all humans. It has nothing to do with your body and everything to do with killing vulnerable, innocent members of our species. But thanks for trying to make it look noble.

  2. jonathanhaber says:

    Stopped reading after you said your 3 year old is a feminist. Fail unless your three year old can grasp the concepts of feminism and the history of the movement otherwise she is just being a kid.

    • yogasamurai says:

      A lot of parents project their own needs and ambitions – fulfilled and unfulfilled – on to their children. And for a young mother there's a natural narcissism that treats the child as an extension of herself. It's part of mothering, but over time, ideally, you start to merge less, and to detach and encourage your child more. In the end, her daughter is likely to chart her own course, and it may not be one her mother approves of. Who knows, she may even turn out to be the next Sarah Palin. I wonder if it's a Caribou she has in her gun sights? If she starts saying, You Betcha, you know Mom's in trouble.

      • You make some interesting assumptions about me, based on very little information. The ability for my children to chart their own course is what I want from them. I don't want them to do or be anything other than the people whom they choose to be. As parents we do project out views and our belief systems onto our children. That is part of the intention of parenting, to raise children who share your morals and your beliefs.

        It is my intention to also raise children who are comfortable asking the hard questions and who will not go with the flow if it feels wrong to them.

        It is also not narcissism… very Freudian of you. This is why we call the postpartum period the "fourth trimester". It's why, in my line of work, we often use the term "motherbaby" to describe the mother-baby dyad. The child believes that it is an extension of the mother until separation anxiety hits at 6-8 months of age. That's when a baby realizes that it is no longer physically part of the mother and begins to develop his sense of self.

        My husband snapped this picture with his cell phone in the back yard. I thought it was cute and it gave me a good giggle. Her intention was that it was hot out and she wanted to play with the water gun. FWIW, she has her older brother in the gun sights and is waiting for daddy to put water in it. The picture itself is nothing more than a moment, playing in the backyard.

        However, what struck me about it was the strength of her character, her patience and her determination. I thought it was a good image to show how ludicrous the "war on women" really is. The article itself is much less about her, and much more about this "war on women" and the "mommy wars". These are fights I don't want her (or her brother) to have to fight.

        So, to jonathanhaber, not by strict definition, she's not a feminist because she doesn't know the word. But that does not devalue the rest of the article. Take it as a tag line, a lead in to get you to read. Worked, didn't it? 😉

    • tired teacher says:

      I came to say this, but you beat me to it. Her daughter isn't a feminist. She's a child, a happy and free child.

  3. yogasamurai says:

    Not really. And it's not Freudian. It's a more of a reading via Alice Miller, who, defying Freudian convention, focused on the narcissism of mothers – their inability to detach, psychologically more than physically – as the source of mental illness among their children.

    No harm intended. Parenting is a real challenge, and there's only so much you can do. Instilling spiritual awareness and basic values – rather than a distinct politics or ideology, yours or anyone else's – may be the most important thing?

    Have you ever read Khalil Gibran's THE PROPHET. Just a beautiful gem of a book, filled with wise reflections from an aprochyphal sage about everything from work to love to marriage to parenting.

    His one on parenting is well worth reading. It starts: "Your children are not your children." I think every parent should read it, almost as a requirement.


    • yogasamurai says:

      On Children
      Kahlil Gibran

      Your children are not your children.
      They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself.
      They come through you but not from you,
      And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

      You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
      For they have their own thoughts.
      You may house their bodies but not their souls,
      For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
      which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
      You may strive to be like them,
      but seek not to make them like you.
      For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

      You are the bows from which your children
      as living arrows are sent forth.
      The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
      and He bends you with His might
      that His arrows may go swift and far.
      Let your bending in the archer's hand be for gladness;
      For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
      so He loves also the bow that is stable.

      Of course, this can be changed to "She," if your Great Archer is a She!

  4. Kathi says:

    These comments are such a silly debate, completely detracting from the point of the article. I will not waste my time engaging in the banter.

    I will, however, commend you, Deena, on a well-written article inspired by something poignant you saw in your daughter's innocence not yet tainted by gender socialization. There is nothing so beautiful and moving as the naivety of children. It was wonderful to read another blogger committed to linking the issues of feminism and birth. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

    If you get a moment to pop over to my blog, you might enjoy some of my recent articles on birth history and feminism. I'd love to hear your thoughts.

  5. In Europe, Italy specifically, married women did not lose their last names upon marriage, and 'the family' was their castle, their crown the creation of life.

    Men and men are not equal, nor are women and men, each has their own abilities, strengths and weaknesses.

    Let us hope that your duagher becomes good+feminist, and not a bad+feminist; there is good and evil in all things through choice, even the angels were corrupted.

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