The Benefits of Being a Feminist

What difference does it make whether or not you identify as a feminist? As long as you support women’s rights, that’s enough, isn’t it? One could argue that being a supporter of women’s rights makes you a feminist, whether you identify as one or not, but let’s assume there’s a lot more to being a feminist than that. So why would any sane woman want to call herself something that earns the scorn of so many people? What exactly are the benefits of being a feminist?

  1. You can feel good about being a woman.
  2. You don’t ever have to apologize for being a woman.
  3. You’re not limited by being a woman.
  4. You don’t have to conform to society’s ideas of womanhood.
  5. You know how to stand up for yourself.
  6. You have more self-confidence and courage.
  7. You can do things because they’re right for you.
  8. You feel capable of making your own decisions.
  9. You embrace your masculine as well as feminine qualities.
  10. You’re not afraid to put your principles on the line.
  11. You accept people for what they are, not what they can do for you.
  12. You see the world, and yourself,  more clearly.
  13. You are supported by the sisterhood.
  14. You are supportive of other women.

I’d be foolish to say that feminism solves all of life’s problems. But knowing that there is more to life than living up to society’s expectations helps a lot when it comes to making a life for yourself. Being a feminist is a statement; it says that you belong to no one and you can think for yourself. That alone is empowering.

But let’s turn this on its head: what are the benefits of not being a feminist?

  1. Men are not intimidated or alienated by you.
  2. You don’t have to make decisions.
  3. You always have society’s–and men’s–expectations to guide you.
  4. Men will take care of you.
  5. No one will call you ugly, hairy or man-hating.
  6. You will know exactly how to treat little boys and little girls.
  7. You can embrace your femininity.
  8. You don’t have to act like a man.
  9. You don’t have to buck the system.
  10. You can work or not, part-time or full-time.
  11. You can stay home with your children.
  12. You will be upholding tradition.
  13. You don’t have to break new ground.
  14. You don’t have to compete with men.

You’ve probably noticed that not all of these points will hold true for all women all of the time. But most women who refuse to call themselves feminists draw a lot of comfort from them. You may have also noticed that a lot of these points illustrate misconceptions about feminism: that they insist that women work, for instance, or act like men, or deny their femininity.

These are not perfect constructs, but they may make you think about how you view feminism.

Back From Vacation

I got home from my vacation at 1:30 this morning, after a 13-hour trip. I could have stayed another week; maybe next year I’ll be able to stay longer.

We had an interesting mix of people at the cabin this year: my oldest daughter and her ten-year-old son, my youngest daughter and her boyfriend, and me. This is the fifth vacation I’ve taken in the last three years without my husband. It’s not that I don’t want him along, but something (like work or finances) always gets in the way. I’ve almost become used to being on vacation without him.

But not quite. The next trip I have planned is to Chicago and this time I know that my husband is going because it’s partly a business trip. I’m really looking forward to it. It will be fun to be there with my best friend.

Aww, I know, that’s schmaltzy. But it’s still true. The one thing I don’t like about traveling without my husband is that I don’t have him there to talk things over with. On the spot, not hours later when we get a chance to talk on the phone. As much as I love my kids (with whom I’ve been doing all the traveling), they don’t “get” me the way my husband does. He would have understood when I didn’t want to go canoeing or swimming this past week. He would have sat on the porch with me and enjoyed the sound of the waves on the shore and the wind through the trees. I had a good time but I still felt alone, not because I was, but because the one person I share everything with wasn’t there with me.

But there’s also a sense of accomplishment when you go on vacation without your husband, or any man. Knowing that you can plan the trip, do the driving, meet the deadlines, and handle emergencies is like a shot in the arm for your ego. I used to be afraid to do things by myself, but now that I know I can, I feel stronger and freer than I would if I depended on a man to do everything for me.