Looking at semantics and think that “feminism” was really the wrong word in the first place. The supposed “feminist” movement seems to have been a process of women denying the female aspects of self and taking on masculine ways of being (well doing actually) within the world- in order to be “as good as men”. To prove they could work as hard, as fast and as long in the same ways as men- and thus “earn” their right to equal pay, equal politics and their own “freedom” of life.
Actually the model that was presented to us was everything to do with women being “masculinised”- taking on the (stereotypically) male methods of DOING, ACTION, FORCE, WILL and the desire to WIN and SUCEEED
I grew up an uber-Thatcher product: private girls school educated in the home counties in the 1980’s. We were taught that you can have (earn/buy) anything you wanted- career, home, BMW…… To do this you just had be a feminist – read as women taking on as many masculine values and ways of being as possible and denying everything else as spineless. I took it as truth and ,after university, I headed off to deliver 80ft Americas cup sailing yachts around Australia for a living- pulled up anchors, climbed masts and sailed as fast and as hard as any guy in this male-led industry could.. I toughened up an “manned- up” – trekking to Everest base camp, run several businesses, bought my own home, and learned to develop some kind of focused intellectual rigor that means I can “hold my own” in most situations.
No one at school ever mentioned the value of the nurturing female qualities- of the gift from the loving and soft feminine. The implicit undercurrent was so strong that staying at home and having a family was a complete “waste” of your life when there’s so much else you could be DOING. I took it on unquestioningly and lived a wide, feisty, fabulous, fiercely free (and occasionally feral and unshaven) life accordingly. Then BAM- those pre- 30’s hormones hit and I started questioning if all of the things I had wanted were ever true for me in the first place.. maybe I don’t want to “hold my own” all the time and actually what I really want ( at least some of the time) is just to be held. Owning the possibility that maybe I wanted to have a child, a family and be supported by a partner to be a woman in that felt like a dirty secret- and there’s been a literal “coming out process” of daring to speak these yearnings within my life. And yes, a desire to be valued for BEING (as well as doing) and to inhabit and embody the exquisite and extraordinary gifts that the feminine can bring.
A few years on from being forcefully awakened to these questions by my hormones I feel like I’m having to re-question and re-invent what it means to be a woman and what I want equal rights ( and my life) to look like. Luckily I’m surrounded by a good group of fine and feisty ( and sometimes feeling -full and fearful) woman and men who are questioning these things and setting out to change ( or is it be changed?) by what is so.
Yes, I still want equal pay, equal thought and my freedom– but I’m interested in a society where I can be rewarded for living from my feminine qualities and values as well. I’d like to be successful, rational AND intuitive; Tender, nurturing AND competent. To be supported in having a family and still be able to think for myself!
I find myself reading David Deida on enhancing the (supposedly stereotypical) qualities of each gender loving it. Owning the yearning for more of the polarization between masculine and feminine. I’m willing to reclaim the part of me that wants to be deeply woman, to be feminine, light, radiant and lean into some form of support from another (and yes- to let men lift the heavy stuff…) Wanting to inhabit the part that is guided deeply by my feelings not from a place of neurosis but from a place of they serve me best to live a full, present and empowered life. I’m starting to be certain of the fact that “feminine” values may indeed be a beautiful gift and not actually a weakness to be overcome as was so strongly hinted at in those 80’s girl schools.
It strikes me that, with hindsight, the early feminist movement perhaps should have actually been called something closer to “masculanisation of women” and only now are we ready to start questioning want true “feminism” actually could be: How can women live their life with potency from their feminine qualities ( as opposed to being Thatcher style male impersonators) and to consider that may actually be the most useful and aspiring gift that we can bring to our lives as humans on the planet toady. To nurture life and listening, to support others in growth and change, to be fertile and fecund in all ways, to foster life itself in all forms……. It feels strikingly clear to me that now is the time to put the “female” back in feminism.