Why More Mothers Aren’t Feminists

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  • They don’t have the time or energy to think about feminism, let alone act on it.
  • Having babies gets them all wrapped up in traditional expectations, which seem to be at odds with feminist principles.
  • Many people, women included, think that feminists hate children because they “enslave” you.
  • They get seduced by the American Dream: Mom at home taking care of baby, Dad at work supporting the family.
  • They feel rejected by feminists, as if they had violated some kind of oath by having children, or worse yet, by staying home with them.
  • Becoming a feminist is threatening to the men who (help) support them and their children.
  • Their religion tells them that feminists want to diminish the sanctity of motherhood.
  • They think that feminists don’t respect women who have chosen to become mothers.
  • It would make them seem ungrateful for being able to stay home with the children.
  • It would be like admitting that motherhood isn’t enough.
  • They feel misjudged and misrepresented by feminism.
  • Their husbands/boyfriends might leave them.

These reasons why mothers aren’t feminists fall into two main categories: insecurities about themselves and their children’s futures and a feeling that feminists are not interested in their fate. The ironic thing is, the majority of women who start out as feminists end up being mothers. What happens to their feminist ideology and identity then? Is it like losing your religion? Can’t you be a card-carrying feminist and a mother, too? We need to hear more from those mothers and childless feminists need to give more thought to their own futures. Even if they don’t want to have children, what kind of lives do they want for their “sisters” who do?

It would be like admitting that motherhood is not enough.

Another ironic thing is that many women don’t become feminists until they have children. They suddenly see all the pitfalls that befall a woman who is trying to raise children in a disinterested world. They begin to think for the first time what kind of people they want their children to become. Do they want them to be restricted by the roles society assigns to them? Do they want them to be victims of discrimination either on the receiving end or the giving end? Don’t they want their children to be strong and sensitive regardless of their gender? And what if they have gay or transgendered children? Or a teen who gets pregnant–or gets a girl pregnant? What if they themselves get divorced or were always single mothers?

Being a mother is to be vulnerable. It would be nice to think that society would protect mothers from all the things that can harm them. But look around you: how many employers are empathetic when an employee’s child is sick? How many government programs are there for reduced or free child care or health insurance? How many women get the child support that is due them? How many jobs provide paid maternity leave or are still there for them when mothers come back to work? And then there are the fathers. What kind of support do they receive as they struggle to share in the parenting process? Are they going to pull women up or be dragged down themselves by their desire to be as involved as possible in childrearing?

These are all issues which need to be addressed by feminism if it is to remain relevant. Because someday today’s feminists won’t be here. What kind of people will they leave behind?

Read “Raising the Baby Question” about the disconnect between mothers and feminism.

Published by

Ellen Keim

Ellen is a freelance writer, essayist and copy editor, living with three cats and a husband in Columbus, OH.

12 thoughts on “Why More Mothers Aren’t Feminists”

  1. A lot of people who insult stay at home mothers, are not doing much worthwhile with their lives either. They are punching a time clock at a dead end job, not looking for a cure for cancer. So unless you are really that great, don’t diss stay at home moms. Also, a lot of stay at home moms do volunteer work for the community that saves the taxpayer lots of money, and benefits everyone. And in addition to caring for their children, they are often caring for elderly parents as well. Whether or not someone draws a salary should not define them as a person!

  2. I recently graduated with a degree in Psychology and a minor in women’s studies. Ironically I became staunchly anti-feminism in college. I don’t want to rant and do not want to come off as angry or bitter, but so few feminists consider real women’s problems. It is pushed by middle class white women and their agendas. Not one of my classes, except black women’s history, addressed a point of view other than white women’s.

    The staunch feminists I do know are against the tradiational views of womanhood. Many of us like being feminine, but feminism sees us as weak. Feminism ignores the problems of men. I just saw an ad for a Fox news piece called “The war on Men”.

    I’m not a feminist nor have much respect for the movement after
    studying it for 4 years in college, and one of the main reasons for my
    feelings are the hypocrisy promulgates. I and a good friend of mine
    were just discussing how feminism covers a multitude of white women’s
    issues and forgets those of everyone else. One group it forgot are the
    men in minority statuses.

    These men are being left behind, they do not graduate high school, and
    less graduate from college. They are being taught, from the media, how
    being a real man is silly or overly masculine. So what we have are
    stunted guys who think women want a touchy feely man who has no
    leadership skills or an opinion other than what feminists have them to
    think. Or we have men that totally reject that and try to embody the
    alpha male ideal, but fall short, very short into the egotistical,
    macho non-empathizing ass category.

    If that argument is too emotional I’ll explain it another way.

    When men do things to their wives, girlfriends, and children like
    physical and emotional abuse they do it to inflate their fragile sense
    of self.

    These men are in a sense victims. They are victimized by society and its suffocating
    standards. If one thinks that society is hard on women it is more hard
    or just as hard on men who do not, and can not nor ever will be the
    ideal male. White, successful, attractive, educated, ect.

    For these powerless men they make up a version of masculinity they can
    fit into, the rappers’ view of masculinity is a great example of this,
    or they take their power by controlling or abusing women and children.

    Rape is about power, abuse is about control. Men who do either are
    victims of their upbringing, and they need help. Their sons need real
    role models. There is no room for a male victim in our society so they
    transfer their pain into rage, the need to control, which usually
    grows into another addiction. Depressed men don’t cry they break
    things.

    Having money, status, and power will not make one immune to acting
    depraved. Men who have attained the right to be called “real men” and
    have all the money, power, and status anyone would need are vulnerable
    to making any of these three an addiction.

    There is no war on men in the way that Fox says but they are being
    left behind. What no one realizes is they are taking with them their
    wives, girlfriends, and children. As much as some women like to argue
    against it, the majority of women want a man, and whatever their men
    say women do.

    The black culture upholds the idea of men as the head and women as the
    supporter of men. Yet our black men can not fit the ideal of
    masculinity that society touts so they have become this perverted idea
    of masculinity. Consequently black women respond to their men in
    negative ways, therefore making them loud and aggressive, or black
    women follow their men completely.

    I think we need to get rid of feminism, as it merely glorifies this
    increasingly anti-male, anti-femininity stand. Meaning the best people
    are aggressive non feminine women and soft non- aggressive men.
    I think we need a movement that teaches real masculinity
    and real femininity.

    We have Mitt Romneys or gay men, the caricatures not gay in sexual
    orientation. We have Hillary Clinton or Kim Kardashians. Neither group
    embodies true masculinity or true femininity, which complement each
    other. Even the masculine and feminine is present in homosexual
    relationships.

    The purpose of feminism should have been to get respect for the
    feminine, but what its doing is helping to lower the status of men who
    are not the ideal. Men who commit crimes against women still do so in
    droves, now women are committing these crimes against their children.

    1. Thanks for your thoughtful comment. I disagree with very little of what you wrote. I do wish, however, that you would clarify what you mean by feminism. Do you think women should be paid less than men for the same work or valued only for their sexuality? If you don’t, you’re a feminist, at least in your thinking.

      Feminism is about sticking up for women. It’s not about making all women be alike. I happen to be a very traditional woman–I’m married, have children and don’t have a career outside of the home. But to me, not being a feminist means that I could care less how women are restricted, sexualized, exploited and abused JUST BECAUSE THEY’RE WOMEN. That’s all I’m saying.

  3. Here is my take: Feminism is essentially egalitarianism. Once you keep that in mind, it is not difficult to conceive of a person who both has children and advocates for equality of the sexes. Can’t men have children too? If a man has a child, has he become somehow feminist or anti-feminist? Does he give up his “other things” for it? Sure, there might be differences between a woman having a child and a man having a child, but once the kid is born, the similarities far outweigh the differences– and any differences (cultural or biological) should not be an excuse for us to view the sexes as unequal in the eyes of politics, laws, or societal and cultural respect. Why do we set up this crippling and artificial hierarchy of things where, if we find anything in life important besides our kid, we are somehow not placing our motherhood “first”? Do we impose this nonsensical notion of first, second and third on fathers like we do on mothers? Finally, on the personal level, if someone says you don’t love your child (because, say, you care about other things or are a feminist to boot), but you know you do love your child, why would you care? I mean, of course you would, but logically it is a good reminder that the measure of love is not in the eyes of strangers who judge.

  4. My mother is my role model in feminism. She is active in La Leache League and has four kids and one grand kid.She loves babies more than anything. Yet she thinks that women should have a role to play in life. She encouraged my older sister to go into engineering and took a job after my sister got old enough to leave on her own. She believes in abortion rights, birth control, and rights for women in the workplace – but she also wants women to be mothers, to have companies help women in motherhood instead of forcing them to give up being a mom for a job, or vice versa. I truly believe that moms would make great feminists, if only because they are the most overworked women in the world, especially when they have a job on top of mothering.

    1. Your mother sounds like a woman after my own heart! Some feminists ignore or downplay motherhood, but I happen to believe that feminism should not just include, but emphasize, how important the role of mothers is in society. We should be pushing solutions to the problems that face women who are juggling motherhood and everything else in their lives. Until feminists do that, we’re not addressing the needs of millions of women.

      I applaud your mom and envy you for the example she set for you. And thank you so much for commenting.

  5. I think that people judge to hardly mothers and wives. I can’t believe how many people rip me apart or make harsh comments about being too young to marry or have kids. Especially in college, I hear it all the time “I’ll never be stupid enough to marry before (such and such age), and I’m deffinitly not stupid enough to have children!” then they ask me, and I’ll admit to them I am 23, married, and have one kid, however, I’m up on current events, I attend a university, I have thoughts and opinions among other things. It really bugs me when working mothers tear down stay-at-home moms. Some of these situations we couldn’t control, some we choose, and some we just make the best of, no one has the right to judge or rip you apart on those situations!

    1. I cringe when I read about or hear of women who have been put down for being mothers. What more important job is there really than being a parent? The crime in this society is that we don’t support parents, and especially mothers (because they bear the brunt of child-raising) so that they can raise their children and still be persons in their own right. Good for you, that you’re doing what you think is best for yourself AND your child. And shame on feminists who judge you negatively.This one doesn’t.

  6. A good deal of your bullet points about why moms aren’t feminists hit on several of the issues that I struggled with when my kids were toddlers. The point about becoming feminist once a woman becomes a mom really resonated with me–that is my story as a feminist.

    In my late teens, early-twenties, I had some feminist views, but resisted the moniker of feminist–and frankly held assumptions very similar to the previous commenter. A few years later, mid-to-late-twenties, I was heavily involved in climbing the so-called ladder in Corporate America. I was a feminist, but refused the moniker. When I was 31, pregnant with my first child, I learned that I was carrying a girl–and I wept. Not because I had been harboring a secret hope for a boy, but because the task of raising a girl in our patriarchal society daunted me *so much* that I feared I wasn’t up to the task. How could I do this? I didn’t think I was equipped.

    It was during those first few years of motherhood that I acknowledged exactly who I was–yes, a Feminist!–but not before an internal struggle over many of the issues you point out as reasons moms *aren’t* feminists. I stayed at home with the kids, I no longer ran in the ‘rat race’, and I had issues with being viewed as ‘just a mom’ after so many years with a career in the male-dominant financial services industry.

    Being a parent has changed me, and it’s changed my husband–and the kind of people, in the form of our son and our daughter, that we, both feminists, leave behind will also be feminists…in fact, at 6 & 8 years old, I seeing signs that they already are…

    Thanks for a great piece!

    1. Thanks for your thoughtful comments. It’s nice to know that I’m not the only one who was scared by the prospect of raising a girl! And how nice that you have a boy as well, so you can learn from both your children how they’re being socialized and what they really want to do and be.

      I had all girls (four) and it wasn’t until my grandson came along that I began to really see things from a male’s point of view. I found out that boys and girls are more similar than they are different, but that there are some differences, mainly in the way that they play. Do you find the same thing, or am I just being influenced by what I was raised to expect from the sexes?

      Ellen

  7. My firm belief is that the majority of the feminist organizations is comprised of the unattractive, slightly obese-obese women that were made fun of in school. Women have many unfair advantages in the world today. All because of all this feminist crap, just be happy you can earn the same wage and have the same rights as a man for once.

    P.S.- I’m a women too.

    1. That makes me sad, if you are a woman. If woman have so many advantages, then why aren’t they the ones with the money and power in our society?

      *sigh*

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