By Alex Cohen
A few weeks ago one of my daughters asked me if I was a feminist, I wasn’t sure how to answer her. While I do strongly believe in equal rights and opportunities for women, I personally do not relate to the modern-day feminist movement.
I tried to explain this to her the best way I knew how so I started with my upbringing. We lived in a one career household, my dad worked fulltime at the Post Office and my mother was a stay at home housewife. We were raised with very old fashioned values, the man worked and the woman stayed home and took care of her children and her house. My dad always came home to find a hot dinner at the table and his clothes washed and pressed, much like many other families we knew. I never felt like he treated my mother with less respect. If anything he always called her the boss and deferred to her for most decisions.
My mother didn’t like having to ask my father for spending money so she ventured out and started to babysit children whose parents had to work. It allowed her to make a little extra spending money and that made her happy, but it was her choice, and she still never felt less than him. I myself started working the minute I got my working papers (most of you have no idea what those are, but if you were under 16 you needed them), I took jobs that were mostly given to women – a salesgirl at Woolworths, a receptionist at the Church Rectory, etc. – and I never felt, nor was I ever made to feel, less than any man I worked for or with.
After college I got a job where my boss was a woman. She was very aggressive and angry all of the time. She was trying to be a man, in a man’s world. She treated all the women who worked for her terribly because she could not understand why we were not as aggressive as her. She constantly ranted and raved about how we needed to toughen up and be more like the men in the firm, and how our choice to dress too femininely made us look weak and not as smart. But I noticed that while she was trying to play a man’s role, no one liked her and she just got angrier and meaner. Last I saw her, years later, she was still single and looked like she had aged 50 years – I suspect because she spent all that time fighting to be something she was never going to be, a man.
I am not saying she should have batted her eye lashes, acted less intelligent, or laughed at all of their jokes but, if she wanted to have respect, she needed to earn it from her peers and feel it for herself. Instead of celebrating what made her special because she was a woman and what incredible qualities we as women have naturally (that most men do not), she punished herself for what she was and what she was not.
I believe that everyone should have equal rights and opportunities, including women, the handicapped, the LBGT community, and people of all races, colors, sizes and religions. No one should be discriminated against, ever.
Which brings me back to the question: do I consider myself a feminist? Well, considering feminism in its current state, I would have to say I’m not sure. I like the way the differences between men and women work together, for me it’s very organic. We both have different strengths and weaknesses that should be respected and celebrated, not punished. I love my husband and while we both work (I am not paid to do what I do), he respects me and appreciates that I have chosen to take on the role as wife and mother to his children while still maintaining my own life and career, running our Family Foundation. Never once has he asked me to give anything up and never once have I asked him to. I still enjoy when men open the door for me, pay for dinner, stand when I leave a table and help me when climbing stairs in a dress or hiking up a mountain.
I am sure I will get plenty of flak for this blog but what I’ve seen in recent feminist demonstrations is more divisive than unifying – there are no real answers just a lot of anger. I am sure it has a lot to do with the political environment we now find ourselves in, but that is no reason to spew hatred and condemn those of us who do not feel the need to support such behavior. True change can come from peaceful discussion. What started out as a movement for a woman’s right to vote and get equal pay and opportunities, which I whole-heartedly believe in, has turned into a reason to just yell.
Don’t get me wrong, women are the superior gender… just by nature alone. Not that bearing children is the only way to show our importance, but women are multitaskers, we have great intuition, we make the most loyal friends and employees, we are much more emotionally intelligent, our patience is almost unending (unless you have kids… there is an end). There are just as many great women in history as men, their stories have just not been told yet, and I have always believed that behind every successful man is an incredibly intelligent and strong woman who helped him get there.
I do not mean to offend anyone reading this. I have not been brainwashed, nor am I a woman living in a bubble, those who know me know how strong and independent I am. I would be the first one to speak up if I felt I, or any other woman I know, was being treated unfairly.
That said, I do not condemn the women who feel the need to take part in the modern feminist movement. Have your say, march your marches, unite in solidarity and feel like you have made a difference. You all have your reasons, just make sure you know what you are fighting for and use your strength or reasoning to get your points across.
By the way, most of my daughters marched in the Women’s March and they go to many demonstrations. I am proud of them for standing up for what they believe, my only advice to them is to stay safe and always lead from conviction, never just follow. Their voices should be their own, even while fighting in unity.
My daughter understood where I was coming from after our long conversation and she understood how I felt and why I felt that way. There was no yelling and no anger, just words shared by two very smart and determined women.