My mother is a feminist. A die-hard, take no prisoners, true-blue feminist. Armed
with a hard-won PhD., she has made her life's work the counselling of the transgendered,
the gay and the sexually confused. Honest work in which she is passionately invested.
The only fly in the ointment is me, her conservative daughter.
I am as passionate a conservative as my mother is a feminist. It's hard to imagine
two more diametrically opposing viewpoints. I view the current state of feminism
as doing more harm than good. As undermining the traditional and family values that
I consider the backbone of our country. On the other hand, my mother considers conservative
values as outdated, invalid, and as having absolutely no intrinsic value.
I understand how mom came to be such an ardent feminist. Though I thoroughly disagree
with her views, I respect and admire the courage and sacrifices she made in attaining
She got pregnant at age 16. Back then, abortion wasn't available on demand and the
concept of shame still governed, which left the option of marriage. She dropped
out of high school and got married. She had my sister, Bonnie, followed by Mickey,
and then myself. All within a span of three years. She found herself at age 20 with
three babies and a husband in the military.
Fast forward twelve years. The three children have become five and her husband has
turned out to be a wife-beater. Tough spot. Enough to discourage the best of us.
She found herself without a high school degree or any job skills, saddled with five
children and totally dependant on the whims of an increasingly violent man. Pretty
hopeless. Not unlike many women of her generation in the mid 60's.
Along came feminism. The message resonated. How could it not? The budding women's
movement validated women like my mother. It gave them hope that they, too, were
individuals, capable of managing life as well as men. Capable of managing life without
She divorced my father and got a job working as a waitress. She got her GED and
then enrolled in college. All the while, managing to support and sustain her five
children. By the luck of the draw, mom attended Antioch college in Ohio, now recognised
as one of the most liberal of all colleges, thoroughly steeped in the nascent "progressive"
movement. Mom took their message and teachings to heart.
Against great odds, my mother prevailed. She ended up with a PhD. and a worldview
that understandably included a resentment of men. Not much different from other
feminists of her time. The feminists that now represent "feminism".
Unfortunately, the mindset of most feminists today do not allow conflicting points
of views to upset their hard-won worldview. In my experience, challenging any facet
of feminism is taken as a personal attack. When what one thinks becomes what one
is, it's human nature to interpret dissenting views as a personal attack.
Politics have become personal. To challenge the worldview of a conservative, a gay
person, a feminist or any other "group" is considered a direct attack on not only
the validity of the particular view, but an attack on the person holding them. Invalidate
their views and you invalidate them. You invalidate their struggle, their sacrifices,
their self esteem. You invalidate them. No wonder dissent isn't welcome.
The core tenets of feminism have changed dramatically from the good old days when
Gloria Steinam led the charge for equal rights for women. The days when the National
Organisation of Women actually represented the goals of the average woman. Feminism
has evolved. So has my mother. The chasm between mother and daughter has widened.
When she looks at me, she sees a conservative and wonders where she failed. When
I look at her, I see her confusion and take it personally.
Having a feminist mother has forced me to make a genuine effort to try to understand
a mindset totally at odds with my own. I now try understand the underpinnings of
other views, the anti-American, Bush lied, 9-11 was an inside job type of view.
Instead of writing these guys off as nut-cases, as my mother does me, I've found
that it's more productive to try to understand how one came to adopt what I consider
such a radical mindset. Some times I am successful. Most times I am not. But I try.
My situation is not unlike that of many Americans these days. The war in Iraq, the
increasing divide between red and blue states and the ongoing culture war is affecting
many of us on a very personal level. Social interactions are increasingly defined
by one's views instead of one's character. This is affecting families, marriages,
business relationships and society as a whole. And not for the better.
It's ever so easy to point out problems. It's easy being a social critic, decrying
this or that while gaining points for being insightful. It's far harder to offer
a remedy. My personal view dictates that I don't have the right to criticise something
unless I can offer a constructive solution. I'm sorry to say, with regards to my
mother, who I love and respect, I have no solution to offer.
My mother and I don't communicate anymore. We've failed to turn understanding into
acceptance. I only hope others can learn what we have not - to communicate with
loved ones and not let ideology rule your feelings towards them. I hope others can
do what my mother and I cannot - concentrate on all our commonalties instead of
focusing only on the things that divide us. I hope America can do the same.
She lives in South Carolina