Recently, I stumbled upon The Thinking Housewife, a conservative-minded anti-feminist blog with a name so ironic, it hurts. Operated by one Laura Wood, the content of this corner of the web ranges from archaic (“Is College Necessary for Women?“) to downright ridiculous (“Feminism is a movement among men, to indulge women with more authority in the determination of public life”). Through the din of negativity and mind-boggling ignorance, I found a recent post that was not written by Wood, but by one of her readers. In it, the reader explains that her 17-year-old sister received a poor grade on an essay in a class on feminism, supposedly because she expressed views contrary to those of her teacher. Prompted by the semester’s topic, “Gender Oppression in the Modern Age: Is Feminism Still Viable in Modern Society?,” her essay concluded:
…I understand when I hear it said that feminism is no longer viable. I understand when I see that I have to wear tiny skirts and publicly visible underwear to reclaim my sexuality… I understand when I see women stuffed into business suits, irritably peeling the clinging fingers of their wailing children from their pinstriped skirts and ushering them into the waiting arms of daycare staff… I understand that feminism has no place in my life.
Both the student’s mother and the commenters on the article seemed to think that the poor grade was a personal injustice perpetrated because the girl dared to oppose the “teacher’s viewpoint.” They praise the girl for her good sense and accuse secondary education of being an “indoctrination machine”:
After extensive research on the subject (said ‘research’ being mostly whining about the poor, poor women), each student was to write an essay discussing in detail the subject, and what it means to her personally… As my sister has had a traditional upbringing… hers was by far the most interesting, most honest, and, of course, the lowest marked essay of the class. The teacher went so far to suggest that she have ‘catchup’ classes to better comprehend the topic.
Unfortunately, what this student and her supporters failed to divine is that the low grade most likely wasn’t given because the professor was offended by a 17-year-old’s point of view, but because the essay fails to fulfill both the criteria of the assignment and standard expectations for writing mechanics and essay structure at that grade level. Although compelling in language, it has no thesis statement, houses no facts, and neglects to offer even the slightest bit of objectivity in its description of the movement it so vehemently denounces. In a course whose purpose is the discussion of feminism and gender issues, Lucy Cat’s essay is tantamount to taking a class on the culture of Islam and submitting a paper describing the faith as a monstrous conduit of hate and jihad. It’s ridiculous.
Most importantly, it is obvious that she lacks any grasp of what feminism actually entails. She lists endless examples of what she apparently believes it to require: dressing provocatively to “reclaim sexuality,” dancing “like a stripper,” “children eating canned soup alone because Mommy is working late,” and “the downtrodden man” who is the victim of an independent wife’s lifestyle. But the purpose of feminism is not to mandate women to abandon their families, or to enforce a dress code, but to promote the shocking notion that women are individuals capable and deserving of making their own choices. For some, yes, this may mean business suits and long work hours- but they are no more villainous for that than any man who makes the same choice.
In the first half of her essay, it seems like she really gets it. “I understand [oppression] when I read of complaints that women are told how to act to be accepted, and I hate it,” she writes. Unfortunately, she fails to see that she is part of the oppression she rails against. Her judgment against working women, women in the military, women who don’t look feminine enough for her convenience, and even girls who want to play football, is scathing, ignorant, and more aggressively oppressive than any career path or wardrobe choice.
She cries that “Barely a day goes by when [she is] not oppressed, suffocated, smothered and pinned under a stifling oppression,” but she’s not the one being told to leave her job, abandon her personal preferences, passions, and opinions, and forsake her individuality for the sake of a being accepted by a system.