A friend of mine is pregnant. Not on purpose but, still, she’s keeping the baby and has every intention of being a mother while still being a feminist. A topic that has sprung up since she announced her pregnancy is the discussion of the “traditional woman.” Should women be housewives? Can feminists have children and still call themselves that? Or shouldn’t we make women choose? Shouldn’t we tell them to pick between the kitchen and the soapbox? It’s one or the other, right? Doesn’t feminism preach against women being domestic? Doesn’t feminism preach independence and female empowerment and liberation from traditional, oppressive gender roles?
Well, yes. But feminism is encouraging women to do whatever they choose, even if it is “archaic.” Feminism preaches all of the aforementioned values but it also preaches a woman’s right to choose. A woman’s right to choose extends beyond just whether or not she wants to carry the fetus in her womb to term. It extends to all aspects of her life. The thing about the right to choose is that, by and large, men already have it. One of the many points of feminism is for women in all spheres to gain the right to choose.
Women should be free to work and have children. They should be free to choose to not have children. Women should be entitled to choose their lifestyles; whether their lifestyles are domestic or professionally ambitious is nobody else’s business. We should encourage young girls to explore every option and every field because what they spend their lives doing is their choice. This seems like a fairly basic thing and yet we struggle with the right to choose in many sectors of our society.
We also shame women for their personal appearances. Often, in our culture, women are told they are “too much” or “not enough.” We are told that we’re wearing too much makeup or that we should wear more. We are called prudes if we wear modest clothing and sluts if we don’t. It’s a double standard that feeds into the pot of tiny oppressions women face on a daily basis in our western society.
Now, you could argue that women often being shamed and berated for choosing the “wrong” career or way of life isn’t that big of a problem and, in all honesty, I’d kind of agree with you. However, this micro-aggression of telling women that their life choices aren’t valid feeds into a much bigger issue. When it is socially acceptable to discount a woman’s choice of career or clothing or children, it becomes acceptable to ignore her choice in other, more intimate situations. That’s right, folks. I’m talking about sex. More specifically, about rape.
According to the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network, “1 out of every 6 American women” and “1 in 33 men” have been victims “of an attempted or completed rape” in their lifetimes. Now, we have about 160 million women and 155 million men in the United States. according to the U.S. Census Bureau, so that’d make for about 27 million women and 5 million men who have been the victims of attempted or completed rapes. In my opinion, 27 million is way too many. Not to disregard the 5 million men but, for the sake of word count, let’s focus on the women in this discussion.
So we have about 27 million women in the United States who have been sexually assaulted. That begs the question: “Why do so many people sexually assault other people?” And here’s my short answer: they don’t pay attention to consent. We live in a society that often questions decisions women make in their own lives and that goes from clothes to babies to sex. We question women. We assume that women don’t know or care or have enough power to be invested in their choices. And that bleeds into the way we raise our children. It bleeds into the curriculums we teach in sex-ed classes and, all of a sudden, female consent doesn’t seem to matter so much anymore.
So let’s stop questioning women. Let’s stop degrading them for choosing to be young mothers. Let’s stop shaming them for wanting to be housewives or CEOs. Let’s encourage women instead. Let’s encourage women to be whatever they choose to be. Let’s praise women for making choices in their lives that bring them fulfillment and joy. Let’s respect a woman’s right to choose.