I read (and finished) my first feminist novel yesterday. It was called “Herland” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. I read it as part of my fantasy and science fiction literature class on Coursera. I would consider it a fantasy novel, I suppose, in that it explores a rather untapped world.
This blog post isn’t really about that novel though.
This blog post is about my understanding of feminism and why it’s not really 100% for me. I will, however, take a detour for a moment to describe how I felt about the book.
What I really enjoyed about it was the refreshing take on women characters. They aren’t romantic or really very “feminine” at all, but they aren’t masculine either. I’m not sure if I’ve ever really read something where a non-feminine female character wasn’t simply the exception. But, this story has a limited view of both feminism and women in general. The author kind of assumes that all the women would be exactly the same type of person, which makes sense in this book, but is not very applicable elsewhere.
Now to the point.
My understanding of feminism is this: you have two types of so-called “feminists.” There are the true feminists, which are really more like “equalists.” They want, essentially, equality for men and women, and for a long time that has meant breaking the gender expectations for women, which is why it is called “feminism” in the first place.
Then you have those who are misandrists (male-hating) or some variation of female idolizers (such as “women are superior” or “women must be this way”). As far as I know, this isn’t real feminism and is more just a common misconception of it.
It’s safe to say that true feminism, as I understand it, is actually a pretty noble cause. And fake feminism is pretty awful.
But… I still wouldn’t consider myself a true feminist.
Yes, I do support the idea that men and women should be equal, especially when it comes to politics. It’s clear that we are all individuals with different capabilities and both women and men have a lot to offer the world. And yes, I do support the idea that women should not be limited by gender expectations or stereotypes. I also believe the same for men.
We are all unique, and it has almost nothing to do with gender. Or any circumstances of our birth, for that matter.
So should we be equal? Well, yeah, technically. But, we’re not. And that’s actually a triumph in a lot of ways.
It’s scientifically proven that men and women are not only physically different, but we think differently. We operate our bodies and our minds differently, because we aren’t the same. The fact that some scientist have been surprised to find concrete evidence of our differences is actually kind of silly to me, because it’s common sense.
We’ve always known we are different. That doesn’t mean men get to be the only ones who are competitive and daring and strong. It doesn’t mean women are the only ones who get to be kind and gentle and caring. It just means that men will more often fit, and be expected to fit, the latter and women the former.
And because I’m cool with that, I guess I’m not really feminist.
I think I’d be a lot more confused about it if I didn’t have God or the Bible as my ultimate authority. The Bible talks about gender expectations a lot. A feminist nightmare. But you know, when you believe everyone was created with a purpose, and that they have their own set of struggles that might even compete with the way they were born, it’s not all that hard to accept that men and women are different and that they should be different.
But we are equal in one thing: God’s love.
God sees us as souls. He sees us as His children, equally worthy of his love.
In the words of C.S. Lewis: I am a soul, and I have a body. My body doesn’t define my place in God’s kingdom, but it does act as a guide in this life. It is important in understanding the truths that God has given us, but it isn’t a determining factor in where I will end up.
So I guess, in the context of my religious understanding, it is possible to be both different and equal. It is possible to count differences in gender expectations as both important and not important.
That got a little deeper than I intended, but my hope is that it makes even a little bit of sense to someone else.
If not, whatever. I’m just a girl with a lot of time on her hands.