Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Feminism is Dead . . . Long Live Feminism

There’s an article posted on American Thinker today titled, “Sarah Palin is Sounding the Death Knell to ‘Feminism’ As We Know It.” I sure hope so!

Don’t get me wrong. I’m grateful for the suffragettes who advocated for the right of women to vote. I’m grateful for those women who led the way in the workplace and expanded my ability to choose to work outside the home. I’m certainly grateful for those women, like the women pilots of WWII, who paved the way for me to serve my country. But I want no part of “institutionalized feminism” and I never have. In my opinion, these women have harmed the cause of true equality for women rather than advanced it. As Pamela Meister put it in her article,

“Feminists don’t believe in allowing women to choose what’s right for them. Women need to walk in lockstep, bent achieving not even equality but domination of men. In their eyes, women were horribly oppressed by bearing children and raising families and now they need to get their own back. It’s not about a real, working partnership with men; it’s about domination of men.”

When I joined the military, over 20 years ago, I entered an organization where women attorneys were given the same responsibilities and, of course, the same pay as men. I know that some military jobs were not open to women at the time, and I understand that some military jobs are still closed. But, as a judge advocate, for most of my career I was treated the same, and had the same opportunities, as male attorneys. Having said that, I admit to being concerned when the military judge began a critique after I prosecuted my first court-martial by saying, “I was vehemently against the idea of letting women into the JAG. . .” But then he went onto say that he’d changed his mind, after observing that women understood the law just as well, and worked harder than men. I recognize that, like any large organization, there are some people who did not reach the same conclusion as that crusty old military judge; and remained convinced that all women JAGs should be assigned only contracts or claims, would never make a good trial counsel (prosecutor), or really understand the operational realities of war so necessary to providing good advice to commanders in the field. In my experience, though, most of those fossils were gone and women were given responsibilities, promotions, and assignments based on their merit. (Just look at the number of women currently serving as Staff Judge Advocates to Air Force Major Commands or Numbered Air Forces.)

In my opinion, if anything hurt the “cause” of women; it was women themselves, particularly those who believed themselves “feminists.” These women seem to have the attitude that they should be able to succeed only because they’re women, and because they have been historically oppressed by being regulated to raising children and making dinner for the emotionally-crippled family breadwinner. They didn’t want to succeed through hard work and competence. They wanted success given to them. I know I’m generalizing, but I tended to categorize these “institutional feminist” women into one of three types.

There’s the “ultra-feminist” woman, who would run to the equal opportunity office with any perceived slight, no matter how trivial, tended to leave male co-workers and commanders (and some other women as well) believing that most women were whiners and complainers, way too over-sensitive to ever be “one of the guys.” Their brand of victimization harmed unit cohesion, could undercut discipline and leadership, and made it very difficult for other women to break through the walls their “gun-shy” co-workers erected to protect themselves.

Then there is the “me” woman. The one who wants to be the center of attention; and she’ll do whatever she needs to do in order to get there. She’s ruthless. She’ll stab anyone in the back, as long as it makes her look good. She’ll take credit for other’s work. She’ll work hard, but only as long as she’s getting something out of it. This type of woman also hurts unit morale. There’s nothing that will fracture a work-place like someone who is out for themselves, and only themselves. Amarosa from “Apprentice” comes to mind. Don’t get me wrong, this is not a solely female trait. There are some “me” men, too. But, unfortunately, we seem to be teaching girls and women that they have to act this way to succeed. The “me” people tend to negatively shape other’s perceptions, and when it’s a woman who acts this way, it shapes other’s perceptions about women in general. Unfair? Sure it is; but true.

Finally, there’s the “vamp.” She’s the woman who uses her femininity in a negative way. She’ll be more likely to use sex to advance herself. Now, I don’t mean that she’ll “sleep her way to the top.” I mean she’ll use sex to seduce or promise, often without “paying up.” She’s the woman that scares men and a number of other women as well. Rightly so; because this woman is toxic. She can turn an organization on its head quicker than . . . well just about anything you can think of. Particularly if she sets her sights on command; and she will. She sees getting one over on everyone else as just another challenge. After dealing with one of these types of women, her co-workers are rightfully tentative in dealing with a new woman in the organization. They have to learn the concept of trust, all over again.

So, I applaud the death of feminism as we know it. We need to replace it with true feminism. The type of feminism that truly supports a woman’s “right to choose." Women should have the right to choose what makes them happy. They should have the right to choose to work outside the home, or not, depending on their own circumstances. They should have the right to be proud of their femininity. They should be able to choose to stand with men, and not stand either behind them or against them. I see Governor Palin as an example of the type of feminist that we need to advance. As Dorinda Bordice in an article posted on National Review Online, put it

“Authentic feminism is the philosophy recognizing that women (like men) find fulfillment by giving of themselves, as opposed to radical feminism which insists that women can only find fulfillment by asserting themselves . . .”

Governor Palin gives of herself. She is committed to fair treatment in the workplace, inside and outside the government. She is committed to a woman’s right to vote. She’s committed to family, even to the point of deciding to give birth to a special needs child and supporting her pregnant daughter. Believe me; I know from experience that balancing these commitments can only be done by someone who can give of herself. If Governor Palin was running for office while balancing family life in order to assert herself, as would an old-school radical feminist, she wouldn’t be able to achieve the balance necessary to succeed.


James said...

You forgot the Slacker, who will slide by on incompetence and laziness, secure in her ability to cry "sexism" if her deficiencies are noted. One finally transferred out of our group, our productivity went up 20% as we no longer had to clean up her messes or worry about covering our asses for when she'd complain we weren't "being team players". Not sure if the latest guy we hired will work out, but we have the advantage of a) he's in his probationary period and b) he can't claim discrimination if we kick him to the curb (it IS still legal to discriminate on the basis of competence and work ethic, at least for the moment)(although I really wanted to hire one of the female system admins I've known over the years in - they can do the job, do it well, and have ZERO tolerance for slackers).

lela said...

James, you're right....the female slacker (there are males of the species, too) also tend to set back the cause of true equality for women. If you couldn't tell from the post, "true equality for women" in my book means that women and men interact together to achieve a particular goal....with all the players using their skills (whatever skills they have) to reach it without regard to gender (unless gender is somehow one of the necessary skills).

Virginia Harris said...

Hi Lela,

MargoMoon, a poster at another blog summed up in one word how being disconnected from women's history feels - homesick.

Well, I felt that homesickness too when I realized a few years ago that as a fairly well-informed American woman, I was totally in the dark about HOW the suffragettes won votes for women, and what life was REALLY like for women before they did.

Senator Clinton and Governor Palin are proof that women can and do diverge on important issues.

Even on the question of whether women should vote! I learned that suffragettes were opposed by many women who were what was known as ‘anti.’

The most influential ‘anti’ lived in the White House. First Lady Edith Wilson was a Washington widow who married President Wilson in 1915, after the death of his pro-suffrage wife.

The First Lady’s role in Wilson’s decision to jail and torture Alice Paul and hundreds of other suffragettes will never be fully known, but she was outraged that these women picketed her husband’s White House.

I’d like to share a women’s history learning opportunity…

I wrote “The Privilege of Voting,” a new, free e-mail series that follows eight great women from 1912 - 1920 to reveal ALL that happened to set the stage for women to win the vote.

It’s a real-life soap opera! And it’s ALL true!

Powerful suffragettes Alice Paul and Emmeline Pankhurst are featured, along with TWO presidential mistresses, First Lady Edith Wilson, Edith Wharton, Isadora Duncan and Alice Roosevelt.

There are tons of heartache on the rocky road to the ballot box, but in the end, women WIN!

Thanks to the suffragettes, women have voices and choices!

Exciting, sequential episodes are great to read on coffeebreaks, or anytime.

I hope you will subscribe, and pass the word along - it’s free at


Best to you! Thanks.

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