The first time I noticed, really noticed, my feminism slipping between my fingers, I was standing outside of Pennsylvania Macaroni in the Strip District with E. It was a bright, cold Saturday morning and she was asking one of the vendors if they had those bags of broken biscotti that they sell for a dollar when available. Her husband loves those bags filled with broken biscotti pieces. The vendor said, no, but next week and as we turned and walked away my mother’s spirit crossed the five hundred or so miles separating us, slipped into my body and caused me to say “That’s really too bad! Dylan works so hard, he deserves his favorite food.”
I stared at E. in horror but since she didn’t reel back in shock I felt I had to explain to her how odd the comment was. “See,” I said. “It’s something my mother would say. Also, I don’t know your husband very well. Why would I care if he gets biscotti?” And since I had informed her earlier that I feared my feminism was disappearing, although I had sort of been kidding, I also added “This is another example of me, losing my feminism.”
I don’t remember how E. responded but, like everyone I’ve told thus far, she didn’t seem overly worried for me. But this weird response is happening more and more lately. If my sister-in-law complains about my brother, and when she does it is only in the most abstract and loving ways, like perhaps if he weren’t so terribly busy he could empty the dishwasher, I find myself having to bite back responses defending how very much work he has, and how when he comes home he needs rest, and to be taken care of. Even more disturbingly, I find myself thinking about my cousin quite a bit, hoping he is getting enough rest, has enough vacation coming this summer after his long school year, that sort of thing. With S., home now and studying for the bar, I find myself keeping track of how much sleep he’s getting, what he’s eating, what we need to do to restore his health to pre-law school levels. And, in case this all isn’t enough, just last week I found myself posting to a bog post, defending the creation of Sex and The City.
So, as you can see, disturbing developments, indeed. I don’t know where all of this is coming from, but suddenly I find myself wanting to take care of S. in a way I haven’t before, and whatever is stimulating that emotion extends beyond my little household. When you factor in my inability to support Hillary Clinton as our presidential candidate and my desire to throw rhubarb and strawberries together at every opportunity, I certainly think I have something of a situation on my hands.
Is this what happens in one’s thirties? Sudden, overwhelming desires to take care of your loved ones in the home? To protect? To nest? And if so, does it necessarily mean I’m losing my feminism? Perhaps I should have started with an essay like, What Feminism Means To Me, but my definition and thoughts on the subject offer nothing new to the debate.
On the blog discussing Sex and the City, I wasn’t so much defending the series and movie itself as I was stating I thought the blogger’s determination that this was not just a “chick movie” ridiculous. I don’t remember the whole argument but the writer and her readers were responding to the fact that there is no such thing as gendered movies – that if this is a good movie men should be willing, no, grateful, to go with their wives and girlfriends to see it because to assume Sex and the City was a movie for women was ridiculous.
And I just couldn’t help myself. I tried imagining dragging S. to watch two hours of Carrie, Samantha, Charlotte and Miranda. And I thought about him slowly poking his eyes out with hot pokers during the process. And it’s not because he’s not liberated – he’s as likely run the dishwasher or cook dinner as I ever am – but because there is not one thing about the storyline that would interest him. I guess, if I am a feminist, I’m the kind who is more worried about returning those young women in Texas back to their normal lives so they can have a bunch of babies before knowing anything different, than I am about whether S. watches a movie with me.
Wow – that sounded incredibly sanctimonious, didn’t it? My apologies. It’s just…I spent my late teens and all of my twenties calling myself a feminist, believing myself to be an advocate for equal rights and pay for women, not only here but abroad, and I suddenly find myself walking to work thinking “If I have a baby, I’ll never have to work again,” which is (a.) completely untrue and (b.) the antithesis of most of what I believe in. These events and the evolution of my thought process not withstanding, I spent three years of my life teaching women’s literature to classes of girls who essentially thought the feminism was over – it had served women the purpose of giving them Choice, and now that Choice was around, activism on their part wasn’t needed, and I’ve also spent a lot of time arguing with friends about the importance of things like agency over one’s body, and how universal health care is a feminist issue, and on and on and sometimes all the discussion, all the arguing, grows a little tiring. When arguments come down to whether or not men should see the Carrie Bradshaw movie I just want to throw up my hands, go look at some throw rugs and get a facial – because that’s not the important part of this whole thing.
I don’t know. I’m not sure what I’m getting at, yet. I’ll revisit this idea as I think on it more….a part II will be in works, discussing how one of my (male) supervisors called me “bright eyed and bushy tailed” and when I shared that with my parents , trying to make the point that however well meaning he happened to be no man would every say such a thing to another man in the workplace, they just told me I’m oversensitive, and should be flattered…