Do women want to be known as feminine? As possessing those traits unique to the female of the species?
Those I know personally do. Not all, of course, no matter sexual orientation, but most.
We like to get cute haircuts—the ones that flatter our faces.
We like to wear that new snazzy outfit—the one that flatters our figures.
We like to flirt, to put those feminine wiles into practice, and turn the heads of others—significant or someone we’ve just met.
We joy in giving love to those we love.
I know I do. It’s part and parcel of the fun aspects of being a girl, no matter one’s age.
Most of us (at least the women I know), also want to be known for our abilities, our strengths, our skills, our artistry in whatever craft or business we practice as well.
In other words, for who we are, as well as what we are.
Whether we’re stay-at-home moms or corporate executives (or any combination of everything in between), we want to be recognized for the jobs we do, which we do so well.
So, when did the desire for the former become at odds with the latter?
When did the idea of being both become anathema?
About the time women spread their wings to become fully fledged citizens of this country is when.
Back in the days of yore, when I was coming of age, the legal rights of women in this country were, well, filled with lots of holes. Here are just a few of the missing pieces for women, when I was growing up:
֎ Not until 1972 was single women's access to birth control legalized in all 50 states via The Supreme Court (in Baird v. Eisenstadt).
If you couldn’t even decide when to have children, your life was tricky, to say the least.
Now, if you’re a millennial, you might think that was ancient history. But for those of us of that era, ah! The terror of becoming pregnant was quite real. And since:
֎ The Supreme Court’s decision on Roe v. Wade, which protected a woman’s right to choose, didn’t happen until 1973, well, we were left in a bit of a box.
No available birth control, no access to abortion. Rest assured, teenage hormones ran every bit as strong then—just as from the dawning of mankind, until today . . .
But let’s take the actual sexual act out of it for a bit. I know, I know—people have quite strong emotions about that, especially a woman’s right to choose.
So let’s focus for a minute on the financial aspects:
֎ Until 1974, a woman couldn’t get a credit card in her own name, without a man’s signature.
The Equal Credit Opportunity Act of 1974 gave women that right. The law forced credit card companies to issue cards to women without a husband’s signature.
֎ In Texas anyway, in the ‘60s, a female couldn’t purchase her own home without a male relative’s signature.
I mean, think of that: You weren’t even free to buy your own place to live, no matter how much money you had.
Attorney Sara Weddington, the lawyer who successfully litigated Roe v. Wade before the Supreme Court, said one of the reasons she got into activist law was that once she had graduated from law school, mind you, and tried to buy a house in 1960s Austin, by law she couldn’t borrow the money without a male relative’s signature. This was in the ‘60s! I was coming of age then.
Ancient history, some might say.
But everything brings us back to the legal differences in the sexes, no?
֎ Income disparity. In 2015, women made 80 cents to a man’s dollar—in the same job.
So, it’s kinda difficult to take sex out of this, no? So back to it and some inconvenient truths on this subject:
֎ Legally, you couldn’t decide not to have sex with your husband, if he wanted to. Hopefully, you married a great guy! But with spousal abuse being what it is . . .
Spousal rape wasn’t criminalized in all 50 states until 1993.
֎ Until this very year (2016), you could not keep your husband, who had been convicted of spousal abuse, from owning a gun. The US Supreme Court decided Voisine v. United States this very year. So even if he beat you, and your children, the gun stayed. Until this very year.
We could go on with these facts.
A movement began in the ‘60s, carrying into the ‘70s and obviously beyond, to claim the same legal rights for women as men received.
And oh, were the women on the forefront of that movement chastised! For being man haters. For being bitter and unfulfilled (and yep, ‘unfulfilled’ in this instance meant exactly what you might have guessed—sexually frustrated).
The idea being that only unhappy, man-less, those poisoned with unrequited loveless, lonely lives would fight for their own rights.
That by doing so, they jeopardized the Norman Rockwell vision of the family structure.
This continued on, and indeed—still goes on today. A seminal fact bears repeating, as it affects us all: In 2015, female full-time workers made only 80 cents for every dollar earned by men, a gender wage gap of 20 percent.
I mean I don’t know about you, but that just isn’t fair.
Yet, those trying to change things are still chastised. The term ‘feminist’ virtually began carrying with it that negative connotation. Funny enough, it still does today.
I can’t tell you how often I hear a female espouse bits and pieces (if not all) of the above, and then when I ask, “Are you a feminist?” The answer is, “Oh, no! I love men.”
As if one precludes the other.
Because if you’re for autonomy (over your life and your body), for making the same wage, for, well, the same rights as men have, you’re pushed into that vat of man-hating witches.
Even as we speak, folks like Rush Limbaugh rail against ‘femi-nazies,’ as he calls them.
Amazing though, isn’t it, when you dissect all of this?
What if you’re just a regular female, who wants a nice relationship or marriage or family (or not), and to have work she loves, and be compensated in the same manner as a male? To be able to buy her own home, to not be raped by her husband, to have access to birth control, to have autonomy over her own body?
Are you a man-hater for wanting this? For speaking up about it? God forbid, for working to receive equal pay?
I am a feminist. Limbaugh and that ilk can launch all the insults they want at me. I’m still a feminist. I believe women deserve the same rights as men—in all aspects.
And I love being female, being feminine. I like men—a lot. Lol. But isn’t it interesting that I feel the need to qualify that here?
Something tells me I’m not alone in being both.
So tell me, how did we get so far afield, and more importantly, how do we get back to what these terms really mean?
Award-winning writer and editor Susan Mary Malone is the author of the novels, "I Just Came Here to Dance" and "By the Book," as well as four co-authored nonfiction books, including "What’s Wrong with My Family?" and many published short stories. Forty-plus Malone-edited books have now sold to traditional publishers.