Caitlin Moran’s How To Be A Woman: The Discussion

I’ve never been more glad of an APW book club pick. Why? Not because Caitlin Moran’s How To Be A Woman is the funniest book I’ve read all year (it is), not because I want to pick Ms. Moran’s brain for all of it’s hilarious wisdom and this book was the closest I can get to it (and I do), but because up until Saturday’s book club meeting, I had no idea that we needed to reclaim the word Feminist. Cunt, sure. Wife, definitely. But Feminist? I thought we were all down with that. And by “we” I mean, readers of APW. Because I consider what we’re doing at APW to be just base-level feminism. We’re talking about women’s lives and women’s choices. We’re empowering each other to make better choices, and we’re making sure that we we all know, on a really deep emotional level, that we have lots of choices. We’re talking about how you can be an empowered woman who chooses to save sex till marriage, or an empowered woman in a polyamorous marriage. We’re talking about the politics of name changing. We’re reclaiming what our weddings can look like and what our marriages are. We’re people, with vaginas, who think we deserve options and rights. We wear pants (or not), vote (or not, but I hope we vote), and work (or not) as we’re so inclined. We’re, you know, Feminists. This is such a base line assumption of who I am and the work we do here, that I never even thought it was an issue.

So I picked How To Be A Woman, a witty romp through modern feminism, as the book club choice and showed up on Saturday ready to go. And then we started to talk about this quote:

We need to reclaim the word “feminism.” We need the word ‘feminism’ back real bad. When statistics come in saying that only 29 percent of American women would describe themselves as feminists—and only 42 precent of British women—I used to think, What do you think feminism IS, ladies? What part of “liberation for women” is not for you? Is it freedom to vote? The right not to be owned by the man you marry? The campaign for equal pay? “Vogue,” by Madonna? Jeans? Did all that good shit GET ON YOUR NERVES? Or were you just DRUNK AT THE TIME OF SURVEY?

And someone suggested that everyone who considered themselves a feminist raise their hand. I already knew via Twitter that in New York City,”Someone just asked who here was a feminist. Everyone raised their hand!” So I thought I knew what to expect. Well, most people raised their hands (not quite everyone).

Then someone said, “Actually, how many of you considered yourselves feminists before you read the book?” Which I thought was a silly question. Duh. These are APW readers we’re talking about. Feminists. And I swear to god, only about a third of circle raised their hands. This is my face when APW Advertising Manager Emily explained that until this book she didn’t consider herself a feminist:

Then I started fanning myself in mild panic. Robin, sitting next to me whispered, “Changing lives! Changing lives! This is good!” And then I managed to ask, “What about the book made you guys change your mind? Was it the jokes?” Everyone told me it was the simple way Caitlin Moran explained it: Vagina + Equal Rights = Feminist. Though I still suspect that the jokes didn’t hurt. (Funny ladies unite!)

But to be clear, I think there is a fundamentally important reason that women (And, um, men. Marry feminists, ladies!) consider themselves feminists. It’s part of all pulling on the same oar instead of cutting each other apart (something women are far too good at). It’s letting ourselves civilly disagree, while still being on the same page about centuries of repression and how we really need to keep working with past generations to turn the ship of womanhood towards fairness for all of us. (Says the woman who was asked if she would be “bored being a housewife” when she left her corporate job to work full time as a writer. Don’t tell me sexism no longer exists.) It’s the whole point of APW, as summed up by Ms. Moran:

For women, finding a sympathetic, non-judgmental arena is just as important as getting the right to vote. We needed not just the right legislation, but the right atmosphere, too, before we can finally start to found our canons—then, eventually, cities and empires.

And to illustrate my point, let’s dive into the major issues discussed at the San Francisco Book Club: Having Kids. Or not having kids.

When Cate Subrosa recommended this book, she said that her one wish for the book was that there was more discussion about the issues around childcare. She is both a mother and a registered child-minder in the UK, so it made sense to me that she wants to see more discussion of this issue. Well, turns out, as neither a mother nor a registered childminder, I couldn’t agree with her more. I read the book in two days, sprinting through the first half to see what Caitlin Moran had to say about children. And in her “Why You Should Have Children” and “Why You Shouldn’t Have Children” chapters, she had plenty of compelling things to say. But it turns out that what she had to say in the “Why You Shouldn’t Have Children” chapter is what I found most compelling. She says:

In the 21st century, it can’t be about who we might make, and what they might do, any more. It has to be about who we are and what we’re going to do.

Yes to that! Write it up over my desk, yes to that. And I want kids too. But I don’t want kids, or anything else, to stop me from doing things and changing the world. And Caitlin Moran is happily the mother of two, writing life changing best sellers, and I want a little chat about how. I’m pretty clear childcare is involved, and I want to talk about not just the personal element of that, but the politics of that.

So back to feminism. What we discussed in the meetup was how we could make it more easy for women in the US to be both mothers, and doers of things other than motherhood (if they so chose). Here are some ideas we came away with:

  • A culture that supports more involved fatherhood.
  • Better maternity or paternity leave (by which we mean any maternity or paternity leave).
  • More flex-time jobs, and job sharing options.
  • Better policies supporting women (and men) reentering the work force after some time off.
  • And our number one, we think this would help the most people idea: subsidized childcare (because that one even helps the self-employed in our ranks, like me.)

Now, while we could, in theory, just fight for these things on our own, it makes much more sense for us to all pull together as feminists (men, too), and fight for this together.

Which, you know, is why I consider feminism vitally important. That, and the voting and the pants wearing, and the Lady Gaga having.

Oh, and P.S.: We decided that on both a structural and personal level we believed “Weddings are our fault, ladies. Every aspect of their pantechnicon of awfulness happened on our watch. And you know what? Not only have we let humanity down, but we’ve let ourselves down, too.” Weddings? That’s something we ladies have used to tear each other down. Though we still all want to invite Ms. Moran to a fun wedding. An APW wedding. A reclaimed wedding. Like, say Becca’s wedding from yesterday. You have a virtual invitation, Caitlin Moran. We would like to think that it will give you hope that if we can reclaim our cunts, we can most definitely reclaim our weddings.


Now. What did you think about the book, Team Practical? Discuss. (And note: this is the internet. Don’t say anything in a comment that you wouldn’t say to Caitlin Moran over a cup of tea. We treat all our authors that way here.)

Pictures: Emily Takes Photos

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  • I have to say that when I first read this quote in the book: “For women, finding a sympathetic, non-judgmental arena is just as important as getting the right to vote. We needed not just the right legislation, but the right atmosphere, too, before we can finally start to found our canons—then, eventually, cities and empires.”
    my instant thought was for you Meg, and for this community. I was like THIS is exactly what we’re all doing at APW.
    And yes, subsidized childcare would be so revolutionary. In my husband’s company there are plans to implement it sometime in the near future, as an annex of the company.
    And well, of course we are , have always been feminists, for all the reasons you mention, but I think (up til before of the book) not saying it out loud really has to do with silly prejudices that are there to be broken . Like on the conversations with Lady Gaga , “(being a feminist ) does not mean man hating” and the “it’s thumbs up for the 7 (?) milliion”.

  • Full disclosure: I have not read the book yet.

    Vagina + Equal Rights = Feminist

    Although I appreciate the simplicity, we all know (Meg even says in her post) that men can be feminists. But, I have an idea. I’d like to advocate for a new positioning of equality (not instead of, but rather beside the reclaiming of the word feminist). Although I have never been afraid to call myself a feminist, I think the term is flawed. It suggests (and this discussion proves the misconception still exists) promotion of the female agenda, not equality (semantically).

    What if we were all just advocates for equal human rights? Or were standing up for equality and against double standards within gender? And instead of calling it feminism (even though that means equality), calling it equality and avoiding confusion? And being further empowered to stand up for issues that affect men under the cloak of equality?

    I guess I’ve just always seen the word feminism as a silly way to say equality, or even gender equality. Thoughts?

    • In the Boston book club, we discussed how our society expects the minority group to defend themselves, without placing responsibility on the majority group (i.e. we are a culture that tells people not to get raped, and does not tell people not to rape.) While women are not a minority numerically, we are a minority when it comes to representation and privilege. And I do believe that men should be advocating for the rights of women, in the same way that I believe that straight people should be advocating for the rights of LGBTQ people, and that white people should be advocating for the rights of racial minorities.

      In that sense, I disagree with the term “equality for all” because I think it puts the responsibility equally on everyone, when “everyone” does not have the same voice. There is power in privilege, and there is more power in advocating from a place of privilege than there is advocating from a place of oppression. In this case, men SHOULD be advocating for the rights of women. Calling it equality and not feminism takes away from that fight.

      • Chiara

        It’s funny that you say that, Emma, because before I read this book I would have agreed with you. Before I went to the book club meetup (after reading the book), even, I might have still agreed with you. But as I was walking home from the meetup, I was so excited I told my boyfriend exactly this over the phone, “I used to think I was an equalist, but now I think I’m a feminist”. And we talked about this at our meet up, one lady said when she was younger and didn’t realize that the word was already claimed for different purposes, she called herself a “humanist”. And while it’s true that what feminism means is striving for equal opportunities for men and women, Moran also notes (as Lauren is saying), that “We need the only word we have ever had to describe ‘making the world equal for men and women’. Women’s reluctance to use it sends out a really bad signal. Imagine if, in the 1960’s, it had become fashionable for black people to say they ‘weren’t into’ civil rights. ‘No! I’m not into civil rights! That Martin Luther King is too shouty. He just needs to chill out, to be honest.'”

        By saying we are feminists, instead of equalists, we are saying to people that there is still a problem with the way women get along in this world, and we’re pointing out that it applies to women specifically. And in her postscript, Moran talks about how what she wants to be, at the end of it all, is a human. “Just a productive, honest, courteously treated human”.

        So while I think it’s important to acknowledge that there is quite a lot of unfair treatment of many in the world, I also think it’s important to acknowledge that a lot of that unfair treatment is directed at half of the world’s population.

        • Both very good points! I am not reluctant to use it or label myself a feminist, I guess I am just wishing it was called gender equality from the beginning, just as civil rights was called that and not “African-Americanism” or something more specific like that. I am always getting hung up on semantics!

          • Sarah

            Getting hung up on semantics is a GOOD thing!!! Keep doing it! I liked what you had to say (and Lauren’s response) and both made me think. Word choice can indicate so much about meaning and intent — the English language using the word “labor” to describe the birthing process, for example.

        • meg

          THIS. Because it’s not just gender equality. Men, to be frank, already have most of the rights. It’s women that need protecting and fighting for. So I want the word to be women centric. And when we’ve done our job, men won’t think it’s weird to call themselves a word thats women centric, because there will be nothing *bad* about that. Because, let’s be frank. While feminism is arguably good for men in the long run, while they still have more privileges and power, there is less need for them to fight for it. So we should all be united in fighting for what we REALLY NEED.

          What’s wrong with a lady centric word anyway? Most words are male centric. It makes sense that the word that means “finally getting us equal rights” is lady centric.

          And hell, if we let the people who don’t want us to have rights to steal and re-define every word we use, we’ll be looking for words for a long damn time. Why don’t we honor all of those women historically who braved real terrors to get the rights we now have, but using the word they used, and standing up for what it really means: equal rights for all of us.

          • “And when we’ve done our job, men won’t think it’s weird to call themselves a word thats women centric, because there will be nothing *bad* about that.”

            Man yeah, I feel like this relates to that phenomenon mentioned here before– “If women like it, it must be stupid.” I’ve also seen this manifested as: girls will do boy things, but boys won’t do girl things (simplified here, but that’s the gist). I don’t know if there’s a technical term for that. And when I asked my husband about it, he said, “Yeah… it’s weird. And dumb. But it’s definitely the way most guys operate. I can’t really explain it.”

            I wonder if there’s a way to get around that obstacle, or to break it down and make it more culturally acceptable for men to associate their efforts and values with “feminine” issues. It’s an annoying one.

          • To continue a point Meg was making, if we look for a new word to define what we are fighting for, who is to say that the people who don’t want equality won’t co-opt that word as well and redefine it to mean something bad too. We can’t win if we are always trying to find neutral words because we’ll never find one.

          • Martin

            Hi Meg,

            Would you mind explaining how the defence of women as a marginalised group fits into your wider understanding of how all oppressed groups should be defended? Do you think all oppressed groups should be supported and do you think there should be a hierachy of support? Are women’s rights more important than men’s in all situations?

            I think there is a difficulty is isolating and illuminating the agents of oppression and feel that there are male and mixed groups how are marginalised in many societies (not only the crazy dictatorships). Pertinent examples would be gay rights, working rights for the disabled and conformity or non-conformity to the expectations of men in society. Many men struggle to be accepted as stay at home dads for example. Obviously i don’t think these should take primacy over female issues but it does seem to me that women’s rights need to be understood in a general context of human rights.

            For what it’s worth, i really enjoyed Caitlin’s book. It was, like her articles, very fun and occasionally illuminating. I didn’t find it life-changing and felt that more was revealed by her experiences than her theories.

          • RandomLurker

            I realize it’s now a bit late to be joining in on this conversation, but this, right here, pretty well sums up why I no longer consider myself a feminist. After looking at all the facts, I’m genuinely convinced that *women* are the ones with the upper hand in our society, partly because of laws in place to protect us, and partly due to our culture favoring women over men (this can particularly be seen in the application of divorce and child custody laws today).

            I’m all for equal rights. I used to think feminism was the way to improve the lot of both men and women, and don’t get me wrong, I do think most feminists want just that. But I really think that the names we call things have an impact, not only on the people they attract to a given group, but also on the perspective of the people already in the group. And calling it something that picks out one group over another goes against everything I believe in regards to equal rights.

      • Yes, just calling it ‘equality’ I think makes it a more difficult thing to then define and fight for. Because the straight white men out there? They already have all the equality they want! They have no need to fight for it!

        I think that calling it feminism gives it more meaning. It includes in its very name the idea that hey, shit is fucked up for women over here, and we need to fix that. ‘Equal rights’ just sounds like something that is neat. And like something that a lot of people could say we already have. I mean, we vote. Discrimination is outlawed. A lot of people could point to these things and say ‘hey look you have equality,’ which carries with it the implication that it is now our fault that women are not better represented in the workplace.

      • AMEN, Lauren.

    • Carbon Girl

      This really hit home with me. I work in academia (grad student now hopefully a professor later) and I want both sexes to have an equal opportunity for education and getting into the workforce. I am torn because “feminism” is definitely needed to help women get jobs in the sciences. In biology more women than men have been getting PhD’s for a couple decades but among faculty, there are still a lot more men than women. But on the other end of things, more women are applying and attending college than men right now and I feel we have to address that inequality too.

      • Harriet

        I’m a grad student too, and I can’t even express how important it has been for me to have women professors. I’ve had great experiences with many women in the faculty, but it’s been especially valuable for me to interact with younger women professors who have families. There’s something about hearing a woman you admire tell you that “there’s no perfect time to have kids,” and that it’s hard for everyone to balance work and family, whether they’re in academia or not, that gives me hope that it’s possible to have the life I want. And if it doesn’t work out, well damnit, it was worth trying! I know I have more courage to go for my dreams because I get to see women like this every day.

        • Caroline

          Oh yeah, it’s so important that half my professors are women, and some of them balence motherhood (of young kids) and work, and talk about it.

          • That’s pretty wonderful. When I was in grad school, all the women professors were either struggling mightily with balancing being a parent and being a professor — and that was not echoed for the male profs with young children, by the way — or they simply said, “I want to be a professor and well-respected in my field, and therefore I will not have children.” There is still some MAJOR feminist work that needs to be done within academia (which, kind of depresses me, being that academia, and actually the department I was part of, hosts feminist theorists.)

          • Amanda

            Ugh. Where I go to grad school, the female professors seem to take the “deny that I am a female person with specifically female needs” approach. (Note: by specifically female needs, I guess I mean that if they’re having kids, they’re the ones who will be pregnant – if they’re in a hetero relationship, that is) They may have children, but they never talk about them, or how it’s possible to achieve good (or workable) work-life balance.

            In a more general sense (not necessarily female-specific) grad students who have kids (I think they’re miraculous!), get married, or make concessions for their relationships, such as moving, are all vaguely frowned upon, but one gets the sense that this behavious is even more disapproved of in women, who need to preserve the illusion that they are solely professional beings.

          • Anne

            Yeah…this is a big problem in so many departments. In my field, being a woman is something you’re sort of supposed to ignore — as in, it’s best if your professors don’t notice you’re female, because then they’ll treat you just as seriously as everyone else (and forget that you might want to have kids, which is definitely frowned upon).

          • Kate

            I think once it goes too far to the left it stops allowing replies, but Amanda, I TOTALLY agree. Whenever a woman quits or moves or whatever it’s like, really? You’re giving this up for a man? But when a man does it for his family or for a job it’s fine. It’s frustrating.

          • Emily

            Agree with the problems in academia and, Stephanova, that it can be extra frustrating when there’s feminist *theory* being thrown all around in the research interests of the department.

      • This hits me on this count too. I am currently working on my BA Honours Thesis, I just got married, I am 30 and I am constantly trying to plan: grad school then PhD…grad school, kid, then PhD, grad school, PhD, then kid…no kids?! It’s a hellish debate when everyone around me keeps convincing me that my eggs won’t last for ever. I feel like I have to choose career or kids, or risk jeopardizing the career of my dreams (English Professor) by having kids in the midst of it. It has been difficult enough working full to part time through my undergrad degree, not being able to take enough courses to qualify for many scholarships- because I have to work too- and trying to manage the stress and the course-work, and a LIFE dammit…that just thinking about throwing a child into the mix TERRIFIES me! But at the same time, I worry that if we choose not to have kids that I will regret it later.

        Also, in the midst of a gender debate in English class, I pointed out that there are many many women in the English program (far outnumbering the male students) and many many women teaching term courses (not full time faculty), but here are only 3 full time faculty staff that are women, the other 95% are men. Disheartening. My prof, a man, conceded my point and shook his head…he was oblivious to it. And that, friends, is the “normalizing veil” of white and /or male privilege.

        Breaks my effing heart.

    • tanya

      Like Emma, I have not yet read the book.

      I have wrestled with the concept of feminism for a couple decades. The feminist movement sprung out of a time of massive inequality for many people, not just people with vaginas, and while it may have been empowering for women at the time, the movement has come to represent many things that serve to further dived us from other women, men, and our children. The above article is clearly well thought and articulate, however, it seems to lack the perspective of inclusiveness, and perhaps that is my fundamental issue with feminism. It is very difficult to change an injustice using the same thinking that created the problem.

      The construct of feminism and the construct of equality are social questions based on the concept of separateness. As women, as parents, and as citizens of the US the questions we are exploring are based on our social constructs, and when that construct is founded on separateness very few people seem capable of formulating an approach to the true issue at hand which has very little to do with gender, subsidized child care, and the perceived value of using the word cunt. Where we have become socially complacent is in not bothering to ask, what to me is truly an empowering question: how do we work together and progress through the shared human experience of self creation?

      • meg

        Basically, you need to read the book. Every question and issue you raise is answered super eloquently in there, in a way that would take me a book lengthy essay to relay.

        Feminism is about injustice. It’s about justice. It’s about inclusiveness And when we let people who don’t want us to have equality re-define it for us, we all loose.

        So go read the book, then come respond!

      • How is feminism encouraging separateness? Feminism is merely the idea that women are just as whole, complete, deserving of respect people, as men are, perhaps coupled with the recognition of the fact that much of society does not treat us that way. And a great many feminists will agree that a society in which men and women are unequal, one that dictates specific gender roles for each, is just as damaging for men as it is for women.

    • Cassandra

      I also haven’t read the book, but I’ve been a little… well, I find the whole “Do you have a vagina?” thing kind of… weird. Because I was raised in a household with two feminists- not only my mother (who didn’t take my dad’s name, cohabited before she was married, and was otherwise an independent, free-thinking lady) but also my father, who is one of the biggest promoters of feminism that I know. My (male) partner is also a firm feminist. I surely hope that any son of mine will be as much a feminist as my daughter is turning out to be. Did the book address the idea of male feminists at all? I realise I’m totally seeing this from a haven’t-read-the-book perspective, but some of the wording I’ve seen around this has bugged me a bit.

      • liz

        Many, many of the comments are about encouraging men to self-identify as “feminist.” From what I understand, the whole “vagina + equal rights = feminism” thing is meant only to speak to those women- as if, “Hey, you’re FEMALE- why WOULDN’T you be a feminist?” Not to say that ONLY women are feminists.

        • Cassandra

          Thanks for the clarification! I was hoping that was more what this whole thing was about, but I’ve certainly heard it expressed before that men just can’t really be feminists because they don’t understand what it’s like to be a woman etc, so I wanted to be sure I was understanding what the author meant and what was getting so many readers hyped up.

    • So I didn’t get the pleasure of a book club meet-up because the only other APWer in Edmonton, AB hadn’t read it and I was absurdly busy on Saturday anyway- so I am going to go CRAZY in the comments here. Even though I didn’t have a meet-up, I spent Saturday afternoon volunteering for the English department at my university’s Open House, and I spent a lot of my time there talking to students and profs about the issues of feminism- promoting the hell out of Moran’s book while I was at it. That said, I want to address this comment specifically, because I’ve already “Exactly’d” several people’s comments:

      “I wonder if there’s a way to get around that obstacle, or to break it down and make it more culturally acceptable for men to associate their efforts and values with “feminine” issues. It’s an annoying one.”

      My response to this is that it IS happening, gradually, but still happening. You can see the transitions in sociel expectations and constructions of masculinities and femininities in our literature- especially our YA literature. Take, for example, the Harry Potter series. I actually wrote a paper and presented a paper called “The Triumph of Contemporary Masculinity in J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter Series” wherein I argued that Voldemort is a representation of traditional (hegemonic) masculinity while Harry is a Rowling’s assertion (and proof) of a new, contemporary masculinity that includes and embodies many traditionally “feminine” traits: like love, empathy, friendship, support…etc etc.

      You can also see the gradual shift towards equality in societal constructions of gendered identities through YA books like The Hunger Games where female heros embody many masculine traits while still trying to navigate (and value) their feminine ones. Moreover, look at television shows like How I Met Your Mother and the “bro-mance” films (i.e. I Love you, Man) coming out where affection between males is encouraged and normalized- those are assertions of a new (more feminine, if you will) masculinity.

      Also, there is a serious stigma over the word “feminism” which demonstrates how the word needs to be reclaimed. People tend to associate it with rabid man-hating and some people associate it with the loss of men’s jobs (a.k.a. the loss of power- the impact of equality). The same thing happens with racism and attempts to equalize opportunity for minorities (and by minorities, I fully acknowledge that Canada and the US rely heavily on immigration and that “visual” minorities is not exactly a correct term anymore. However, while non-whites [and women] may be in abundance or constitute an actual majority in number- the term “minority” is about power not number.)

      Lastly, in speaking with a professor on Saturday, she told me her daughter (who attends university) claims to not be a feminist (lots of young women- late teens/early twenties also do this), and her response was this: “If you are a woman, attending university, you’re a feminist whether you are aware of it or not.”

      • I just wanted to say that that sounds like a ridiculously awesome paper. :)

        • Thanks, I thought it was pretty rad! Haha

          I am currently working on my honours thesis paper on constructions and performances of femininity in YA fantasy fiction (namely, Alana of the Song of the Lioness quartet, Katniss of The Hunger Games trilogy, and Hermione Granger. It’s going to be an epic sociological and literary analysis (50 pages!)

          Anyway, I am cool to share the paper with you if you’d like to give it a read! :)

          • I would drive from Calgary to read that paper. I’m trying to convince my husband that Alanna should be on the baby name list based solely on my love of those books. (I just spent the last month reading the entire Tortall oevre. Again.)

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  • I am a feminist and have been since I was little, although I don’t use the term very often.

    About mothering or not mothering. Clearly we need women to have children otherwise we’d all die out. But we also need women to NOT have children, because we are dealing with a global population crisis (as much as we bury our heads in the sand about it).
    We also need to recognise the very valuable job that women without children do, in helping mothers – being aunts, sisters, friends and a community for mothers and children, because it’s bloody hard work raising children, and mothers need support – both male and female.

    It is SO important that we stop judging women’s choices about having or not having children. It’s just another way to be divisive. when the reality is both ‘jobs’ are so valuable and needed – more than any others on the planet quite frankly.

    • Jo

      AGREED. We need to value ALL of the roles. And talk about them more.

    • Vee

      So much this. If more people talked about the rewards of not having children, the benefits to society in the valuable job that childfree women can perform, then maybe women who know deep down inside that motherhood is not for them could stop feeling so conflicted about it. And maybe other people would stop trying to make them feel so conflicted about it.

    • meg

      Well, as I said, the chapter on NOT having children was hands down the best in the book. And we talk about the power of not having kids all the time on APW. But even for those of us without kids, or those of us that don’t want kids, empowering ladies with kids to keep on making is SO IMPORTANT FOR ALL FO US.

  • Jo

    YES about reclaiming feminism. I’ve had so many people tell me we should trash the term and walk away, but I really think that’s a bit extreme. Just take back this one. :) And sometimes I tell people “You’re a feminist.” And they look at me with shock, but THEY ARE. They just don’t know it.

    And as for subsidized childcare: YES again. In bigger letters, with more emphasis. Not having childcare is part of our society’s ingrained bias against women. If women ran the world, we’d have provided childcare, without EVEN THINKING ABOUT IT. And that’s where I struggle with it.

    • I have so many friends who refuse to self identify as feminists, but when they tell me what their politics and values of equality are, they all line up as feminists. It drives me batty that this word has become so polarized smart women and men can’t identify with the term that describes them best.

      • Caroline

        I just about fainted when my little sister in law (she’s 13) said I just can’t take feminism seriously. I asked her what part of feminism she disagreed with? Equality for men and women? She replied “No, I beleive in that, but it’s the other stuff, ” that women can joke around about different stuff but when men do they get in trouble” (paraphrasing). Dumping all of feminism for a double standard which is unrelated to feminism, when double standards affect women as strongly or more so than men. Clearly, and big and subtle campaign to show her what feminism is really about will be happening. Though I’m not sure how.

        • I’m not sure if this is what your sister-in-law is talking about, but I hate some of the feminism coopting that goes on to sell shit. No, your product is not feminist because it’s pink. No you are not a feminist because you can joke about raping attractive men.

          Feminism is not about lowering females to equal opportunity sexism or driving the capitalist machine. That stuff disgusts me.

          As for your sister-in-law, maybe give her Caitlin Moran’s book. Send her here. Start exposing her to the kind of feminism you believe in. Lead by example.

          • N

            When I was 15 and was in the debate club, another female debater (IN COMPETITION) stated that feminism was “about hair, makeup, clothes and other stuff”. (In that debate I was advocating that eating disorder education was conducted through a feminist lens; I won the debate in large part due to that statement) Can we please please please do a better job of educating younger people (both female and male) about feminism? A lot of what I was exposed to when I was younger were the more negative images, and it definitely shaped my perspective for a longer length of time than I would like to admit.

        • A lot of people think that feminism equals a sense of humour failure. My husband doesn’t self-identify with the term for that reason, among others, although he’s obviously one in terms of his value system. It’s sad, but the term has lost its way hugely, and definitely needs reclamation.

      • When my friends say they aren’t feminists, I quote that fantastic line from Cheris Kramarae & Paula Treichler: “Feminism is the radical concept that women are people.”

        • What an AWESOME quote! I am so using that!

    • Having a conversation with my mother a few years ago, I was surprised to hear her say “I guess I’m becoming a feminist in my old age.” I said, “Having been raised by you, I always thought you were a feminist.” It’s interesting how a word can be so divisive, when the principles behind the word: the idea that women should be treated equally, that this historically has not been the case, that things are better, but still not equal, and so there is still work to be done are often so much more widely accepted.

      • I learned my early beliefs in feminism from my mom. She was never afraid to say she was a feminist, so I never was.

        I’m curious about the women whose mothers do not self identify as feminists. Is that just as important to the lack of self identification of feminist as societal perception of feminist?

        • jmo

          I wonder about that too. My mom and dad would both proudly call themselves feminists, and they clearly aren’t “man-haters.” I think they might even say, “as a parent of two daughters, how could you *not* be a feminist?” I definitely think that’s why I felt very comfortable with the word from a young age.

        • kireina

          Interesting. My mom doesn’t seem to identify as a feminist, and I never have (still haven’t read the book, so I suppose that could change), so maybe…? One of the things my parents were really big on when my sister and I were growing up was trying to create a world for us that lacked labels. Their goal in this was to allow us to find our own identifiers, rather than giving them to us. I think she would have seen ‘feminist’ as too pushy in some ways. But that’s just my family. :)

        • mimi

          I don’t think either of my parents would label themselves as a feminist, but I suppose they must be. Both parents always worked and jointly handled parenting 5 kids (2 girls and 3 boys). I’m now a lawyer (working for my dad’s firm) and my sister is a doctor, while our brothers all have careers but aren’t “professionals”. After reading this article, I now consider myself a feminist. Maybe reading APW makes us all feminists?

          • Laurel

            I also never remember my Mom actively self-identifying as a feminist, but she certainly led by example. She was the first woman at her particular engineering school to get a doctorate of engineering in the early 80s and proceeded to rock a career in engineering while raising my two siblings and me with my Dad. I think she is part of the reason why I didn’t self-identify as a feminist until college because my closest female role model was such a badass. I needed to be exposed to different methods of analysis to realize that feminism was, and is, still very much needed.

    • Feminist has just become such a dirty word – one synonymous with drum circles and hairy arm pits and man-hating. It’s said in a sneer, not rejoiced or encouraged.

      Now I, too, have not read the book (It’s NaNoWriMo time! I’m not doing any reading these days.) but I can appreciate the comments and the snippets I’ve gotten from it. And it’s made me realize I am a feminist, as are most all of the females in my family and my friends – but seldom few of us would actually use the term because of the negativity tied to it.

      I guess I have questions about “subsidized child care”, though. Don’t all states HAVE a program? Low (and occasionally middle) income families have access to free or mostly free child care already. So what exactly are you looking to have?

      • Tamara

        First, the definitions of “low” and “middle” are particularly meaningless in this economic climate. Two, for many of my firends, all graduate student mothers, make “too much” to get the subsidy, and it costs almost as much as we make to pay for childcare. AND, the states usually are slow-to-late paying the providers. One changeover in the Hamilton County, OH payment system two winters ago, resulted in more than 100 providers not getting checks for three or four months. In-home centers closed, and one woman was evicted. For that reason alone, we need to think about childcare differently.

        Another issue is that domestic work in general is still devalued, so it’s a catch-22 for many providers AND parents. The subsidies would, like an earlier form of public education, lift up children as our priority, and establish a way for many more families to access choices in their work and personal lives.

      • Anne

        I think what we (at least at the SF meetup) were talking about was something much broader, and not necessarily free, just cheaper than childcare is right now. Low income families often have access to subsidized (or free) childcare, but what about middle and even upper-middle class families? Women who want to work after they have children often don’t (or can’t) because childcare is too expensive. We talked a lot about how difficult reentry into the workforce is (for both men and women), and how subsidized childcare would allow middle class parents to continue working if they chose to do so. Also, as Meg pointed out, it offers a great deal of flexibility for people in jobs that otherwise aren’t flexible. People often comment that those who are self-employed will have no trouble having kids, because they work from home, but the opposite is true: how many of those people can take time off from their jobs and still have one to come back to? So, I think we were talking about subsidized childcare as a way to give parents (and women in particular) substantially more freedom to chose to have kids.

      • There is a child care subsidy in all states for low-income families (just how low-income depends on your state). I imagine that the bureaucracy of getting that is about the same as other government benefits, but once you get through all that, it’s a good benefit. But child care is a problem for all families, not just low-income ones. As someone who will be facing the childcare challenge in the next year – finding some place with space, where I would feel comfortable leaving my child, at a price I can afford to pay – I can tell you it’s daunting. And my work does offer “subsidized” childcare – $440/week for an infant. I live in DC, and I can tell you, having done my research, that this is not out of line with what other local daycares cost. That’s almost $2,000/month that I have to find in my budget to have my child cared for while I am at work. That’s an issue, a huge one, and it played a big role in when we decided to try to have a baby.

        One of the benefits of living in DC however, is that the city has universal, free preschool starting at age 3. That’s a huge benefit and model that I can see for “subsidized child care” elsewhere.

        Also, it’s worth noting that Congress passed a bill in 1971 was would have created a program of subsidized childcare for all, but that it was vetoed by Nixon. So this is not something that has never been contemplated or recognized as important before. (I read about this in When Everything Changed by Gail Collins, which is a book I really recommend).

        • Meg

          I was so sorry to miss the SF meet-up, especially because this is the first book choice I have loved. I continue to be amazed by how few people, especially women, identify as feminists. I remember being shocked the first time someone asked a class I was in, “How many of you consider yourselves feminists?”, and I was the only one. This perhaps should not have been surprising since it was in the very conservative town I grew up in, but even when I was in graduate school in a very politically liberal field and the same question was posed, people responded similarly. What is it about this particular word that makes people afraid/unwilling to use it positively?

          • liz

            I think the fact that there is a conservative/liberal divide indicates that there is far more politically tied to the word than necessary. Because, conservative or not, who DOESN’T want women to be considered equal to men?

          • I am both a conservative and a feminist.

          • Meg

            I agree, Liz, that this is indicative of the word being too strongly linked to partisan politics. I was very surprised that I was the only person who identified as a feminist in my high school class, whereas I was much less surprised that I was one of just a handful of students who opposed the invasion of Iraq. I had always felt that feminism was most aptly described by Susan B. Anthony as a “true republic:” “, their rights, and nothing more; women, their rights, and nothing less,” which certainly applies to conservatives every bit as much as liberals. Absolutely I think people across the political spectrum should and of course, to some degree, do identify as feminist. Since, however unfortunately, feminism is viewed by many people as a largely liberal project, I was at least as surprised that six years later, in a more liberal setting, students were every bit as adamant that they did not identify as feminists. My point was that if even the people who are “most likely” or “supposed to” identify as feminists don’t, how can this become a term that gains widespread acceptance as a way of identifying one’s self?

      • meg

        I think it’s a broad issue. The child care we need will be the same as our rent (and that’s the lowest cost option available to us). It’s easy to see how, for a lot of two income families, if the childcare costs the same as the lower income, and the lower income is the wife’s, she stops working… just because that’s how the system is built. And it makes me sad to think of all the amazing stuff we loose, if women who really do want to keep working, stop because of the financial dis-incentive. I just wish we had a system that supported families a little better.

        • An interesting fact about child care (at least in Canada) is that it is quite expensive, but the work is devalued and the workers make hardly anything themselves, unless they are self-employed nannies; think just above minimum wage here with a post-secondary certificate or diploma.

          In my opinion, for all the reasons stated here and more, child care should be a government subsidized department (like Health Care is in Canada) where employees are adequately paid (enough so that they truly care about their jobs and the work they are doing) and where all people of all classes have access to it either free or as a subsidy. Among the main careers involved in child care (daycares and pre-school/ primary/secondary teachers) are employees who are not appropriately valued for providing a service that is a NECESSITY to our society. Moreover, there are many educated, passionate women NOT working because child care IS too expensive. A reality that, without a doubt, affects people’s decisions to have children.

      • M.U.F.

        It seems the childcare question here is already being addressed, so I’d like to address the part about Feminist as a “dirty word – one synonymous with drum circles and hairy arm pits and man-hating.”

        Congrats on your recent revelation – and proclamation here – that you are a Feminist(!), despite the negative misconceptions it might occasionally bring your way… I hope I can encourage you and your friends/family to proclaim it elsewhere, too. You see, I truly understand what you’re saying about judgmental sneers because that is what once caused me to avoid, even dismiss, the term myself. (I agree that there are occasionally confused people who associate feminism with “man-hating” and okay, perhaps these are the same ones likely to conjure up some version of a stereotypical image of hairy-armpitted women around a drum circle…)

        But! That’s precisely why it’s so important that you rejoice in your new-found identity and in your use of the term! If you’re worried about being associated with hairy arm pits and drum circles… Don’t be!! Consider the possibility (or help your negative audience member consider) that these things are not necessarily negatives.

        Some semantics:
        For me, hairy arm pits represent winter (when I’m less likely to shave) and as chance would have it, I’ve ended up at hip party/community event with some free/collaborative music, perhaps around a bonfire… yes, even better!… (Sometimes I wonder how I could have such luck to escape the cycle of my mundane schedule to participate in the occasional drum circle life brings my way.) These things don’t have any relevance to “dirty” for me and don’t have to for you, either. Heck, any critical audience you might be facing could be reminded that even dirty doesn’t have to be bad, depending on how you choose to use it. When I am on the “dirty” side, it usually just means I’ve been having too much fun in the garden or in the… er… I’m straying away from the point…

        MORAL of my story:
        If someone ever associates your identity as a Feminist with “man-hating”, then they clearly deserved the opportunity to run into you so that you could offer them a proper (ideally, courteous) correction! Also, you could consider this your perfect opportunity to let them know that you (and we, the Modern United Feminists, MUF’s?) have reclaimed the term, simply for the reason that it allows us to be, accept, or celebrate all of the options we have — to play in drum circles (or not!), have hairy arm pits (or not!), and get a little dirty every once in a while (or… well, now I’ve just decided that one’s mandatory… but open to various interpretations, of course!)

        So. Choose to define your own semantics. And re-define them as needed. (Yup. Keep up the good work and critical thinking we’re doing here, courtesy of APW.) But also don’t hesitate to discuss/explain them out loud in front of another audience when necessary, especially to one who might be a little overdue for a good discussion! And remember, the more we end up on the same page on Feminism, the semantics at hand here, (and voice it), the more it will be redefined to mean what it should. This is the beginning, a small contribution to the gritty, solid foundation the Feminists before us sacrificed SO much (more than an uncomfortable conversation) to build… Just to be in their company, to exercise the PRIVILEGE of using the term Feminist to identify ourselves, we owe it to them, really.

  • On a different note, I love reclaiming words, but I also love abandoning words.
    I have stopped using the word ‘ladies’ or ‘lady’ (unless I’m referring to an actual Lady so-and-so, or as a joke).

    Lady sounds weak, someone who is about appearance and surface qualities, someone who doesn’t get her hands dirty, someone who sips champagne on the lawn (but does nothing else).
    I always feel that when someone calls a woman – ‘lady’ they’re being too afraid to say ‘woman’. Because ‘woman’ is big and strong and real.

    We’re not ladies, we’re women. Own it.

    • Sarah

      Lady was also used by educated white women in the Jim Crow south to refer to black women, as a way of drawing lines in the sand. White women could be Ms and Mrs, while black women were Auntie, or lacked a prefix all together. All the more reason to abandon that type of word, one which I agree with you, is diminutive.

      Maybe before we even reclaim feminism we need to reclaim “woman”!

      In my women’s studies class in college, my Professor (definitely a woman) tried to get us to call ourselves women. But, as a group of 19-year-olds, we felt like girls, and groups of female friends “ladies.” Women are older, matronly types. We weren’t that. But, by using the term “girl,” we diminish ourselves in relation to men, who can claim the term earlier than women can.

      • LPC

        I wish to also reclaim the word Girl. You’re a girl until you’re a woman. No shame in that. Most upper middle class white girls, to my way of thinking, are girls until they hit about 21 or 22. For some it happens earlier. But to me, it felt like I was trivializing the construct to call my daughter and her friends “women” when they were in college. Young women, or girls. But would I call my friends now girls? Would I call the women I work with the office girls? Never. We should be able to own ALL the terms associated with our lives and give each stage its due.

        • That is an interesting issue I’ve thought about a bit too. When do females transition from girls to women? At what ages are those labels appropriate and when are they not? I feel like the transition period (young women) is the most difficult to negotiate regarding terminology.

        • Sarah

          I think “young women” is different in tone and meaning than “girl,” one denotes an age difference and one brings with it a variety of other meanings and constructs.

          I’m curious why you say that calling a 19 year old a woman diminishes the construct? I can think of 19 year olds who are more “woman” than many of the adult women I know. Like Ms. Bunny, I’m not sure where the line exists between girl and woman, but I would like to point out that people feel very comfortable calling 21 year old women “girls” but less comfortable calling 21 year old men “boys.” This inequity is what I was trying to get at in my first comment — why do females keep the child version of their gender for longer than males? And what does this mean?

          • abby_wan_kenobi

            This is totally interesting because in my family I feel like we were referred to as “young women” from about age 13 or maybe when we entered high school. In hindsight I’m sure it was a conscious choice our parents made to encourage us to take more responsibility for our thoughts and actions. We were no longer “children” and as such we should start adopting the rights and responsibilities accorded to adults.

          • LPC

            My reply seems never to have made it to the page. I called my 21-year old son a boy until just recently. I called my daughter a girl until she was maybe 19? So all I’m saying is that I’m not going to call a girl a woman any earlier, behaviorwise, than I’m going to call a boy a man.

        • I think I felt most like a “girl” until my late 20s and that’s usually how I referred to myself. It was interesting to note the point at which I personally started thinking of myself as a woman – post-grad school, around the time we were buying a house. I just felt “adult” at that point, and that’s when I transitioned from girl to woman in my own mind. But that’s on a personal level, on a societal level, I would expect anyone in the workplace to refer to women as just that, and not as girls.

        • I agree with you, LPC. This is somewhat off topic, but I *felt* like a girl for quite some time – up until I started blogging (obviously). It’s only somewhere within the last couple years that gradually I’ve started to really feel like I’ve come into my womanhood. Which now leaves me with the problem of what the heck to do with my internet handle? As usual, I’m thinking about it. I haven’t come up with a graceful solution that fits yet.

          • liz

            I’m fairly certain I’m still a girl. Not sure though.

            But I do think I *might* disagree with LPC? Maybe? (it would be the first time in life) Certain uses of the word “girl” make me think of the use of “boy” to disrespect black men. It’s a matter of youth = inexperience = ignorance/ lacking intelligence.

          • Liz, I think that’s why she thinks the word needs reclaiming. From all those derogatory associations.

    • abby_wan_kenobi

      I am often biting my tongue in meetings when adult women are referred to as “girls” by their male managers. “Ladies” feels like a slight improvement over “girls” because it implies adulthood, but “women” is obviously best. Male employees are always referred to as “guys” which is more casual and familiar than “men” but not infantilizing like “girls”. Out of habit I pretty much refer to all familiar groups as “guys” even when they’re composed entirely of women, but other people find this inadequate.

      I guess what I’m saying is that we have a lot of problematic words and I like talking about them.

      Also, I refer to a certain group of my friends as the “ladies” in a sort of ironic sense – I’m going out with the ladies to drink some scotch, smoke some cigars and dance our asses off while wearing cowboy boots.

      • Sophia

        I get rageful when I hear men referring to the “girls” they work with. These girls are mostly over 30…
        With men I know well, I make a point to correct them every. single. time. If it’s a professional situation, I silently seethe…

        • Anonymous

          Women make the same mistake — I did! I was working in a small office with several older men and one immediate peer — another early 20s recent college grad. One of my male coworkers scolded me upon hearing me refer, over the phone, to “another girl here in the office.” At first I was so affronted. At 23, I figured I was a girl, my friends were girls, my 23-year-old female coworker was a girl.

          But I’m so glad now that a man in his mid-50s took the time to draw attention to how ridiculous my own use of the word was. Ever since, I’ve been very careful to refer to myself and my peers — in professional contexts, at least — as women. We can debate until the cows come home how long it takes someone on a personal level to feel like they’ve made the transition from girl to woman. But in the working world it’s worth putting that aside. We’re women. Period.

          • Agree. Once you enter the professional world, the word girls should be stricken from the language. Working females are women. Full stop.

          • Wow, that’s awesome about your coworker. :D

            Being in my mid-twenties, the tricky part about advocating for a more mature title is that more often than not, I’m still one of the youngest people in the office. So that statement means so much more when it comes from an older, more experienced colleague.

      • Yes about ‘girls’. It’s almost as if there’s a black hole in people’s gullets when it comes to getting the word ‘woman’ out.

        I also use ‘guys’ for groups of people.
        Yes, ironic use of ‘the ladies’ etc, I do that, but I wonder if anyone realises it’s ironic.

        I know a good board room story to inspire you, told by my mother. A young woman who was a Director at a big company was baffled when after important meetings the men would always disappear into the toilets together. After a while she twigged that when they came out all the big decisions had been made. As soon as she realised that this exclusive boys club was happening without her she just walked straight in after them. Legendary Woman.

        • abby_wan_kenobi

          I think the word “woman” scares people. There’s something intimidating about a woman who is self-possessed and powerful enough to warrant that moniker. You absolutely know what to expect in the polite society of a lady but with a woman anything could happen. Which is awesome.

          • I think sometimes people can feel “woman” is a cold or an unfamiliar term. Maybe one of the problems we have, and why we are always feeling the need to reclaim words that go so far out of line, is just a simple but profound language barrier. The english language doesn’t have familiar vs formal words built in. So to seem polite, and “familiar” we use other terms such as lady or girl to compensate. But then that sometimes leads to overcompensating and misuse of the word and that brings us back to the whole problem again. I think “woman” and “man” can seem clinical and we simply have a human tendency to substitute synonyms for them, which then gets us in trouble. You don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings or sense of self worth by calling them a lady or girl but you also want to let it be known that they are an acquaintance and not use something so formal. What do you do?

      • Mira

        I never realized this before, but there is a huge distinction in my head between the singular and the plural. I am a *woman* — “girl” or “(young) lady” make me cringe — but I don’t hang out with “the women” or “my women” (ugh). I use “the ladies” un-ironically to talk about the group of women in my inner-circle (a female equivalent of “the guys”), but when my roommate calls me “lady” (as in: “Hey Lady, what time is the Broncos game on?) it only works because it’s *totally* ironic.

      • Does it make me weird that I thought it was funny when my (Southern-born, 30 yo male) advisor insisted on calling us ladies? To him, it was the only way to speak to us respectfully. He didn’t want to call us guys, only ladies or women. To me, it seemed like silly semantics because I know that he respects our intelligence and independence. Does the identity of the person saying the words matter to you? Or is this a black-and-white issue? In my opinion, the person it is coming from and the spirit in which it is said determines how I interpret words like “girls,” “ladies,” and “women.”

        • To me, it definitely matters who it’s coming from. My grandfather, for example, refers to any woman under his own age (except the “church ladies”) as “girls” … but from him it’s not offensive or demeaning at all. To hear him say “ladies” or “women” adds a layer of formality on that makes it awkward when he’s talking about the women who have worked for him for 30 years, or my mother and aunt.

          Now, if one of my enginners were to refer to us as “the girls in the office” I’d be super offended.

          I’m not sure what the line is, but somewhere in my brain, there is one.

          And to tack on … from the OP … I like, and use the word “lady” a LOT. To me, it’s a sign of respect/admiration … and I use it as a pet name … as do most of my friends. Never has it crossed my mind that it’s an offensive term.

          • And since it won’t let me edit (and cut of my last sentance):

            ** Pet name = ‘”Term of endearment (i.e. “oh, lady, I’m so sorry.”)”

            ** Never has it crossed my mind that it’s an offensive term, or that it means someone is weak/less than.

      • LBD

        Ha yes! I use “ladies” quite often in an ironic sense. There is always an implied snicker. Having grown up in a family/culture that was always urging me to be more “lady-like,” I take some kind of great pleasure in using the term to refer to myself and my very un-lady-like friends as we do un-lady-like activities. I still occasionally get nasty notes on Facebook from my family about my un-lady-like behaviors. It’s a coping mechanism, I guess.

        I also call my chickens “The Ladies,” in a big part because their easily offended nature reminds me of some overly-prim and proper old ladies.

        I guess, like many terms, whether it bothers me or not is how it’s being used.

    • Ms Fran

      I once got a snooty reply when I’d refered to someone as a woman in an email that said something like “the lady you so rudely referred to as woman”. It really surprised me! I think here in the UK the woman/lady distinction was that ladies were educated and rich and women were workers, so I assume that’s why the person was pissed off.

      I don’t like to refer to myself as a lady as I connect it with all the prissy and feeble stuff you mentioned.

      • Hi Ms Fran, I’m in the UK too. What a strange reaction. God knows what was going on there. There’s nowt as queer as folk.

        • I was taught when I was younger that it was impolite to refer to someone you didn’t know as a ‘woman’. I.e. “that lady over there” was the polite version of “that woman over there”.

          I’m in the UK too.

          • Emily

            Yes, I was taught that it was the polite form too. As a child I remember a friend referring to an “old woman” and sharply being corrected with “elderly lady”.

    • KTH

      Interestingly, my friends and I use “lady” all the time in an affectionate way. I think we’ve kind of ended up reclaiming it in the same way that many women use “bitch” affectionately — a term which I prefer not to use at all.

      I really think the context and meaning (and therefore subtext) behind words has to be taken into account. You’re all right when you talk about male bosses calling women they work with “girls,” but when my mother says it about her adult daughters it’s completely different. Obviously those are two TOTAL opposites, but my point, again, is about context, subtext, and meaning.

      Words have history behind them, and while it can be important to know the history, it’s also important to understand that language is an ever-changing thing, growing and shifting to accommodate our need to express ourselves.

      Totally agree about trying to shift the subtext behind “feminist” to be more positive.

      • I, too, use “lady” affectionately.

        And sometimes not-so-affectionately.

        Tone & context make up about 98% of a word. So it’s not always the word – but how the SPEAKER is USING IT.

      • I agree about the term lady. I think, especially in the South, “lady” or “ladies” is used as a polite reference for women. When my mother talks about the “ladies that she works with” she means not only are they women, but they are kind, poised and articulate women. It’s the same as when men (especially pastors who often speak of “the ladies of the church”) use the term. Most people see it here as woman and man refers to gender, while ladies and gentlemen refer not only to gender but also to character.

        I think that is part of the difficulty of reclaiming words. Not all words mean the same in every circumstance but also there is a vast difference in different cultural and geographical locations. Especially in the South, no one would ever use the term girl or boy to refer to adults in a positive light (especially adults of the same age referring to each other) because of the race implications that word has had in the South. Actually, now that I think about it there is still a race and class discrimination surrounding those terms. The only time I remember people calling an adult woman a girl is in reference to things like “the girl who cleans my house,” or “the boy who works for your father” (in both instances they were referring to hispanic adults). Wow, I think in the South we need to work on reclaiming Boy and Girl as a reference to someone’s age and not their class or profession.

    • so, i like lady, as may be obvious. not that i particularly disagree with what you are saying, because there is a big difference in self-identifying and plunking the word onto someone. in defense of “lady,” i think of it as a *veneer* of the things you described, but not necessarily useless through-and-through.

      as for the other words, we have a quote posted in our office that starts with “wouldn’t 1979 be a great year to get rid of ‘the girl'” (as a way of referring to women, especially in the workplace), with 1979 and each subsequent year crossed off and added by hand.

      as for “woman,” i appreciate it’s correctness, but it has strange cultural connotations, too (of the “dammit, woman!” variety). not that we should avoid it because of that, but it’s worth noting that most words have their good and bad.

      perhaps we should call folks by name.

      • liz

        I take issue with the word “folks.”

        (just teasing)

        • Let’s just call everyone “heifers.” ;)

          • meg

            OH LADIES! YOU SLAY ME! (joke intended)

        • love, love, and love! one for each of you!

    • Just curious if you felt the same about the word gentlemen? Due to the use of gentlemen in the workplace, I often use the term ladies as the term for females. If I’m addressing several women in an email, I often start with, “Good Afternoon Ladies,” where I suppose Good Afternoon alone would suffice. The military uses the word female which I’ve gotten used to as well. Just curious to how you would address a room full of women, or email of all women.

    • Lizzie

      At my grandmother’s funeral, a number of people from the small, upstate NY town where she spent her life referred to her as “a real lady”. They were most definitely not talking about family wealth or social status in the town – she was dirt poor and my great-grandparents thought she was too low-class to marry their son – they were talking about her grace and poise in how she treated other people and how she lived her own life.

      It’s never really occurred to me before, but while we’re on a reclaiming streak, maybe I’ll go ahead and raise a banner for “lady”, too. Instead of it referring to someone who is pampered and feeble, I think of it as someone with a solid grasp on the kind of manners that really matter.

  • Ceebee

    Feminism :
    Owning and embracing ourselves to run the world.
    Watch out, world, here We COME!

  • About owning being a feminist – I think for non-feminists (maybe outside APW) to begin with there’s a step of actually realising and facing up to the fact that there is still vast horrendous inequality everywhere in the world. Many women don’t see it.

    The myths about ‘feminists’ being ‘ugly nasty dykes’ has basically terrified women who are aligned with feminist thinking from claiming it even thought those myths were made decades ago.

    Belonging to our societies and groups and the threat of being outcast is a place of great terror for us. It’s hard to do something that might cause us to be rejected. For me I particularly don’t want to be rejected by men. I want to be attractive to men – that’s how I’m wired. So even though I know I’m a feminist and will say so, there’s an irritating grain inside me that says ‘men won’t like you if you say you’re a feminist’. It’s complete bullshit though.

    • “The myths about ‘feminists’ being ‘ugly nasty dykes’ has basically terrified women who are aligned with feminist thinking from claiming it even thought those myths were made decades ago.”

      And men! We need pay attention to the fact that many men won’t use this term alongside many women even though they stand for the same things feminism stands for.

      • NEWTIE

        I think that’s part of why it’s so important for men to openly use the term feminist when talking about themselves. It helps debunk the man-hating myth.

        Once I was at a work-related party and some younger women were talking about an equality issue, and one of them said, “But it’s not like I’m a feminist or anything, you know.” and my boyfriend, in his very quiet, matter-of-fact way, said, “I’m a feminist.”

        It’s important for women to claim/reclaim the word, but it’s also important for men to do so.

        • I love your boyfriend!

        • If my boyfriend had done that, I would have probably sexed him up right then and there. Caitlin Moran is on to something when she talks about getting the male feminists to stand on chairs “so we ladies may all toast you, in champagne, before coveting your body wildly.” I’m sorry, but there is nothing sexier than a man who unabashedly says he’s a feminist. Swoon.

          • Lauren

            I bought into so many of the negative connotations around feminism that it took my then-boyfriend, now-husband (raised by a proud feminist) saying five years ago, “I’m a feminist” to jolt me out of that thinking.

            This discussion reminded me of that. I’m going to have to ‘thank’ him when I get home. :)

        • One of my favorite presentations I went to in college was a male physics professor presenting during a gender issues week about why he considered himself a feminist.
          One of the quotes that stuck with me was “How can you be the father of daughters and not be a feminist? How can you raise daughters and not want them to have every opportunity, right and privilege that her male peers will have?”

          On a less related note, he also made some great points about how one place where equality is lacking is in encouragement. He used the example of a young girl expressing an interest in education and being told she would be a great teacher, while a young boy expressing the same interest might be told he should be a college professor. Nothing wrong with being an elementary or secondary school teacher, but we should always be encouraging girls and women to dream bigger.

      • Yes I agree, the more men claim the word the better.
        But there are different pressures on a woman as a result of claiming feminism. There are no negative stories about men who are feminists (that I’ve ever heard).
        I like the idea that men can become feminist Allies – they’re on our team. I love men who call themselves feminists, and I think they can really help women.

        Male liberation – that’s another thing, and women need to support men in that too.

      • Mira

        I have memories of talking about feminism with my dad when I was like seven, and I always say that I was 14 before I realized it was unusual to have a father who would publicly self-identify as a Feminist. And then a couple years ago, I said that in his presence and he sort of sputtered and said he wasn’t sure he would go *that* far.

        We had a long talk after this, and I figured out that what he meant is that the word itself is a lot scarier to him now than it used to be. I don’t know exactly why, but my hunch is that he still associates calling himself a Feminist with protesting nuclear power and all kinds of other radical things he experimented with when he was younger — and radical things are a lot harder to own the older you get.

        The truth is, what he’s going through is a lot like my friends who are struggling to de-radicalize the F word for themselves. He and my mom made a political choice, which then made it easy for my sister and I to identify as a Feminists in a totally matter-of-fact, almost apolitical way. We don’t have to struggle with it (even if we both struggled to understand why it was so hard for others to own when we were younger). That’s a pretty amazing gift to give your children, no?

  • Jennifer

    Thanks so much for that introductory write up, Meg. I confess that I was completely unimpressed with the book, despite it being a perfectly enjoyable read. It just felt like the umpteenth repeat of things I’d heard dozens of times before, only in a British accent, with the exception of the abortion chapter, and I was, um, a little surprised that someone had found it inspirational and life changing. But if it was even changing minds in APW land, where I would have expected it to be all preaching to the choir, then…I’ve apparently been way out of touch about how necessary it is to keep having these conversations, and to continually bring new people into them. That’s a very good reminder.

    • abby_wan_kenobi

      I loved a few things in the book that weren’t necessarily new or life-changing but were expressed so well that it made me able to better define how I felt about them.

      For instance, Moran’s description of realizing way after the fact that she’d has some sexism happen to her. I think a lot of women who have a hard time identifying active sexism in their life (me included sometimes) struggle with this. It’s empowering to hear your own thoughts or feelings or experiences reflected in the life of someone else, especially someone whose life has actually been very different from your own. That common bond is reassuring and knowing that you aren’t fighting for yourself or by yourself can give you strength. That to me is the value of reading something like this, even when she’s preaching to the converted.

      • LBD

        I agree. This was probably one of the most important parts of the book for me too. I was working a job with mostly middle-aged men (the only other woman there was in her 50’s and disliked me), and all the time there was all this subtle sexism that would happen, and I had no one else to be like, “Wait, is this sexism or am I imagining things? Am I just some kind of over-sensitive woman?” Over time, it really started to make me feel bad about myself. It was rather relieving to find out that this happens for many many women, not just me.

        I left that job eventually, but probably not as soon as I should have (thanks, economy). Also, though it sucked, I can credit my experiences there for making me the Strident Feminist I’ve become today. The experiences I was having there led me to start reading a lot more feminist blogs and literature, as I struggled to make sense of the things going on and the way they were making me feel.

    • Sarah

      I agree with you, Jennifer. I thought the book was ok, and there were a few things I’ll remember and take from it, but I didn’t love it as much as others seem to have loved it. One thing that bothered me was the fact that by focusing on her own life (which is fine) she provided a very white, middle-class, western perspective on the issue without considering all of the other ways feminism can be complicated and complicating. To me, the book seemed a bit “rah rah, go women, don’t be afraid to be snarky,” without considering the exploitative forces at play that not only put women in this place to begin with, but also set different standards and “places” for different types of women.

      But, Jennifer, I totally agree with you. Everyone comes at these issues from different places, so I totally respect that for some people THIS book is what they need to see, and I respect Caitlin for doing a good job of reaching women in a better way than I could.

      • This was one of my issues with the book. It was based totally around her experiences and perspective, which are very foreign to many women (including myself even though I’m white and western). This is not to say her experiences and perspectives are not valuable, but occasionally I had a hard time relating. I can see women from nonwhite and nonwestern backgrounds feeling very left out of the conversation.

        I value the addition of her voice and perspective in the feminist dialog, but I think her book would have been strengthened if she had stepped outside her own experience from time to time.

        • I find myself a bit puzzled by this critique – the book is a memoir, so yes, it’s about Moran’s experiences as a white, middle-class, Western woman. Of course it’s limited – she’s not writing a sociological treatise; but I don’t think the fact that it’s centered on her life and experiences makes it unrelatable to anyone who isn’t her or in her race/income/class bracket. (i.e. I felt like I got a lot out of it, despite not being white.) I don’t see how she could have written from another perspective without being accused of being disingenuous or exploitative?

          • Sarah

            I get your point about it being a memoir. But, it’s really 1 part memoir and 1 part treatise, and it’s the treatise part I think is more problematic — especially since the title of the book is “How to be a Woman.” What she really means is how to be one type of woman. I agree with a lot of the things she says, but the book seemed to be lacking in dialogue — not between”characters”, but with other ideas and points of view.

            This is not to say that all books need to be all things for all people. I just think that in her attempt to recapture “woman” and “feminist,” she missed different points of view and perspectives that I find valuable to discussions like that.

            And, as far as “writing from another perspective,” there are two things here. First, I think the privileged need to concern themselves with those who are not (see Lauren’s comment from way earlier). Second, one of the most persuasive people about a variety of “isms” in my life is a wealthy white woman. Learning can happen from all sorts of sources.

      • (This is meant for Sarah’s comment below, since we seem to have reached the end of comment threading.)

        I agree that those who are privileged and can recognize their own privilege need to be allies, but I also think that responsibility can quickly become really complicated when race is thrown into the mix. (i.e. the dialogue about who gets to voice a certain experience that emerged surrounding the “The Help” movie this summer, etc.) For all we know, Moran might have put in more along those lines and an editor took it out.

        I guess what I’m trying to say is that I don’t see it as a zero-sum game. I don’t mind not being able to relate to everything in Moran’s book if its success means that publishers will be more willing to put out more feminist titles.

        • Sarah

          I definitely agree with you here — it’s hard to speak to what she really things/would have said pre-marketing concerns. One of the benefits of a book like this is that it is accessible to many people. And, if that means that some of the intersectionality concerns that I struggle with and am sensitive to get left out, I think reaching a wider audience and making ppl think about these issues is very important.

          • Becky

            *Butts in*
            About the memoir/treatise issue: I listened to an interview with her in which she said she did consider writing a very researched, sociological book. However, she said then it occurred to her she was only doing that because she was worried without the research, her opinion wouldn’t be valid, whereas she felt most men wouldn’t think like that. So, even in the act of writing the book about this subject specifically in the way she does, that’s making a point in itself: that it’s her opinion, and experiences, what does everyone else think?

          • Sarah

            I don’t think anyone was saying that the book needed research, per se. Nor that having someone write a memoir and connect it to broader themes is a problem. Personally, my issue was that the way she connected those experiences to broader themes was a bit “this is my experience, and now here’s a proclamation for how things should be,” without considering other viewpoints. Or, that’s how it seemed to me.

    • Yes to this. I didn’t have any major problems with the book. Maybe having gone to an all-women’s college, I’ve thought a lot about these topics already. Some parts were definitely humorous, but not so much laugh-out-loud for me. I enjoyed the book club discussion a whole lot more than just the book by itself!

      • The complete and utter lack of research was where the book fell down for me- I kept coming on things, like her declaring that nobody was doing feminism, that could be corrected by five minutes’ search on the internet. I kept alternating between laughing out loud and wanting to throw it across the room.

  • On women not considering themselves feminists: In my high school (tiny, conservative), feminist was a four-letter word. I was honestly horrified when it was attached to me because I argued against the idea that there were some things boys did that girls didn’t/couldn’t do. Oh, and I also tried to spread the word that women were good for more than ogling by teenage boys. Then someone introduced “femnazi” on the assumption that I… hated boys. Because I wanted my calculus teacher to give equal attention to the girls in the class. Let’s just say this seriously limited my high school dating career, but more importantly my self-esteem.

    I didn’t want the label. It obviously wasn’t a compliment, and I had a really hard time owning it — no one wanted to be a feminist, and my education didn’t really shine a positive light on the idea or the history. So with that formative background, it’s been hard to convince myself post-high school that it’s ok to own it, that there’s more to it than just hating boys. That when I get pissed off about ambitious girls losing their opportunity for an education, that’s feminism. And that’s a good thing. (et cetera). Also, I like having control of my vagina. And my life. And I want the same for others. VAGINAS.

    • meg

      See I grew up in the same environment (also called femanizi) and I EMBRACED IT. Because I saw what they were doing to me. Trying to take a powerful word, and make it an insult, to take my power away. I think that’s the bigger picture for me.

      • Yeah, I wish I’d seen it that way too. Working on making it easier for my future daughters.

        • I think it’s really important for people to consider, too, where the stigma of the word “feminism” stems from. The stigma is created by those losing power by its being (or attempting to become) equalized. The people who promote the stigma of feminism, who associate it with all of the negative connotations discussed here, are those hurt by it, in opposition to it, and wanting to devalue it. Again, disrupting the balance of power has reactions to it…

          An example: Is anyone watching that new show Pan Am? Christina Ricci’s character (I’d say all of the female flight attendants, to be honest) is a feminist. What does that mean? She is trying to make her OWN way in the world, to be educated, to be worldly, to live a life not dictated by marriage. In one episode, a male passenger takes her friendliness as a sexual invitation and assaults her, to which she responds by stabbing him in the ribs with a serving fork (the only option she had to get him off of her). He responded with utter disgust, and the male co-pilot tried to ease the situation by apologizing for her- he could not understand why she felt she needed to do that. He views her as “amusing” as many men patronize ambitious, self-respecting and out-spoken women. Anyways, Ricci’s character, disrupts the balance of power from male to female and the response is negativity- SHE apparently assaulted HIM.

    • DanEllie

      Ah, the infamous “feminazi” label. I was called one of those too. Somehow, it stung less when I knew that for the most part the label was from boys who were intimidated when the smallest girl in the class stood up to them as their equals. And from girls who were afraid of the waves I was causing by rocking the boat.

      Both my parents are proud feminists and raised me to identify with the label. I also proudly wore shirts from NOW with feminist phrases throughout high school –
      “I myself don’t know precisely what a feminist is. I only know that I am called one whenever I express sentiments that distinguish me from a doormat” ~Mae West and
      “Feminism is the radical notion that women are people” ~unknown.

      I did my best to explain the latter phrase in particular to help my high school classmates know I wasn’t that radical. But the eye rolling I received and the sexist teasing I was at the butt end of combined with the fact that the boys in my classes got to take tests first and have their answer sheets serve as the key (even when they were wrong) is part of what spurred me to apply and atttend a women’s college. My feminism became even more firmly entrenched, though less staunchly defended when women had access and responsibility to everything on campus.

      10 years on, my feminism is fully engrained, though I’m still trying to explain to non-Wellesley friends why I’m a feminist, and why it’s a label that they shouldn’t be afraid of, given their belief in equal pay for equal work, or a hope of a more egalitarian society, or an electorate that still doesn’t elect women or minorities in proportion to their representation, etc.

      I was going to apologize for the long comment, but realize that that’s also a distinctly female thing – I rarely hear men or boys apologize for self-expression. We have to teach ourselves and the generations of women to come that our opinions are equally important and valid.

      • Yes- I went to a fairly liberal school, but I was raised in a fairly conservative family (politically conservative; I also grew up being told that obviously I could grow up to do and be whatever I wanted) so I took a lot of feminist principles for granted without knowing to call them that. The day I started really thinking about it was when we picked which political label fit us best- reactionary, conservative, moderate, liberal, or radical- and I chose conservative, because it was defined as “someone who mistrusts change”. My teacher was astonished, and said he’d expected me to label myself as liberal or radical “because I said so many radical things in class”.
        I was very surprised to find that telling the boys off when they made sexist comments was considered radical- I assumed that I deserved to be treated as an equal. I started looking at the world a little differently after that.

      • THIS: “I was going to apologize for the long comment, but realize that that’s also a distinctly female thing – I rarely hear men or boys apologize for self-expression. We have to teach ourselves and the generations of women to come that our opinions are equally important and valid.”

        In addition to that, I was once told (by a male prof) in class that men are taken more seriously because of the lower, stable tone of voice and that shrill, excitable women aren’t taken seriously. When I think more on it, it’s incredibly sexist. My voice is naturally higher pitched than a man’s, and when I am not yelling, merely excited expressing an idea or rebuttal, it NATURALLY raises! So many distinctly, and physiologically, female traits (like tone of voice) are seen as things to apologize for. ARgh.

        • Yes to that Athena.
          About voices, I once read a book about sound and music that pointed out how in an orchestra or choir the higher pitched instruments and voices take the melody – the tune, the story, that’s what the audience hears. The lower pitched voices support the melody. (Obviously there are exceptions).
          It asked how can we draw parallels between that and how women’s voices are naturally higher pitched?

          Also, studies have show that men with hugely variable voices – ups and downs in their inflections, ranging over a larger number of tones, including high ones, are more sexually attractive to women at an unconscious, biological level. We want to mate with them.

          The whole ‘shrill excitable women’ line is sexist bullshit. It’s as bad as calling a woman with feelings ‘a hysterical woman’. Seriously bad.

  • LPC

    At 55, when I read that many young women don’t consider themselves feminists, it makes me so very tired. The term has been subverted to mean man-haters, taking outliers as a proxy for the whole group. And it wasn’t us who did the subverting. Just saying.

    It’s not over. We’re not done. And if your generation doesn’t keep pressing forward, well, I can’t even finish the sentence.

    • Suffragists and suffragettes dealt with the same problem that they were labeled man-haters. In fact, “suffragette” was originally an insult that was later reclaimed by the activists to identify themselves.

      What do we need to do to reclaim the word feminist and lay to bed the notion it means man-hater?

      • abby_wan_kenobi

        I always default to leading by example. I wear the label Feminist proudly and I don’t hate men. Instead I try to recruit them to the cause. It isn’t me (woman) versus you (man), it’s both of us against the kyriarchy!!

      • liz

        I think also that when men (yay, husband!) adopt the term, it becomes clear that it’s not about man-hatred.

    • I’m reading Woman of Valor: Margaret Sanger and the Birth Control Movement in America, and holy crap, it could be written now. SO many issues, while undoubtedly better, remain the same. While there has been progress made on the surface, so many attitudes run much, much deeper than that, and it’s much harder to change those. And this is about a century later! Damn right we’re not done.

    • meg


    • Zan

      Don’t worry LPC! I’m fighting the good fight over here. In fact, ten minutes ago I had a female student in my office relating an anecdote about another class where the professor was “crazy about feminism” and when she finished her story I said, “The thing is Hannah, I think you’re a feminist too.” Thus ensued a wonderful conversation and I felt like a fairy somewhere got it’s wings.

      • That’s awesome. Look at you, positively influencing young(er) impressionable minds. Word.


    As I get older, I encounter more and more women who self-identify as feminists but then don’t seem to apply any of their feminist political beliefs to themselves or to the way they choose to live their lives. They still feel obliged to keep themselves very thin and toned, wear 4-inch heels and low-cut dresses to work, be “in charge” of childcare and social planning, etc etc etc, whether or not this is what they truly want to do — in other words, I can SEE that they don’t feel like they are being a good enough woman, and that they truly believe their worth as a woman is based on these things. And often these women also judge other women for not being beautiful/talented/etc enough.

    There can be a danger in feminism being used against women (you are not feminist enough! fail, fail, fail!!!!), and because of this sometimes I hesitate to try and point out to young women I meet who seem to be treating/judging themselves and other women with the unequal expectations they claim to be against.

    Did this book give any advice on how we might encourage other women to square their political beliefs (that women should have equal rights) with their personal ones (that is really is ok to not be SuperWoman if you don’t want to be, and other women who choose not to have children/look perfect/whatever are not failures)? How can we stand up for the more personal, day-to-day aspects of feminism without being “bossy” or seeming like we’re trying to tell other women how to live their lives?

    • A physically fit woman who conforms to conventional norms of dress and takes on childcare and social planning – let’s not leap to the conclusion that she is being puppeteered by an oppressor.

      • NEWTIE

        I’m a physically-fit woman who likes to dress well and I do a lot of social planning. I’m not leaping to conclusions – I meant it when I said I meet women who seem to believe their self-worth is based on their appearance and their abilities to conform to traditional gender roles. I realize you have to take my word for it here, but I can tell the difference between a woman who likes to wear a hot dress and a woman who feels like if she doesn’t wear a hot dress it means she’s failing.

    • liz

      What’s interesting is that (assuming that Evie above is incorrect, and you’re not jumping to conclusions- I wear heels and stay in shape, but out of very different motivations than strict “good woman” obligation)- I don’t necessarily see these as feminist issues. Simply good-person-growing issues.

      Similarly, if a male friend starts playing football, swearing, banging chicks, and getting into fights because he feels he needs to in order to be a good man… I would delicately question his motives and discuss self-worth and personal identity with him. I don’t know that that would be considered pushy or bossy (or would it? I’ve been called both…) but it would be my friend-obligation, not my feminist-obligation coming into play.

      • I see your point, Liz, but I am not sure that swearing, fighting and banging chicks is the best comparison for the traditional gendered “woman roles” that Newtie provided as an example.

        Maybe “insists on being the primary earner, feels that participating in housework is a bonus not a given, etc.”

        • liz

          Tomato, tomato. Either way, my opinion is unchanged.

    • meg

      But for me that’s the power of feminism. I can do what I want! I can be who I am! I can love heels and low cut dresses and the gym and not have that be something anyone put on me, or something that I have to be looked down on for doing. I can just love those things because I love those things!

      I think you *can’t* tell me to stop loving those things, or organizing my home, or whatever, without being bossy. You can just do your thing, and I’ll do mine, and we’ll be feminists together.

      • I dont think she is telling you to stop doing these things – the example was definitely women who are obviously unhappy doing these things, and are only doing them BECAUSE its expected of them (or they feel its expected of them), and who still feel like they arent living up to being a woman.
        How do we help these women? The ones who are only losing weight because they think society is judging them for not being size zero? The ones who keep themselves excessively busy, and are resentful because they dont let their partners do anything because “society” has told them they should do all the housework and they actually DONT like it??

        • meg

          I mean, it’s touchy when you start telling people you know what’s right for them in ANY setting, right? All you can do is be a friend, and as a friend point to what you’re seeing. OR, reinforce how awesome they are just as they are over and over.

          But it’s easy to put our point of view on others, and assume women, say, don’t want to be wearing those high heels… when maybe they love it.

          • NEWTIE

            Well, yes. That’s why I posed my question as I did — I know it’s not helpful to go around telling other women how to live their lives. But realistically, is there anything we can do to help other women that we think may be getting mired in the often-female not-good-enoughness? Or can we only live our lives and hope that other women take inspiration from us? I like the idea of being curious and asking other women questions that might help them tease out their real desires and motivations. But it seems like the general agreement is no, it is not possible to help individual women live the freedom they believe women in general ought to have; that we are each alone in liberating ourselves. I can see where that might have to be the case, but I admit deep down I wish there was a more direct way I could help other women realize their own freedom, especially when they are people who already believe in it in a theoretical sense.

      • Seriously, Meg, you have this knack for making me feel emotional with your words. I cannot “Exactly” this enough. Being a woman, being a feminist, does not in any way prescribe your behaviour, likes/disklikes, goals, etc. And I think that is a VERY important thing to distinguish. Being a feminist does not automatically entail that you reject all “traditionally feminine” behaviours, it means have the right to choose among all (gendered) behaviours.

        Also, though, I totally hear what Basketcase is saying, about women stuck in a mentality that they have to do this, that, the other thing, and more, just to be a good woman, or a good wife (which I think is a title that plays more into that role). But Moran definitely touched on the complexity of this issue in her discussion of Katie Price and Lady Gaga and the desire to be princesses.

        Part of the problem lies in socialization. Sociological studies show that from birth, boys and girls are conditioned to behave in certain ways. Traditionally, then, boys are socialized to be leaders, to think of themselves, to take control and do what they want (“boys will be boys”) while girls are socialized to nurture, share, take care of others and put others first (“go help your mother with….”). I can see this socialization in even myself and my husband (who are both feminists), and it’s a hard mold to break. But, what Moran is doing here, is raising awareness….we often need reminders to give our heads a shake and re-think our own behaviours.

      • I think maybe people are misunderstanding each other on this particular point because what Newtie is talking about here doesn’t necessary fall under the umbrella of being “feminist” or not, but falls in line with our many discussion about martyrdom. I think had her comments been directed to one of those threads we would have felt more at ease discussing it. We absolutely do talk about how as women we shouldn’t play the martyr card and expect of ourselves that we must do it all, and I think it can be easy to see when a woman is obviously taking on more than her share of household duties (or anything else) not because it’s something she’s good at or enjoys but because she feels she has to in order to have self-worth. There is an absolute difference in busy because I have a lot on my plate and frazzled because I have a lot on my plate and hate most of it. So, I agree that it’s more of a self worth problem and not a “but you can still wear heels and be a feminist” problem, but it’s still a valid point to address in a martyr discussion.

    • A friend of mine in college pointed out to me, when I came up against the same issue, that rather than judging other women who bought into societal expectations and stereotypes, put down other women, used terms like “dyke” and “fem-nazi” against their classmates, allowed themselves to be treated like property by their boyfriends, excused misogynistic behavior from classmates etc (sorry that list got a little long), I should understand and maybe feel a little bit sorry for them.
      Here I am, a proud feminist, who is totally aware of how entrenched biased behavior is in society, how pervasive media imagery is that shows women as objects, and how early in our lives traditional gender stereotypes start being fed to us. I should not be surprised and offended when women around me start buying into the cultural narrative. How could I expect them to do otherwise? Instead I should feel lucky that I was influenced by the right people at the right times in my life that allowed me to see the world a different way. I should devote my energy into being that right influence at the right time that allows someone else’s eyes to be opened.

    • i think what you are talking about is living consciously. you can’t tell by looking whether someone is feminine due to obligatory gender or purposeful gender. i would start with “why?” – not a confrontational “why?”, but a curious one. because where they are coming from is all the difference in the world.

  • disclaimer: i have not read the book (i was not impressed enough with the sample chapter to have it shipped overseas…though i perhaps was impressed enough to read it when i can get it on my kindle, so there’s hope)

    but, um, of course people don’t want to be feminists. that is not to say that they don’t agree with what feminism is about (you know, women having rights), but when you align yourself with a movement you align yourself with all of the other parts of that movement – and some parts of feminism are real ugly. most notably, feminism has a major race problem. (prime example: )

    i have always considered myself a feminist, but in order to do so, i feel i must acknowledge and confront the negative parts. that, or walk away from the idea entirely, as many smart, pro-woman people have.

    • Sarah

      Yessssssssss thank you. Good point. I identify as a feminist, but am aware of how problematic the term can be. The Slutwalk stuff is a great example of both how reclaiming a term can have unintended and exclusionary side-effects and how feminism has a complicated history.

    • liz

      I agree with this. There are specific political ideas that I DO not hold, but that are often assumed when I use the term “feminist.”

      I think perhaps when it comes to these sorts of labels (also liberal, conservative, christian, atheist…) it would benefit everyone if we approached them without presuppositions. When someone uses a term to describe themselves, perhaps we can instead ask what they mean by that title.

      That said, I call myself a feminist. But I often find myself clarifying what I mean by that.

      • Ris

        I absolutely agree that we should dig in further when people provide labels. I know mine tend to confuse others.

        Here is how I self-identify: as a socially liberal Democrat-voting Feminist academic, who is also a theologically conservative Christian (and marrying a seminarian, so probably a future pastor’s wife). Some people see a contradiction there. There is absolutely no contradiction there, and I feel like all of my beliefs and worldviews mutually strengthen each other and flow logically from one to another.

        • Oh my goodness, can we please form a support group for all “socially liberal Democrat-voting Feminist academic, who is also a theologically conservative Christians” out there! Sometimes I feel so isolated to have all of these views and feel that they absolutely do not contradict. We must unite and show that all theologically conservative Christians do not have to fall into the same political and academic circles!!

    • meg

      We talked about this too. How do we take the term and make it way more inclusive. Open to all the women.

      • Sarah

        What was the conclusion? Was there one?

      • meg

        There was not one. There was a bit of debate. I was arguing hard that I think making abortion the litmus test issue of feminism has done more harm than good. I’ve known a lot of bad ass hard core feminists who, at least personally, were pro-life. My conclusion is that we need to let women disagree in good faith. Other people thought I was way wrong. Our conclusion to THAT discussion was that we need to keep pushing feminism to feel open to everyone: women who wear high heels, women who are not liberals, women who hate the idea of subsidized childcare, women who are not white, women who have complicated feelings on abortion, etc. etc. etc.

        We still are ALL in it for the equal rights.

        • Sarah

          Awesome. I totally agree about abortion. You can be a badass pro-life feminist no doubt, and I think it’s a little unfortunate that the two issues got linked — equal rights of all sorts are something I full-heartedly think everyone should support, while abortion is something I think reasonable people can disagree about.

          I think, the heart of feminism is welcoming to all. Including men, trans people, etc. Getting the language and dialogue to the place where that is fully clear is another thing.

          • And once again, comment on a discussion about a year+ late but, I think your comment is important. Feminism as welcoming to all. A lot of feminism has big fails in terms of race and in terms of trans-folk.

            This line stood out to me in the post, and actually made me go looking through the comments to see if someone brought up trans people:

            “We’re people, with vaginas, who think we deserve options and rights.”

            Not all women have vaginas. If we are going to be truly feminist, truly progressive, and truly allies of LGBT, we need to make a welcome place at the table for including trans-women and helping them with their struggles, which are f*cking huge.

    • It is available on kindle – thats where I got it :)

      • I think its only available in the UK on the kindle; it was when I got it, anyway.

        • Technically, a work around would be that one just needs to temporarily use a UK address when they order… But since it is a digital book, nothing would get shipped to an address anyways.

    • I think it’s a problem to link individual women (like the signholder at slutwalk) with the entire feminist movement. Because while I agree with you that the woman and the responses of (some) other slutwalk participants was a major issue, the feminism I know – and the feminism taught in my liberal college – was very open about the ways in which white middle/upper class feminism has been exclusionary. My feminism is very open about all the ways privilege and power affect different women from different walks of life. Many parts of the feminist movement recognize those issues and are working to change it. But the failings/limitations in perspective of some individuals and ongoing need to talk about oppression against ALL women (of color, of poverty, LBTQ, international, etc) doesn’t mean I’m hesitant to align myself with feminism. Feminism is multi-faceted and each woman (and man) brings his own perspective. It’s our job as feminists to bring those perspectives into the mainstream conversation. It’s not like there’s a council of feminists deciding what is and isn’t feminism. Feminism is US, and by engaging in the good and bad parts alike, we make it a stronger, better, more just movement for social change.

      • yes. exactly!
        my point is simply that, while the signholder (for example) does not represent all of feminism, she does represent a part of feminism – she is not some outlier or fluke. and that, precisely because everything you just said is true, it is necessary to talk out loud about the problematic sides of good ideas, and to bring the better alternatives into the conversation. i brought it up primarily because it hadn’t been brought up yet, and silence often looks like agreement.

  • OK Children and childcare: this question was the subject of one of my major recent bouts of pensiveness. I’m a fan of extended parental leave, changing culture and minds to make re-entering a career easier, flex-time work, etc. But I’m not convinced on subsidized childcare. I’m not sure that other, uninvolved, people should have to financially support my choice to grow my family, and I’m also not sure about I want to give a governmental organization or employer a say in how/where/what my kids are raised. It smacks a little of Plato’s Utopia, wherein all the children are raised commonly (gives me some heebie jeebies). How would this work in an ideal world? Convince me :)


      (I’m a parent, and a self-loving, pro-independent woman.)


      There are already programs out there helping people on the low end of the income bracket. Honestly, I don’t want much more than that. These are my kids and my money and my choice in how to raise them. Subsidizing childcare can become incredible dangerous.

    • Liz

      Erin, I agree with you – except that I’m not a fan of maternity/paternity leave, either.

      I’m very uncomfortable with the idea that either private companies or government should be responsible for individual decisions to have children. The only other subsidy generally provided by companies is health insurance, which is provided because sh*t happens – people get sick, and need to be healthy in order to work effectively. By that same logic, there’s an implication that OF COURSE women have children, what else would they do? – and that companies therefore need to step in and help out when it happens.

      Why should companies be expected to subsidize particular life choices, leaving less in the benefits/compensation pot for those who have made others? I am very curious to hear people’s thoughts on this, if you’d share… thanks in advance!

      • liz

        I find myself pondering this often. I had a very difficult maternity leave situation (6 weeks, unpaid, uninsured). My husband had no paternity leave and took a week off, unpaid. There were many parenting decisions that were impacted by my inability to be home for very long (for example, breastfeeding was an impossibility) and health side effects (things not healing properly).

        However, I do NOT think maternity/paternity leave should be a bill footed by everyone else who perhaps choose not to (or more painfully, try and can not) have children.

        What I would have liked is a short-term disability type option to pay into in advance (nothing like this was offered at my school) so that I could take a longer leave, be paid partially, something.. But I’m not sure that this solves the whole problem. Anyone have any thoughts?

        • I would prefer a system like this, and have long wondered why we don’t have one.

          But I am a big supporter of people owning their shit – sometimes things get hard, and there are people and programs out there willing to help you get back on your feet, or put groceries on the table, or provide formula and cheap daycare. But at the end of the day, we each have a responsibility to ourselves and to our families. We have to accept it.

          And some people (MYSELF INCLUDED. OMG.) are TERRIBLE, HORRIBLE, NO GOOD, VERY BAD SAVERS. If I had a program at work that I could pay into for this sort of thing? I’d jump all over it in a heartbeat. This way, I can have a family if I want it, and take proper time off if I want it, and not have someone else completely unrelated to me foot the bill. That’s not how things should work.

          • Ooh, like a family-related 401k type of deal? That would be awesome. Both men and women could pay into it to get parental leave when they need it (maybe it could even help make paternity leave a more acceptable/common thing!)

            I’m sure there would be all kinds of weird issues with the details, but you really got my brain-gears cranking on this idea.

        • Caroline

          My thought are colored by the incredible success of the Swedish systems. Yes, government childcare sometimes makes me squeamish (what are they teaching my (hypothetical future) children?! However, I see maternity, and paternity leave, and subsidized childcare as badly needed. It’s not that the childless are supporting the child-having. It’s the adult generation supporting the child generation, who will eventually support them in turn (whether or not the adultgeneration later relies on the child generation for familial support, they will rely on them as nurses in nursing homes or hospices or their own homes, as doctors, politicians, farmers, and everything else). In addition, it’s about not punishing people for choosing to have children.
          In Sweden, they hve large amounts of well paid maternity and paternity leave (that can be taken any time for tenfirst seeral years. Some people use it to work part time and have more time with the kids for a span of time). They also have government childcare.
          The results? Fathers are more involved (and don’t tell me that isn’t a higher good), families feel less squeezed (as evidenced by the higher than the rest of the first world birth rate which may not be a good thing itself but is telling about conditions), and they have far greater gender equality (global gender gap report 2009).

          To me, it’s absolutely needed to have good paid parental leave and subsidized childcare. Just like health insurance needs to cover maternity care with paying extra, even if it means everyone pays a little extra. Just like property taxes pay for schools even if you don’t use them. It’s not about the assumption that you will/must have children, but about giving you the financial option to do so, and do so well, without sacrificing your career.

          • meg

            “However, I see maternity, and paternity leave, and subsidized childcare as badly needed. It’s not that the childless are supporting the child-having. It’s the adult generation supporting the child generation, who will eventually support them in turn.”

            YES. I’m not really arguing for government childcare, though hell, I love me some public schools so I have no problem with public pre-school, just some sort of program that provides assistance and support with paying for childcare. Maybe you pay into it, not sure. I just think it would make a difference, for all of us in general, if families had that support.

          • Yes, I agree! I am from the US, but have lived in Scandinavia and like how these type of things work over there. And now I live in Québec which is pretty similar, and it seems to be really good. I agree with the idea of the adult generation contributing to the child generation, because I feel like whether or not *I* have any children, I want other people in my country (well, my countries, in my case) to have kids so that these places will continue thriving over generations….and I don’t mind contributing financially to that with my taxes and whatnot.

        • Lauren

          I think maternity/paternity leave should be footed by everyone in the same way that everyone’s property taxes should contribute to public education. Regardless of whether someone has children or not, it benefits all of us that children are cared for from birth.

          I’m not planning on having children and I’m happy to pay for other’s maternity leave and public schools and all of that because I believe it contributes to the greater good of society.

          Edited: I replied before I saw Morgan’s reply below. Consider this my ‘exactly.’ :)

      • KTH

        An interesting point — though some companies offer much MORE than just healthcare, subsidizing-wise. My company offers Transit Checks, tuition reimbursement, and a whole host of things that people can take advantage of. Technically, my paycheck could be more if we didn’t offer these things I’m not taking advantage of, but the whole reason they offer them is to attract people.

        I am a big proponent of companies offering childcare because it adds to their ability to draw the best people in the work force. It’s a perk, and a fantastic one at that. It helps both mothers and fathers, and makes that company more competitive.

        My company offers both maternal and paternal leave, and the longer you stay with the company, the longer you get, just like vacation. (It’s also offered to parents of adopted babies.) It’s a perk, but I think it’s also strategic: imagine you hired someone, they had a kid, and had to return to work immediately. Do you think they’d be in their best form? Probably not. But you want to keep that talent, so you offer the leave.

        This is why I think companies do it. Having tax-payer funded child care is an entirely other argument, though as far as I’m concerned it’s an argument along the same lines of tax-payer funded education.

      • ANDREA

        Mmmmm. indeed.

        I quite like the structure of parental leave in Canada. You qualify for Employment Insurance (formerly Unimployment Insurance, rebranded :P) in everyday life based on how much you’ve put into it — you qualify for a certain number of weeks based on past contributions by yourself and your employers. It’s about 60% or so of your income over the period you’ve been contributing.

        When you need maternity leave, you just get EI for a year. (well, something like 15 maternity plus any split you want for parental leave, to make up the 52 weeks total. or something.) So it’s a government fund (and employers can choose to “top it up” so that you’re receiving more of your previous income) but someone it feels fair to me.

        • I will happily continue to pay my taxes so that I, and everyone else in the country, gets to do this. It’s not perfect, but it’s a damn sight better than almost everywhere else.

          • Anna

            I’m Canadian too and this part is tough for me to understand. I guess it’s a cultural difference. Our taxes are high. In fact essential 50% of my income goes to taxes. But because of this I have a year paid leave if I choose to have a child, heavily subsidized child care ($5/ day in my province!), our secondary schooling is much much more affordable, my health care is free etc. I’m not overly concerned about ME paying for YOURS. It’s just how it is.

            And it results in a larger middle class and less of a gap between those who have alot and those who have nothing. I’ll probably never collect unemployment insurance and maybe not even maternity pay or affordable child care but I’m glad those options are there for those who need them. It creates a more equitable society. And encourages women to have children AND their careers.

            I think socialism has sort of become a dirty word in America but think of the quality of life in socialist countries… it’s admirable.

          • Cassandra

            This – I am happy to pay my taxes because that means that myself, my partner, my daughter and *everyone* are covered. I live in QC, and paying my taxes mean we have full health and drug coverage, good quality public schools, 7$/day daycare for all parents, much more reasonable parental leave than in many places, and a ton of other public goods. I’m happy to pay into something that provides equality on at least some measures so at the very least fewer people slip through the cracks. It’s not a perfect system by any means but I’ll take it, happily.

          • Me too, Cassandra! :)

        • As a Canadian, the only problem with our EI maternity leave system is that there are some hooks. You have to be working steadily (full time, I think) for a minimum of 6 months prior to going on mat leave, which is great for people working full time, but terrible for students working casually. If we got pregnant now, we’d be SO screwed financially.

          However, I do pay taxes towards health care, etc and totally agree with doing so. Child and senior care are two issues that I feel really strongly about- as a country, a community of people, it benefits more than it hinders. (See Caroline’s thoughts above).

      • This is a really hard one for me. As a younger woman, I thought manternity leave was bullsh*t- why didn’t everyone get time off to give birth to something new and amazing if that’s what they wanted? Now, as someone who has watched multiple friends have kids, I understand that maternity leave is not a vacation- it is almost impossibly hard, involves no sleep, HUGE health concerns including the fact that, even with the best possible birth, your body is healing itself from the inside out. So I really, really believe that women need to have long maternity leaves with as little else to worry about as possible (including pay and insurance.)

        However, I do believe that American society in general is TERRIBLE at letting people have any space in their lives, and I hold true to my original complaint- why can’t anyone take some time off if they need or want it? Why can’t we all have a plan that we pay in to (like Liz said) that we could use later in life for whatever new project we want, whether that project is a new baby, time to travel, writing a book, etc?

        I still believe that there is a difference between maternity leave and a sabbatical, and that we do a great disservice to mothers by forcing them back to work after 6 weeks, but I think time and space are also a larger feminist issue.

        • Liz

          Lauren – I don’t think anyone thinks maternity leave is a vacation! Child-raising looks like hard, hard, incredibly hard work, and I have an enormous amount of respect for those who choose to take it on. My argument is that having a child is a choice, and as such, no one else should be financially responsible for that choice – including through leave paid for or subsidized by employers. (I am totally aware that this is an unpopular opinion and also unlikely to change – which I’m fine with. :))

          “So I really, really believe that women need to have long maternity leaves with as little else to worry about as possible (including pay and insurance.”

          That is definitely the ideal situation. But shouldn’t the responsibility of making this happen be on the new parents?

          Other Liz, I really like your idea of having a sort of “layaway plan” for leave!

          • I think, right there, is the difference between Canadian and American ideology. I’m HAPPY to pay in to a system that benefits everyone. Sure, I hope that other than babies, I never have to claim uninsurance, but I’m willing to pay in to the imperfect system so that people who need the help get it. Call it socialism if you’d like – I prefer to think of it as making sure that there is a safety net for every single person.

          • Liz- of course, and I was mostly addressing that to my younger self who kind of assumed that it was (raising ANOTHER issue of how we don’t educate girls about what it really means to be a mother, but anyway…)

            I hear what you’re saying, and as someone who isn’t planning to have children, part of me agrees. In fact, my husband doesn’t think we should have to pay taxes that go towards public schooling, since we won’t have any kids and won’t benefit. My argument to him is that public schooling breaks down some (not all) barriers to all children getting a good education, whether their parents can afford it or not, which benefits the society that he and I will grow old in, when these children are running our country and companies. The thing about having kids (see IUD discussion in the comments yesterday) is that you can’t always plan it, and it’s not always convenient. So yes, it is a choice to have or not have them, but not providing any maternity leave just seems to push women towards health concerns and possible financial ruin. I’m don’t think that would benefit society in general, even if it did seem more “fair.”

          • Having a child is a choice, but having a society where all children are well cared for and have their basic needs met is a net benefit to all members of a society, regardless of whether or not they have children. In my mind at least, this is why we pay for things like public school education, and health insurance for children. Because regardless of whether or not you have children, you are still going to be relying on the children of others as you get older – they are going to be paying your social security, they are going to be your doctors or care providers, etc. Society benefits from having a healthy, well-educated population, and social programs – like food stamps, public education, medicaid, and yes, maternity leave are part of what enables that to happen. We are all more interconnected than I think the American public likes to acknowledge.

          • liz

            Morgan, I see it slightly differently. I contribute often for the betterment of those around me- but I see that as the job of individual citizens, not the government. I’d say cut out the middleman and instead of contributing taxes that are then divvied, I’d prefer everyone to take personal responsibility for helping those around them- financially, and more.

        • I think part of the discussion also has to be about society as a whole. We all pay taxes towards public education because in the long run, that education then allows those children to have careers, make money, and buy things which in turn creates more jobs. I think we should think of maternity/paternity leave and childcare the same way. We need the best men AND women working and making decisions that create more jobs, start more small business, etc. When a large part of the population (i.e. women or half of the population) have to decide between having a career where they do that and not having kids or having kids and quitting their careers or substantially cutting back hurts society as a whole. So paying for maternity leave and childcare spread out over the whole population is much better for the economy as a whole than having many of the best businesswomen forced to stop making advances in order to have children.

      • N

        I think the way to think about this is in terms of what incentives our society wants to provide. If we take it as given that some people need to make the decision to have children and that we benefit from having more people able to participate in the work force (if you want to argue with these premises go ahead), we need to decide whether we think the societal benefits of maternity/paternity leave are worth subsidizing other peoples choices.
        For example, if people believe that there are benefits to women being able to breast feed (health benefits, psychological/emotional benefits for the children), it would seem that the cost of maternity leave (for long enough to make that an option) outweighs the cost of having more children with health and/or emotional/behavioral problems. If we think there are better outcomes for children of not being put into daycare at a very early age, then the same thing would be true. If society doesn’t think these are significant concerns then the idea of a subsidy becomes problematic. This is not an attempt to criticize anybody’s personal choices, no individual needs to have children, or needs to breastfeed or take time off of work etc.–but I don’t think we can think of it as subsidizing an individual’s choice to have a child, we have to think of it in terms of long term societal outcomes and whether we think that the costs of providing maternity/paternity leave are higher or lower than the costs of not providing it.

        Maybe we can even view it as a “subsidy for feminism”–I want women to have the option to have children and have it not negatively affect their career prospects, and I think that having maternity leave makes that much more feasible (even if it’s possible without it). I also think that paternity leave promotes a more equal attitude towards parenting by recognizing that men SHOULD have a role in their child’s life from the very beginning, and that childcare is not only an issue for women.

        And yes, I am an economist, and this is how I like to think about pretty much everything in life :-)

        • Liz

          Fascinating! Thanks, N – this is exactly the food for thought I was hoping for.

        • DNA

          I agree completely that it’s important to look at long-term costs and benefits for society as a whole and not just at the individual level. NPR talked about the long-term benefits of preschool based on an economic study that came out a few months ago ( and it really stuck with me. Granted, this study is about preschool and not subsidized childcare in general, but I think it’s important to acknowledge that it takes a whole community to raise a healthy child (like the police and fire departments that keep your neighborhood safe, a good health care system to provide adequate medical care, a good education system so that the child becomes a functioning adult, etc.), and how society raises/treats its children will determine how the adults will turn out. Maybe raising healthy children to become functioning adults won’t specifically involve subsidizing childcare, but I think having functioning adults is pretty important for society, and it will require more than individual actions on the part of the children’s parents.

      • Caroline

        Maybe instead of thinking of it as “Of course women have children” one could think of it as ” of course “people have children.” Parental leave shouldn’t be just for women, and employers should be forced to deal with the fact that people are humans, and potential parents, in addition to being workers.

      • of course, sometimes having kids falls more into the category of “sh*t happens” than “individual decisions” – so long as we haven’t got comprehensive (or hardly any) sex education, and getting access to birth control, etc. is actively fought against.

        that said, as someone who doesn’t have or want kids, i subsidize a lot of kids’ education, health and well-being already – through taxes – not for the good of that individual kid, but because healthy, educated kids are good for society as a whole. (that is, over unhealthy, uneducated kids. possibly, due to populations concerns, not over less kids.) so, i don’t think better leave and childcare options are much different.

        • Better leave options are wrapped up in America’s inability to get vacation time or whatnot straightened out.

          I finally commented because quite frankly, I disagree.

          I vote yes for schools. I am happy that my taxes go towards paying for education. I don’t want to be fifty working with twenty year olds who aren’t educated. I don’t want our future adults to be handicapped by their lack of education.

          I balk though when you ask me to subsidize childcare. I’m choosing to not have children. I’ve looked long and hard at my budget to see what does and doesn’t make sense. Non-subsidized childcare is pricy because as was mentioned elsewhere, it’s hard, desperately needed, work.

          The hard numbers of the situation are such that if childcare exceeds the salary of the lower earning partner, something has to change. I agree that the social construct needs to change such that it’s not assumed that it will be a woman making that choice. But I really struggle with the idea of where does it end? Where exactly do I stop subsidizing someone elses life choices?

          • so, i agree with you in part. in that something needs to change. and that i don’t think subsidized childcare is ideal.

            in my dream world it wouldn’t be necessary because a single (un-gendered) income could support a family.

            but, honestly, subsidized child care is a sight closer to reality than fair wages. and anyhow, we would subsidize fair wages with every thing we buy or do (which, like the income tax, would hit lower income people harder).

            and it’s surprisingly difficult to draw the line between childcare and education. there is a measurable achievement gap at age 3. subsidizing either childcare or livable incomes would likely help that.

            anyhow, i thoroughly support not having children because it doesn’t make sense! but if only people who had the monetary means had kids we could probably stop subsidizing education too – after all, folks who can’t afford private education can just abstain. where does that end?

      • Rasheeda

        I wonder what would happen if we remove maternity/paternity leave and replace it with (just throwing this out there) parental care ; i.e. you could be the parent or you could be caring for your parents. Would the feelings still be the same? Since it removes the choice aspect from the argument, do you still feel the same way about the leave aspect(in the sense that everyone has parents and with baby boomers living longer you may be faced with caring for an elderly parent during your prime working years)? Just a thought.

        • liz

          I love that idea. Maybe not parental care, but “family care” (which others have mentioned is written into FMLA, but I’m still not sure that goes far enough).

          While I’m struggling to raise my son after quitting my teaching job, my mom is struggling to find a way to work and also care for my grandmom. Or my friend who has taken in her sister’s children, and can no longer work. There are many, many ways in which families of all kinds would benefit from that sort of thing.

          • Anna

            This is nice. Many companies have this in Canada and all government employees have 5 days a year for ‘family’. Whatever that entails. Taking kids or parents to doctors appointments, etc. It encourages people to care personally for their children or elders… so important.

            I like it.

    • Tamara

      I just don’t get how we as a society are ok with public education, but not subsidzed childcare? I have no kids, and I probably won’t, but I support wholeheartedly the right for BOTH sets of parents to participate in dealing with their children’s needs (at birth, adoption, or in care of illness). I pay taxes that go to schools, because I am a part of the community. If feminism includes making the personal the poilitical in discourse and action, we can’t claim having children as an illness.We drive on the roads, we put in for Pell Grants, let’s just take care of the mickey-fickey children so they can support us in our old age.

      • Meredith

        Completely agree. The first thing I thought of here was public education. I may never have children, but I will gladly pay for public education. One day those children could be my doctor, or nurse, or lawyer or contractor or .. or…or… I would want them to have the best education possible. Nevermind that a well educated society benefits everyone.

        Subsidized childcare, at least to me, falls in line with public education. I don’t really see how you can support one but not the other.

        • liz

          Don’t we have public daycare already?

          • Liz

            No. Or at least, not in my state.

          • Meredith

            Not in mine either. There are lowered costs for low income families that go through a center approved by the state, but there isn’t ‘public daycare’ at least in the same way I think of ‘public education’

          • liz

            Okay. In my area, we do. My husband is from NJ, and they do there as well. Just wondering.

          • meg

            WHAT? PUBLIC DAY CARE? I’ve never even HEARD of such a thing. That sounds brillant!!!

        • Jess

          Nope, pretty sure there is no such thing as “public day care” in NJ – if by “public day care” you mean a publicly subsidized school-type institution where you can start dropping off children who are only a few months old.

          There are, however, publicly run pre-school programs, may of which are designed for children below the poverty line, or for children are disabled. For example, my younger brother was born over 3 months premature (in the mid-80s). He was in the hospital until he was over 6 months old, and left with mild cerebral palsy, severe asthma (underdeveloped lungs), etc. He didn’t speak for quite a while. At the age of 2, my parents were able to move us to an affluent town in NJ that had a public pre-school program for handicapped children. He blossomed there – joined the regular class by the time he was set to start kindergarten. By the time he was in elementary school, he was in the gifted class, and now he’s a college grad. So, those early intervention programs do work, but they’re often limited in scope.

          Beyond that type of program, I’m not aware of any “public daycare” in NJ.

      • I totally agree. I get worried when the conversation veers more toward “personal responsibility,” because the truth is, we live in a society and I personally think part of that is being responsible for each other. One part of that is realizing that when children are better educated and better taken care of, we will all personally benefit; as other posters have discussed–those kids will be in charge one day. The other part of it is that taking care of each other is part of being in a community. That’s the kind of world I want to live in–not a world where people who want to have children can’t because they can’t afford childcare.

    • Just want to tie this convo in with the discussion above, tying in childcare providers as (often) women whose work also needs to be valued. Thoughts?

      • liz

        Ooh, I want to talk about this, but I’m not sure what you’re asking.

        • Hmm. Basically what Caitlin mentions below. Does anything change about your opinion of subsidized childcare if we factor in the fact that most professional childcare providers currently are women whose careers we’d in fact be subsidizing? Is it feminist to support their work in this way?

      • In my experience, women who “babysit” for a living are often marginalized, considered unintelligent, or unmotivated / lazy. Which I think is crazy, given that I sure wouldn’t want to chase after 10 rugrats of varying ages, 12 hours a day, 5 days a week! Not sure if that’s what you’re referring to, as this particular issue is also a problem when women decide to stay home with their children (not career-oriented! lazy! want to shop all day! barf!).

    • Also, re state day care. In Canada, it’s only in Quebec and you know, that pisses me off. I pay (higher) taxes so that kids across the country (and not in my backyard) get free day care and mostly free university. If we all got it, I’d be a lot less bitter. As it is, though? Grr.

      I don’t think I’d put my kids in state day care if I had other options. Why? I can’t put my finger on it, but it just seems … like the government shouldn’t perhaps be involved at molding my kids at such a young and impressionable age. Hypocritical, given my other beliefs listed below? Perhaps. But yeah, a heebie jeebie or two for me as well.

      • Yeah, I think this is my biggest hang up. That and, as someone mentioned below, my political bent shies away slightly from channeling all these societal benefits through the government. And this is where I get all tangled up. I agree that it’s good for women to have options, and that we all benefit the more (and better) women are represented in the workforce. It’s even better if they can afford those options. But childcare providers should also be able to make a decent wage doing hard work… I’m very enlightened by everyone’s comments here, and still thinking :)

      • Cassandra

        Morgan, what do you mean by state day care/free day care in Quebec, out of curiosity?

        • The $5-7 dollar a day Canadian daycare listed by people above refers, as far as I know, only to Quebec. So, less than $200 a month. Here in Alberta, I’ll be lucky to find daycare for $1500 a month, because there are zero subsidies. Yet via the transfer payments, my taxes are going to fund daycare in a province I will probably never live in, and that irks. I have no problem with paying in to national plans (health care, education, EI, CPP…) but paying for a province specific right that I don’t get to enjoy is hard to swallow.

          • Cassandra

            I’d be curious to know how much of the transfer payments from other provinces (and if any) pay for social services here in Quebec. We’re taxed at the same rate federally but a higher rate provincially (particularly compared to Alberta, according to CRA) than the rest of Canada, even in the lower income brackets. Calling it state daycare is a bit misleading – the government pays the cost of running and employing daycares but there’s no state-enforced curriculum within the daycare system at all. They’re molding kids much less than they do within the public school system.

            I know how much it sucks to pay out-of-pocket for daycare – I used to live in the Maritimes and paid a substantial amount more than my income because despite being a single mother putting myself through university, I qualified for no assistance. A system that takes care of working families is a good one.

          • From wiki: Equalization payments are one example of what are often collectively referred to in Canada as “transfer payments”, a term used in other jurisdictions to refer to cash payments to individuals. Unlike conditional transfer payments such as the Canada Health Transfer or the Canada Social Transfer, the money the provinces receive through equalization can be spent in any way the provincial government desires. The payments are meant to guarantee “reasonably comparable levels” of health care, education, and welfare in all the provinces. The definition of “reasonably comparable levels”, however, has been the subject of considerable debate.

            In 2008-2009, the total amount of the program was roughly 13.6 billion Canadian dollars.

            Traditionally, the payments have been seen as a way of promoting national unity. Approximately 70% of the 10 million Canadians residing in “have not” provinces are in Quebec. However, recent negotiations surrounding the renewal of the program have created considerable tension among provinces. Due to the zero-sum nature of the formula, increases in entitlements for some provinces necessarily lead to decreases for others.

            So, in sum, Alberta pays in to the system, never to see any of the money back, and the “have nots” get to spend the money however they’d like, like on daycare. Or roads, another thing we don’t get federal money for. I guess it’s hard in part because we’re supposed to be a “have” province, but have far less services than a “have not” province. And our money gets shipped directly out to make it happen for othera. (What, a Westerner with a pet peeve about Quebec? What were the odds? :) )

          • Hmm, I didn’t know about this. I do know our personal QC provincial taxes seemed to be higher than our federal ones recently, but not sure how that pans out each year or how that compares to other provinces. Will have to learn more about how things work here in Canada and Quebec… :)

    • meg

      Well, from my point of view, we all win when all families have better access to childcare. I benefit when women can afford to work, if they so choose.

    • Kate

      Honestly, I’ve found that the best way to convince people about this is to recommend a seemingly unrelated book called “Taxing Women.” People so often make the mistake of assuming that our tax system is neutral, but once you begin to look into it, it’s difficult not to bristle at the incredibly stereotypical gender roles our system is intended to promote.

      More to the point at hand, though, McCaffery’s book describes how Congress toyed with the idea of a deduction (or better yet, a refundable credit) for childcare, which would have greatly benefited two-income families in particular as it wouldn’t punish women who reenter the workforce full time after childbirth. Instead, in a movement spearheaded by the conservative Contract with America movement of the early ’90s, they made the deliberate choice to adopt a *child,* not *childcare* credit, meaning that the structural incentives pushing women out of the labor force are still just as pervasive.

      In short, we already do subsidize people’s life choices, both marital and reproductive, through our choices about tax. We allow for joint filing largely as an historical reaction against more widespread adoptions of community property systems, which would have granted women much more actual economic control within the marriage. We ignore the fact that dual-earning couples are being harmed most of all by a system that sets up strong incentives to abide by a “traditional,” gendered division of labor. I really can’t recommend this book enough — it’s truly eye-opening, if infuriating.

      (First time poster–figures I finally stop lurking to ramble about feminist tax policy!)

  • At the Calgary book club, we talked about how lucky we are to have real, long term parental leave. (A year, which can be split between the pair.) And that there seems to be no shame in taking it – at least, everyone has been very supportive of my plan to take the whole year. David will take two-three weeks off at the beginning and is talking to his lead about being on a lower intensity project come spring. And because of the cultural differences we see up here, these are unlikely (hopefully) to harm our careers in a very negative way. My boss is on board with me being promoted right before I go on mat leave, for example.

    I think having good parental leave options makes things so much easier. I am in awe of women who can go back to work with a three month old baby and boggle at what kind of stress that must be. Here in Canada, where you don’t have to, and most people don’t? I will keep paying my taxes so that we can all have these basic rights. Until women have options like this, it’s absolutly no surprise that the SAHM/Working Mother fight gets so angry, because there really is a lot at stake.

    I don’t know. I think about this a lot, but still haven’t quite found the words. But isn’t it convieient if you basically force new mothers back to work when they are still exhausted and blurry, which does probably cause their work performance to suffer, allowing for a systematic reasons to promote the Menz instead?

    • I am still an undergrad, in the marriage sense, but my future hubs and I do have plans on having 2 kids in a few years. I am lucky to work within the gov. that does allow for maternity leave for up to 3 months, but it is unpaid unless you have vacation time. I am already obsessing about saving up leave for that so I can get by with it being mostly paid. I also want to breast feed and well seeing other women deal with pumping makes me not want to deal with that at work. I am already in my head trying to see if i could figure out ways of being home more after the 3 months of maternity leave until the baby is 6 months old. I hope whoever is my supervisor will allow me more telework time otherwise I might just leave work entirely for a bit, which leads to another problem. I am the breadwinner of the household and I can only hope my fiance’ can get something better by the time we want to have kids.

      It’s so funny the way things are with having kids too. Everyone expects a woman to have kids but then won’t really care to try to allow her to take care of the child the way she individually feels is best.

      • If you work in the gov’t, I think people can donate their leave to you too?

        • Only if you have complications. Had a co-worker that was going to get donations from others and she was told that when she tried to get the paperwork filled out. So I can’t even use my sick leave towards it unless things don’t go well which ofcourse well, who wants that?

          • Oooh, that makes sense. When a friend of mine was talking about that, her newborn son was in the NICU. (Which, no fun!)

    • Morgan, I’m your neighbour up here in E-town). I totally agree with you, but if you read one of my prior comments- as a student the mat leave EI system utterly fails me. Sometimes I consider getting a federal government job instead of going to grad school because they get one entire year FULL PAY maternity leave and still get promotions, etc, prior to mat leave. It’s tempting, and yet, somewhat disheartening that my career choices (and dreams) are swayed by the kid question.

  • April

    I confess: I’ve not read the book. Yet. But I’ve read the discussions here, and one thing is very very very clear to me now: I MUST READ THIS BOOK!

    :::scurries off to to order copy immediately:::

    •, I’m afraid.

      • I special ordered it from a local bookstore, cost me $35, but it was worth it.

  • Nicole

    Full disclosure: I also haven’t read the book yet, and I couldn’t attend the meetup in Boston because I had family visiting. POOP. But, just a few thoughts and ponderings from the above. I’d be interested to know what other people think about the interaction between being both a member of an oppressed group in being a woman (for the sake of simplicity I’m just going ahead and using the word oppressed) AND also being a member of an oppressed minority in being a lesbian.

    On one hand, I often find myself…forgetting?…that I consider myself a feminist, because in my culture and community, I have more difficulties because of the latter than the former. Or at least, I’m far more conscious of the way I am discriminated against as a LGBTQ person than the way I am discriminated against as a woman, probably because my status as an LGBTQ person is more immediately important to my everyday safety and social concerns. I wonder if anyone else feels like they’re cheating on feminism in this way, due to being a minority in more than one way?

    On the other extreme, I’m aware that I have generations of feminists before me to thank for the very possibility of my LIFE, the way it stands. Because without staunch fighting for equality for women in all areas of our lives, there would be no chance that I could have an independent life with my female partner with no intervention from a man. It may sound overly obvious, but I think it’s an important thing to remember.

    • Nicole,

      In sociological studies/research they emphasize that women who belong to (other) minorities suffer the worst as far as inequality and prejudice go. So, my advice to you, is 100% you are NOT “cheating on feminism” this way. Not at all. Mind you, I am a straight female, so I can’t imagine the hardships and fears you face. But, all the more reason to support you, I think.

      I am overwhelmed when I really sit and think about the injustices women suffer simply for being women. I actually cried reading a sociology text book when I truly learned about wage inequality and sexual harassment, having thought it didn’t apply to me, and quickly realizing that it had, too many times.

      I consider myself then, rather lucky, to be a white, straight female- as far as oppression and subjugation go, because women of minorities (non-whites and/or LGBTQ) suffer far more than I do. I have the privilege (and that is how I see it) of being white and straight in a society that considers white and straight to be “normal.” So, I think that my undeserved privilege means I should fight for the rights of non-white and/or LGBTQ women, even harder than for my own.

  • Arachna

    Did anyone else take exception to Moran’s view that the entire civilization/tech/science/cool things up to date can be attributed to the work of men because women weren’t allowed to contribute?

    That was the only part of the book that made me not just disagree but get upset. I don’t think that’s true at all – women’s achievements have generally not been recorded… that doesn’t mean they didn’t exist or that most of the big breakthroughs didn’t involve women at some juncture (yes, men probably have been responsible for more because of the oppression of women but some women have always been able to contribute). Yes, okay, most Emperor’s were men (though not all) but how many of them had politically powerful and astute sisters/wives/mothers without whom they would have never come to power?

    • And how many of them actually didn’t really rule, but were directed from the shadows by a wife / sister / mother?

      I’m not sure I really take issue with what she said, but the fact is that many women didn’t have the opportunity / education / time to devote to inventing things. They were, as she said, too busy having babies and dying from having babies. What that needs to mean though is a call to action. Women need to stop thinking they are inherently not as good at math, science, or tech-related fields. And the educational system needs to stop propagating that myth as well. I don’t think it’s a mistake that I was lucky enough to have smart female math teachers in grade school who caused me to love math – and look, I’m a chemical engineer! My dad is a college poli sci prof, and women in his classes consistently say that math is their least favorite subject. It makes him ragey, because women are just as likely to be good at math as men.

    • It is very true that the women of the past who did make major breakthroughs were left out of the historical, technological, artistic, etc. canons. Their accomplishments were not written into the history books, so yes, I agree with you on that.

      And it is true that behind every great man, there a lots of women indirectly influencing them.

      But I do agree with Moran that women have not had the same privileges as men to create and invent, and thus there are fewer of them. I’m sure if you were able to unearth all the overlooked female creators throughout history, there would still be fewer women than men making direct impacts to society, culture, and science.

      And while indirect impact is important, it’s still not the same as direct impact. We should recognize that women have played an indirect role in shaping humanity, but we need to fight for more women to have direct impact. They aren’t the same thing.

      • Arachna

        I agree that it’d be “fewer women than men making direct impacts” but fewer (to me) is a huge big cry away from “none”. And it feels particularly painful to have another feminist disappearing these brilliant women and declare that they never existed at all.

        We should recognize that women played an indirect role in shaping humanity, that humanity would not exist without women (and the emotional relationship with child and mother can be said to shape… a great deal) and that women also played a direct role that was often and remains often minimised (how many people know that the court women in Heien Japan invented the novel?). And that now, finally, is our opportunity to play a direct and loud role in shaping humanity.

        • YES to this. That was one of the things that made me want to throw my copy across the room.

      • “Their accomplishments were not written into the history books”- my question here, albeit rhetorical, is “why not?”

    • Regarding women’s achievements not being recorded, here is an xkcd comic that sums it up nicely:

      • I <3 xkcd.

      • Amy

        I am an electrical engineer and I have that comic on my desk. :)

    • Stephasaurus

      Arachna – I agree with you! Marie Curie comes to mind. (Probably because her birthday was last week!) She lived in a time during which women didn’t have nearly as many rights as they do today, but that never stopped her, and she certainly wasn’t the only one. Instead of focusing on the fact that overall, more has been achieved/accomplished by men, I tend to focus on women who were pioneers in their fields and paved the way for a lot of the great ideas and knowledge we have today. I let that inspire me.

      • Stephasaurus

        Oh, and I definitely posted my comment before seeing the xkcd comic! Awesome :)

      • I don’t know. When thinking about women’s achievements, I think it’s probably true that there were many that simply weren’t recorded or were attributed to the wrong person (i.e. a man). But. With examples like Marie Curie, I am reminded of people using an example of someone like Barack Obama to prove that even if you are poor and non-white, you can achieve success if you just pull yourself up by your bootstraps and work hard.
        I’m not explaining myself well, but what I’m trying to say is that I think it’s important to recognize that yes, some women have achieved great things. But they basically had to be pioneers to even work in their fields. It’s not the same situation as the men who were provided with the education and opportunity by default.

    • I also was shocked did not agree that women are losers… sure, like Ms. Bunny says, mre ften than not women were not allowed to study and participate in life. But there have been politicians (Cleopatra), writers, painters, scientists.
      And there were women writing under male pseudnyms. And women have not been “stupid” all along. I will not recognize that, it is not for nothing that they were burnt as witches, and before that , called the skin of the devil.
      No , I do not fully agree with her recognition that throughouth history women were losers in the sense that women did not achieve important things. If I am not wrong some sculptures attributed to Rodin were actually made by one of his mistresses…

      • I was, at first, by Moran’s assertion that women are “losers.” But I think what she means is that women “lost out” and the oppressive and ongoing perspective that men are winners, they’re the smart successful good guys who made the whole world. Really, they were the winners because they oppressed women, therefore, the “losers.”

        Obviously, women are NOT losers, especially when you consider all Moran has to say. I think she was attempting to approach the issue from an ironic standpoint in order to stir shit up” “Women are NOT losers!” Basically, she’s saying feminism needs to be reclaimed, reactivated, revitalized so that women can prove they are not losers! So being called a girl is a good thing, not a derogatory one. So that we can become equals.

        As an aside, I recently receive an email quoting Betty White:

        “Why do people say, ‘Grow some balls!’ Balls are weak and sensitive! If you really wanna get tough, grow a vagina! Those things can take a pounding.”

        I often think about the language involving male and female genitalia: Being a “pussy” is being weak and cowardly, but having “balls” is strong and brave. WTF?

    • Emily

      Yes. And it’s not just that women’s achievements weren’t recorded or were occluded in some other way (though that happened), it’s also that the whole way achievement and success is defined is frequently skewed towards male output. So, say, skilled output in the form of needlework isn’t recognised as “art” and is anonymous and silent to history.

      And women’s historical achievements are often simply not taught. We need to reclaim these women. One example–a female printer in Shakespeare’s England who took over managing the substantial business on her own when her printer husband died. An academic handbook inaccurately records the business as being taken over by the son, who is under the age of 10 at the time! The woman is effectively written out of history by a twentieth-century academic who can’t conceive of her achievement.

      And really there have always been women negotiating power for themselves in difficult circumstances throughout history. Sometimes you have to read against the grain of the historical record to see it, or challenge your own expectations. I actually think it’s really important not to paint women of the past as entirely shackled by their patriarchal, misogynistic societies because it too often results in a false sense of security about the present day, when in many ways we still live in patriarchal, misogynistic societies.

      (Um. This got long.)

    • Meg

      I loved the book overall, but I really took issue with this idea. As an historian who has done a lot of reading and research on gender history, I felt that by saying that because women had fewer recorded accomplishments they’ve somehow “done less,” Moran took away the agency and achievements of women who lived before the 20th century. Of course I agree with Moran that men have had a better environment in which to make creative and intellectual contributions, and this needs to continue to change. But it just makes the accomplishments of women who were able to succeed in hostile environments or exercise power behind the scenes all the more impressive.

    • Natalie

      I actually really liked this part of Moran’s book, but I interpreted it differently. It’s not that women have been sitting around for centuries staring into space doing nothing, but just that men have held 95% of politically powerful positions, have painted most of the art in our museums, have designed most of the buildings, written most of the famous books, etc. Now the fact that women have been accomplishing things forever that history has ignored is a little bit beside her point, I think, which is that when we grow up and look around at the famous great things that have been put in the museums and the books and the canons, we just don’t see women well-represented. So no WONDER people think women can’t do anything worthwhile or serious. Our history as taught (whether accurate or not) shows that this world has been built by [rich, white] men.

      One response to this is to go back through history and unearth women’s accomplishments and talk about them. Another, which is what I think Moran is saying, is to go “OK, you all think we can’t do anything, let’s prove you wrong right now and in the future.”

      • Yeah but even if women were busy getting pregnant and dying from it like someone said above, women DID things, artistically, and intellectually.
        And there have been revolutionaries in their own way. Did you read about Lady Mary Montagu ? She was a pioneer that help spread the use of chickenpox vaccination precedents (variolisation) in her own children and then because of her social position had the chance to lobby about it and spread the news that it use against the established knowledge of the time. But when we think of pioneers in vaccine development we think of Louis Pasteur which came much later. And that is just an example in a field I am familiar with, I am sure, there are many more like the female printer in Shakespeare’s time. And because all of these women were in an oppressed environment like Meg pointed out above it makes it even greater.
        And history is always told by the “winners” so there is simply no real record. Who knows if behind militar strategists it was not a woman giving the ideas….
        So yes women have been oppressed but I wont agree with the fact that during history they did not make any relevant (At least artistic, intellectual and scientific) contributions

  • Gillian

    I didn’t know I was a feminist until I read that definition. I think the word definitely still needs to be reclaimed, and has a lot of negative stigma around it.

  • To add to the parental leave discussion… my understanding is that in the US, companies are required to provide 12 weeks of leave minimum for maternity leave, 6 paid. But they don’t specify where the paid time comes from, so in my organization, your vacation and sick time (26 days or a little over 5 weeks) is wiped out. And if you end up getting a cold (which happens frequently when you’ve got a kid in day care), you can take sick days, but it comes out of your pay.

    Honestly, my favorite part of the book was her chapter on clothes because I’m incredibly shallow. Her sum up about a woman having nothing to wear meaning she has nothing that expresses who she wants to be in that particular instant? Story of my life, once I actually started caring about clothes (and stopped wearing Mervyn’s jeans and t-shirts with dragons on them. Oh, high school).

    • liz

      Perhaps it’s a state-to-state thing, because I was allowed no paid time during my leave.

    • My understanding is that the companies in the U.S. are required to provide 12 weeks of leave minimum, but none of them have to be paid. Whether any of them are paid is up to the company. In my case, the primary caregiver gets 12 weeks unpaid leave, and that’s it.

    • I totally identified with the chapter on pants (underpants — the British slang took a bit to get used to but only added to comedic effect). I have a full, round bum and cannot for the life of me find underpants that cover and stay put!

      • I also have problems figuring out what underwear to wear! I have some luck with lace bikini briefs (the lace means no visible panty line, BLARG), aside from the staying put issue.

        • Rasheeda

          Since it’s all girls here, let’s have a frank conversation about this…I took back the g-string for primarily that reason. My bum is rather full and round and has a habit of eating any underwear- so I just stopped all together (totally feasible in the summer not so much in the winter) and I wear g strings when I have to have something. But whenever I say this I get the *look*, like I am a whore or stripper or some lady of the night, when I just don’t like the sensation of undergarments moving all around under my clothes.

          • But aren’t g-strings incredibly uncomfortable? They are for me. They get logged in places that taught material should never be.

          • I love having fun or different or no underwear. It’s like a sexy secret! I’ve never tried a g-string, but I can’t stand thongs because they also get eaten.

      • I often feel like I am “failing as a woman” because I like underpants that provide some coverage “back there.” I always feel like I should be wearing skimpier, sexier underthings. Time to ignite my shame-blaster, I guess!

        • I always used to think it was so important to have pretty, coordinated underwear and then I realized that a) no one was probably going to see it and b) if they did, even in sexytime purposes, they probably wouldn’t care that much.

    • You’re right, I’m completely wrong. Just goes to show that getting your information second or third hand is rarely right.

      DC (where I live) requires 16 weeks leave minimum, none of it paid.

    • N

      -I think some individual states have laws about paid/unpaid maternity leave, but definitely not on a national scale. The Family and Medical Leave Act does guarantee 12 weeks unpaid leave (and I believe it protects health insurance during those weeks), but only for businesses of a certain size (more than 50 employees), and if you’ve been there for at least 12 months. FMLA can also be used for other health issues (recovery from serious injury, taking care of seriously ill family member) and paternity leave, including for adoption. So, definitely better than nothing, but (at least in my opinion) it’s not sufficient. If you’re lucky and have paid maternity leave or have paid vacation/sick days then you can have paid leave, but a lot of people have neither. Many of my friends have 1 week total paid personal/sick/vacation time–not exactly enough to cover even a few weeks of maternity leave.

    • The Family and Medical Leave Act requires that companies with more than 50 employees provide them with 12 weeks of unpaid leave after the birth of a child or to care for a sick family member. There is no federal requirement for any paid leave, states can enact broader requirements however, so perhaps some states do mandate some paid leave. DC, where I live, expanded on FMLA to allow for 16 weeks of leave, but it’s still all unpaid.

      • Oops. You all beat me to the punch! What a great discussion – I’m really enjoying it.

    • I liked the part on clothes too. I hadn’t really thought about it in that way before…

  • I think where feminism loses some steam is when it goes beyond equality and takes on a policy bent. As someone who leans more right politically, it’s difficult to find a voice in the overall movement when I don’t always agree with the agenda. As a pro-lifer, I often feel marginalized by feminists. I was a bit hesitant about the book because I often find that “feminist” books tell me that I’m not a feminist because I don’t support abortion, increasing government involvement, etc. There’s room at the feminist table for all political leanings and I think the feminist community as a whole could do a better job at inclusiveness.

    I think we have a lot of common ground though. I love APW and keep coming back. I love that we have civil disagreements and learn other viewpoints. I think the common ground that I have with you all is that I think women have a myriad of giftings, intellectual equality, and the right to pursue the life that matches her ambition and potential. Where we may disagree is the government’s role in making that happen vs. the individual’s role; or where the line of infringement on other people’s rights are; or which candidate will give me the best shot at x, y, z. There are those of us who have been alienated by the movement. It’s not that we don’t want to participate or disagree with the principles, it’s just that we seen a different path to it.

    • I don’t mean to hijack the discussion, but I fail to understand why abortion is still a political issue that is up for debate (for example, see recent proposed amendment voted on in Mississippi, which luckily did not pass). I think abortion should be legal so that those women who want to exercise the option can do so in a safe manner, and not be considered criminals. If someone is against abortion… well then, they should not have abortion. But I don’t think that being against abortion gives anyone the right to decide for OTHER women what they should do. Because that goes against the whole feminist idea of being in control of your own vagina (and uterus).

      • I understand where you’re coming from. For me, I believe that my stance as pro-lifer is inclusive of all life – the woman’s, the unborn, the elderly, the disabled, etc. It’s a whole philosophy that I’ve thought a lot about and engaged lots of different viewpoints. I came to the conclusion that a homo sapien is composed of 46 chromosomes (give or take for some chromosomal disorders) which occurs at fertilization. I respect that human being and consider it life. I also believe that a woman being in control of her body and vagina includes her decision to have sexual relations during her fertile time – that’s where her control starts. Obviously, it’s a very nuanced issue, but I’m happy to engage further about it if you would like offline.

        • Rasheeda

          While I respect your right to your decision, I disagree that a woman’s right/control starts when having sexual relations during fertile time. Many women a) don’t have that information about their own bodies and b) are shamed/pushed into sexual relations by a more powerful gender. There are too many shades of grey for it to be lumped into that simple of a construct.

          • Yes, I was typing a lot of this, but then just cut myself short saying it was nuanced. I think you’re totally right about women not being informed about their own bodies. I recently read “Taking Charge of Your Fertility” and I thought, “Wow! How did I not know this? This should be mandatory reading!” I think we can definitely work together to make sure women on all levels are more informed about their own bodies. Doctors need to be explaining these sort of things.

        • AltKat

          I really, really don’t want you to think that I’m disrespecting your views on this by asking what I am about to. I would go to the wall for your right to express such views. But I have to ask: how do you square your pro-life stance with things like abortion in the case of rape/incest/health of the mother? Or with war? Or with the death penalty? Gun ownership? Suicide? Assisted suicide? Brain death? I don’t want anyone to have to have an abortion, but I don’t want people to be forced to bear children they can’t afford, or don’t want, or have been impregnated with against their will.

          I’m not trying to begin a fight. I just want to know. You guys all have a culture far removed from mine – I’m British. We don’t have capital punishment and we allow both private and publicly-funded abortion, as well as same-sex civil partnerships. Even though feminism is still a dirty word over here and we’re fighting just as hard for recognition, I’m from a different place, entirely.

          And I can’t help but completely agree with the line I’ll have to paraphrase from Moran (whose book is being read right now by my best manfriend): I don’t want anyone to force me to find out how much I could love under duress.

          • it’s a little different. But for me, I reconcile being feminist and pro-life by being morally pro-life and politically pro-choice. I believe life is always the better choice, but I am equally sure that the government should not be regulating most moral choices. That they need to be choices.

      • N

        I think that for at least some people (and I assume the feminists on this side of the issue) it’s not about control over your body, it’s a moral decision. If you think life starts at fertilization (or any other stage during pregnancy) then abortion is equivalent to murder. Nobody argues that control over our own bodies means that we can kill another person. If that’s your perspective then choosing to not have an abortion yourself does nothing to address the problem; that would be equivalent to saying that making the personal choice to not kill someone means we don’t need to have laws about killing people. Of course we have laws about self defense, so from that perspective abortion to protect health of the mother should be legal.

        Not saying I agree with this position, just that from that particular perspective it’s not incompatible with feminism. That said, anti-birth control/family planning is a completely different issue and I don’t think there’s any way to reconcile it with feminism.

        • liz

          N, you beat me to the punch.

        • Arachna

          See this would make sense to me but in practice no one who is pro-life acts like they think the “life” that starts at fertilization is equal to a grown human being.

          What pro-life woman do you know that had a full on funeral when she miscarried at 2 months? Or grieved at a length in any way comparable to someone losing a live child?

          Or for that matter attempts to figure out and grieve for all the sub one month, mostly unnoticed, miscarriages – which by this logic are all losses of life and equivalent to murder/death that should be mourned.

          • Beb

            Arachna, I think you need to tread carefully here re: miscarriages and pro-life (or pro-choice, or any) women. I know women who have had miscarriages and still grieve for that child as if the child had been carried full term and born alive. I think it can be very dangerous to make assumptions about what other people think or feel or believe, especially when you’re making those assumptions about entire groups of people (saying, e.g., “in practice no one who is pro life” does [x]). Frankly, it’s not helpful to draw out divisions like that – isn’t the whole point of this discussion trying to make feminism more inclusive?

          • Arachna

            Trying to reply to BB.

            I understand and respect what you are saying but I stand by my statement that no one grieves a 2 month miscarriage the way they grieve born children. Though of course grief at an early miscarriage is possible and many women experience it.

            I too know women who grieve miscarriages very very deeply years later – but these were late miscarriages, generally very late and these women very unusual. The very fact that there is a difference (even among those who believe in “life” at conception) in the reaction depending on how many months is very telling.

            Individuals come in such a wide variety that of course it is possible I’m wrong and if you say that you know women who grieve a very early miscarriage intensely years later – same as a born child later lost I will believe you but certainly I’ve never met, heard of or otherwise seen indications that people react like this. Do you know of any ‘fathers’ who feel the same way?

            My overall point is that if the pro life stance is X and X means people’s reaction would be Y and we don’t see any Y around… even if somewhere there is a Y that does not invalidate the point that X… isn’t supported by the very people saying it. If lots or even some people truly believe that a one month fetus is the same morally as a baby we’d see a lot more people grieving a lot of miscarriages (with the same wide range of types of grief reactions that you see to children’s deaths) – we do not see this.

          • Beb

            Hi Arachna – hopefully this will reply to you. I guess my point was more that it’s not helpful to take the variety of human reactions to tragedy, whether the loss of a child or a miscarriage, and put them on some sort of absolutist moral scale to try to group people into “feminist” and “non-feminist” categories, or even to conclude that someone is not truly pro-life if she doesn’t have the same emotional reaction to a miscarriage as to the death of a child. Human emotion is so complex and it doesn’t translate neatly into moral outcomes (e.g., this woman cried more when her child died so she felt the loss more deeply than the woman who cried less). Do you see what I mean? My second point was that generalizing about groups of people is sometimes helpful in conceptualizing those groups but I think it’s misplaced in this particular discussion, which was aimed towards getting women who support equality under one large banner, rather than shaming individuals or groups of women who don’t share a particular political or moral belief.

          • Ris

            Hi Arachna!

            Say your premise is true that no one grieves an early miscarriage like they would the death of a child. Even if this were universally true 100% of the time, it would still not follow that therefore that fetus is not also a child.

            People grieve for a variety of reasons. You do not grieve the loss of a newborn child simply because it was a human who died. You would also grieve because you had seen its face, you had touched its hands, you had been able to identify with and see it as your own child.

            It’s a lot harder to be equally attached to a fetus, no matter how much you might be anticipating having a child. However, that does not mean it couldn’t be a human as well, just one that’s maybe harder to relate to.

            You’ve probably deduced this, but I am pretty much in the camp of pro-life feminists that N described above.

        • This is going back to the whole miscarriage thing.

          Sadly miscarriages are not really discussed heavily in public. We don’t really know how a lot of people react because it is made out to be a rare thing when in reality it’s quite common. It is another area in life that needs to be discussed better in general like calling off a wedding needs to discussed more on wedding blogs and forums (Go Team Practical for helping with that!)

          I feel like a miscarriage can be heavily mourned because a mother and father might mourn the loss of the potential that was there. It also varies so much from couple to couple and the timing of it all in their lives and also how far along the miscarriage happened.

          I could see a miscarriage being brushed under the rug or a sense of relief by a college student who was late and took a test and then a week later miscarried.

          On the other hand same kind of scenario only with a couple who had been having difficulty conceiving, the wife took a test and was pregnant only to miscarry a week later, I could see that being absolutely gut wrenching for that couple. Sadly this couple would probably never really discuss it as we don’t talk about miscarriage enough.

          And can I just say it’s nice to read an abortion debate that doesn’t make people who are pro-choice look like murderers.

      • liz

        I’ll plainly state that my views on abortion of complicated and nuanced. However. If someone believes something is criminal, it would make sense for them to argue against it legally- they no longer see it as a matter of “controlling your own uterus” but a matter of protecting another life. A clear comparison would be saying, “Okay you think shooting someone is wrong, so don’t shoot someone. But don’t remove my right to control my own hands.”

        Let me say again- I’m not arguing for or against. I’m very careful not to discuss my ideas about abortion very fully on the internet. But, I do see a flaw in your logic.

      • Yes yes yes. I have never had an abortion – I never want to have an abortion. But I fully and firmly believe that if someone else wants one, that’s their right and their life, and has nothing to do with me. They have to live their life, not me.

        It’s like gay marriage. Adam and Steve’s marriage doesn’t affect my marriage in any way, so why would I be against it? Why would I ever want to take away rights from another group, especially rights I enjoy myself?

        Why should I care, at the core, what choices someone else makes in the privacy of their own life? Why should the goverment be allowed to mandate personal life decisions? (I’m talking social issues that affect only the individaul. Not like, theft and murder. Those do harm others, and should be dealt with accordingly.)

        And I am a right-leaning right-voting Canadian. I find these stances to be entirely logical as a whole. (The less government is the best government, you see, and I don’t want the government in my bedroom in any way.)

        • I am a left-leaning, left-voting Canadian and I agree with you wholeheartedly!

    • Ahhh I was wondering when the abortion issue would come up. My mother, who higher up I said taught me my early feminism, is a strong pro-life proponent. Her morality, which is informed by religion, says that it is a crime to kill life and that life starts at conception. I consider her my first feminist role model, and really don’t want her excluded from the feminist table because of her pro-life stance. But this is a conflict that is not an easy one reconcile. It tears me up.

      • meg

        THIS! And I’d like it not to tear you up. Why do feminists have to believe one thing here? Moran makes an argument that “feminism” means equal rights, but it gets conflated with “things that involve women.” I think a powerful argument can be made that abortion falls into the later camp, just like a powerful argument can be made that it falls into the former. So, at the end of the day, I think we can’t push people from the table because there are differing opinions.

        • Arachna

          Well, I think the answer some would give to “Why” is that to many people a stance towards criminalizing abortion conflicts with the basic definition Moran give in her book. “Do you want to be in charge of it?”

          Arguable being in charge of your vagina, uterus, body, encompasses both the right to say no to sex, even in the middle of sex, and doing anything at all to the insides of your body, including killing anything living that might be growing in it. So if you say abortion should be illegal – you’re answering “no” I don’t want to be in charge of it.

          I would have a really hard time agreeing that someone who didn’t believe that rape of women should be a crime (if they are married to the rapist or if they previously consented – which some people in America do believe) is a feminist. And that’s not a very different stance than feeling that someone who believes abortion should be a crime isn’t a feminist.

          You almost certainly know this already – but I thought I’d put this part of the argument out there in explicit terms.

          • meg

            Well, right, but I disagree with you on cutting those (awesome, smart, just different than you) women out of feminism. I think that’s shooting ourselves in the foot, and creating a team of people who all think like us, instead of a team of people who think women should be on equal footing with men, to DISAGREE, as much as to do anything else.

            I think there are plenty of women, who think they should be in charge of their vagina, but who think a fetus is a separate entity from a woman or a vagina. I can’t think of a single reason to cut those women out of a movement for equal rights, just because they think about it that way.

      • I didn’t mean to start the debate, I should have known better than to use it as an example to my main point, but it was one of the more demonstrable issues. I appreciate your recognition of your mom and I think it’s awesome that she was a role model in your life. My mom is similar and I would absolutely describe her as a feminist. She wouldn’t associate herself with that phrase because of the militancy that takes over the national discourse, but she raised me to believe that I could be whatever I wanted to be, that I could be successful at college and in the workforce, that I had the right to be heard as a citizen, etc. Who excludes her from the feminist table? Other feminists! This was my main point – why are women excluding other women who agree with many of the feminist issues but disagree on a few?

      • Rasheeda

        I actually think this is an idea from the patriarchy…That all women must think/feel/believe the same way or your not allowed to claim the feminist title. Case in point, my husband and I were discussing the book and I gave him Caitlin Moran’s view of what a feminist was he said “That’s it? There’s got to be more of a political agenda than that” and I said “Nope. That’s it”. It serves the power structure better to divide us than to unify us as simply being women who want equal rights (even if we disagree on certain female centered issues).

        • Yes! Last night I asked my husband if he considered himself a feminist and he paused and said, “How do you define it?” and then after I said that I thought it was the idea that men and women should be equal and have equal opportunities and be treated fairly, he said, “Of course!” But yeah…I think he was not sure about what the term implied exactly before we talked about it.

    • meg

      Ha-ha! I commented on this above, but this was a point I brought up at the meetup. I think that abortion as a litmus test for feminism has been more damaging than any other thing. I think we need to let women of good faith disagree on this. (which, by the way, I HOPE sets the tone for any further discussion here on abortion.)

      And, by the way, it’s unclear how much we actually disagree. I was putting out some ideas of things I think need to happen, but there are lots of ways to make them happen.

      • Thank you. I appreciate your willingness to host the discussion and have always loved your approach to inclusiveness. I think there’s a group of women who want to be part of the feminist discussion and movement, but don’t know how or don’t feel welcome. They’re looking for legitimization and validation that it’s ok to not agree on every point. I’m on board with you – there’s lots of ways to make things happen and we’ll be stronger in the movement if we continue to have open discussions and find commonality on forums like APW.

        • meg

          Yes. I really want to find a way for all women to feel welcome in the feminist discussion. That’s why I really like Moran’s breaking it down in simple terms, because it lets us all feel part of it. Which means we all win. Better to say, have a conversation about childcare, where I hear Liz’s viewpoint and ideas, which is slightly different from where I come from, but super smart (and maybe a better idea), then we divide up into little camps, don’t all feel part of one movement, and don’t share ideas.

          Because I want to make sure Liz has the support she needs with her son, and she wants the government out of her hair, and let’s TALK. Right?

          (Sorry Liz! You’re just such a good example of smart.)

    • LBD

      I am fervently pro-choice, but I definitely think that there should be room for women who consider themselves pro-life within feminism. I think that there are many things that cause women to choose abortion (who might not otherwise) that are strongly linked to other kinds of inequality that disproportionately affect women. Things that we could agree on.

      I haven’t yet gotten to the abortion chapter of the book yet, I admit. I loved the first few chapters, but got bogged down in the love/lap-dancing/married/fashion chapters. I’m on the why/why not children chapters and I’m powering through!

    • For what it’s worth, I think this is the most respectful discussion on abortion I have ever come across. (And I’ve come across many — it’s gotten to the point that I usually avoid them.)

  • Jen B.

    This may have been addressed but I think some “reclaiming the word feminism” posts from time to time would be very well received. Some practical applications of how the word feminism is (in my opinion) the correct word to use could really spur some great discussion.

    Anyone else love her chapter on body imaging, etc?

  • Eli

    I am, along with Caitlin Moran, baffled (and, if I’m honest, irked by) the rejection of the term ‘feminist’. It doesn’t reflect a self-imposed separation – it reflects the separation imposed upon us and thus the work that needs to be done for us.
    This doesn’t necessarily me ‘by’ us. I also don’t understand what isn’t being understood by the ‘vagina thing’. Caitlin simply means ‘if you’re a woman, why ON EARTH would you not be a feminist?’. She does NOT mean, by any stretch of the imagination, that only women can be feminists. As she herself says…she knows many awesome male feminists.
    Also, I’m not meaning to put the cat among the pigeons, but the beauty and geniusnouss of Caitlin’s book is its simplicity – the straightforward way she explains things. So the comments on here that tend to be on the very questioning, long-winded side that tend to originate from those who haven’t read the book – I totally understand, because it’s hard to express complex ideas otherwise – but Caitlin shows us exactly that it’s NOT. THAT. COMPLICATED. And she’s so right. We need to stop over-thinking, pulling ourselves (and words) apart, and just crack on with being feminists and going after what we deserve.

  • Perhaps my favorite quote about feminism, and really so true, because it is such a broad term:

    “I myself have never been able to find out precisely what feminism is: I only know that people call me a feminist whenever I express sentiments that differentiate me from a doormat.” – Rebecca West

  • N

    I just need to say that I have never loved APW more than I do today. More than 200 comments when most people are at work? And not just isolated comments, but real conversations that involve thinking about what other people wrote and responding, and not staying away from controversial issues or opinions. It’s amazing!

    • I totally agree, N! I was thinking that too. All too often, you can get lost in the comments and discussions that result from articles or blogs on contentious issues (like the last couple of hours I have spent reading EVERY comment on this post and commenting myself). But typically, you get a bunch of ignorant crap spewed from the most awful of places.

      APW is DIFFERENT: a community that promotes respect (of attitudes and language) and truly aims to allow intelligent discourse to occur.

      Kudos Meg and Team Practical!

  • Emily

    I’ve recently been reading the suffragist Emmeline Pankhurst’s 1914 memoir “My Own Story” and I thought it might be of interest to some APW readers. You can download it for free to your kindle and it’s very readable and wonderfully inspiring and rousing. After a protest by a large group of women, which was squashed, she describes the dejection but also something really positive. She writes of the women, “They were awake at last. They were prepared to do something that women had never done before–fight for themselves. Women had always fought for men, and for their children. Now they were ready to fight for their own human rights.” It seemed so apposite to this discussion happening nearly 100 years later.

    • Oh I would definitely love to read that. I believe she came to North Dakota and helped organize the suffragists here, one of whom I’m currently researching and writing about. My boss and I quoted Pankhurst in a presentation we gave recently concerning her recommendations for organizing for suffrage.

    • The first real paper I wrote in university was about the Pankhurts and the Suffragette movement in England. Fascinating stuff. The lengths they were willing to go – jail, hunger strikes, forced feedings, violence… The strength of their convictions awes me still.

  • I realized I was a feminist at the beginning of this year, and I am already 35 years old. Before that, all I knew was that I had “radical” ideas for my home city of Cordoba, Argentina but I didn’t really know what “I was”. 7 years ago I left Argentina, 6 years ago I got married, 3 years ago I had twins and all those changes affected the way I feel about myself as a woman. This year I started studying Jurisprudence and Legal Theory for a Master of Laws, and when I reached the chapter about Feminist Jurisprudence it felt like having an epiphany! I could identify with every word they those authors were saying! Finally, I had found someone who could UNDERSTAND the struggle, the contradictions that I had felt inherent in my from early age! I would highly recommend this article by Robin West, for adding to the debate on the HOW:

    • Just something I wanted to add: I am extremely proud about how Argentina has changed in this regard in recent years, and about the new laws that have been passed and are being passed to recognize important rights such as equal marriage, gender identity and the current discussion on right to abortion.

  • Amber

    This makes me wish I had gone!

    Talking feminism with other so-inclined ladies? Yes to that!

    I am one of those people who’s always been a feminist. Why wouldn’t I want women to be treated like equal human beings?

    I’ll have to read the book now.

    Also, the having children quote above is out of context, but when I first read it, I took it to mean: We shouldn’t be having kids just because they might go become president. We should have kids because we are in a place in our life to have kids and we know that we can act in a way that is good for our kids.

  • My husband had to pry me away from APW (I was absorbed in this discussion for 2 hours!), but I now have time to share my feelings/analysis/perspective of Caitlin Moran’s book.

    First, I want to address the issue of her memoir/treatise and her incredibly personal approach to the topic of feminism. Moran, while writing rather candidly and honestly and hilariously, still uses a lot of academic language, but does so in a way that won’t shy away “non-academic” readers, a.k.a the general public. Likely, it was her intention to do so as she is trying to address, and stir up, a larger audience than those already in the feminism camp, while still giving feminists a more than worthwhile read. By sharing such immensely personal stories of her life (i.e. masturbation, utter poverty, self-image issues, her experiences with abortion, with child birth, with sexism), Moran closes the gap between herself and her audience, bringing us into her personal circle, allowing us to experience, vicariously, what she experienced. Personally, I grew up rather poor, definitely lower to middle class, but some of the experiences she shares (like the story about wearing her mum’s knickers, or the cheap pads, or feeding the family on hot dogs) are not ones I can relate to exactly, yet ones that garner empathy nonetheless.

    Her book is a treatise of sorts, absolutely, but by sharing a very personal journey to her understanding of what it means to her to be a woman, Moran draws us in and provides us with the opportunity to reflect on our own experiences. I have never given birth or had an abortion, but Moran takes us deep into her heart and head, opening up a dialogue to talk about these things. By sharing her stories, she almost gives us permission to speak up about ours. In our society, subjects like miscarriages and abortions and choices to not have children, are extremely difficult to approach and share due to societal mores and mentalities of what is and is not appropriate to talk about, to share, to consider, and what is or is not “feminine.” Through feminists venues like APW, Moran is able to encourage a nearly 300-comment-dialogue on many issues that women all experience and have feelings about but don’t necessarily have an arena in which to discuss.

    So, does Moran say things I disagree with or that rubbed me the wrong way- of course! I can’t agree with one woman on every opinion she has, but that doesn’t mean I am not a feminist and it certainly doesn’t mean that Moran didn’t succeed with her book. Attribute the success of her message, her experiences and her willingness, to completely exposing those deeply personal stories and thoughts with a shitload of unknown strangers. Sure, some of what she says is the same old song and dance, but her approach is what sets her apart. It’s not meant to alienate readers, but to include them, to honour them, and to ignite them.

    Moran’s point was to get people talking about feminism, to applaud women (albeit sardonically, hilariously, and sometimes rudely), but to applaud all kinds of women- even women nothing like her. To take one or two things that irked or irritated you and throw away the entire purpose, the entire thesis of her work, is just plain mental. We need someone to shake us up and encourage us to reclaim feminism. And Moran is successful as hell at that.

    I have already had more conversations about women and feminism, in the week since I picked this book up than I have in the last several months- and I study gender in literature! I have read countless portions of her book out loud to my sister, my husband, and my friends. I have quoted Moran in emails and discussions and have a line up of women waiting for their turn to borrow this book.

    Basically, what I am saying is this: While this book may not “change your life,” while this book may tell you things you already know, and while this book may piss you off, it’s the kind of read that stays with you and lights a fire in you, that makes you say, “Yes!” out loud, over and over again, as you read it. So if anything, it serves as a much needed reminder, and acknowledgment, of what women can and do experience, and validates the hell out of it.

    • Abi

      A friend of mine bought me this book a few months back and ever since I have been urging everyone I know to read it. I found it hilarious, It reminded me why I am a feminist and why blogs like a APW and a few others really resonate with me and get me excited Caitlin did for me was to remind me that there are still ways in which we can reclaim feminism.

      I must admit the chapter that resonated with me most was the ‘abortion’ chapter.
      I have had an abortion… I wasnt that young (22) I was with the man I am going to marry and I had left was an ‘accident’ so yes one of those “BAD ABORTIONS”

      When I read about her experiences and her feelings, about how she felt relief, that she knew it was the right thing for her, I was so glad to hear someone talking about it that a)didnt regret there decision b) that didnt feel guilt or angst and as such I was like ‘yes yes yes’ when reading this because for me she tapped in to a feeling that I hadnt really discussed i.e. guilt for not feeling guilty.

      I think that it is a shame that those on the ‘other-side’ feel that they cannot be part of feminist discussion and I dont think that pro-choice necessarly mean anti-feminist.

      However that part of feminism is that control over your own body is your right and as this is such a major part of feminist discussion, your rights inevitable come to the your right to have a child or not and so may put off those that have different views about this.

      I personally loved what Caitlin Moran said about whose life is more important? And for me that summed it up, because I think part of this having kids/not having kids debate should also be centred around that fact that some people just feel like they arent able to look after a child (for whatever reason) and as such, shouldnt.

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  • DA

    Im actually so grateful to Moran for writing this book. As a man I was beginning to feel, actually, that feminism had absolutely nothing to do with equality any more.
    When I was younger, in school, I would repeatedly sit through excruciating hours of lessons in which female (and sometimes male) teachers would regularly talk about the oppression of women throughout history with the slanted assumption that it was our fault.
    MY fault.
    I cant begin to describe how that feels, but its pretty much like being blamed for the slave trade because you’re white. Or British. It feels like you were born into a world that hates you. It feels like you were born into guilt.
    As I got older I felt those depressed feelings turn to anger. I began to feel real resentment towards so many of the women in my life, who would regularly and joyously recount anti-male sentiments. I even had a female friend describe her wishes of gendercide, to the amusement of the women in the immediate area. In that moment I felt truly sick, and wondered if there really was any hope for us as a species if two groups which are supposed to love each other are locked in a hate-filled cold war with each other.
    I recently posted a diatribe on facebook about this subject, and was told by one of my female friends that it is ‘so easy to hate men’. This woman, by the way, describes herself as a feminist. Moran could not be more right. That word has to either be reclaimed, or discarded as redundant.
    That being said, I now feel genuinely relieved to know that the ‘feminazis’ as they probably deserve to be described, do not at all represent the majority of feminists. Just reading the comments posted here actually made me feel as though a great burden was being lifted off my chest. As a person who feels sick to his stomach to think of someone being abused or humiliated for their gender, race, religon or nationality, I cannot describe how I feel towards those who promote the SCUM manifesto.
    So, thank you Caitlin. You said exactly what I wanted to hear a woman say, that there should not be a ‘fight’ between men and women. It is indeed thumbs up to the 6 (7) billion of us. Feminism should mean equality. Throwing in my two cents on that subject, I think feminism is a good word, provided it is reclaimed to mean equality, not supremacy. Supremacy is an idea we should have left behind long ago.

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