Friday, August 17, 2012

Further down the rabbit hole: Gender & Success- Comment Edition

I received a comment on my most recent post this morning and I began witing a response. Before I noticed I'd ended up with 700wds and 2 hours had passed. Clearly this was of some importance.

Comment from previous article says

Personally, I find it frustrating that you assume the choice is between compromise your feminist values / live off benefits.

Financial independence is a feminist goal because if you do not have your own money, you are dependent on whether or not someone else will be 'nice' to you; which usually (and in the case of my own parents) means placating a man to support you, regardless of his behaviour. 

I am a manager in an internet company. I wear smart-casual clothing and makeup if I want, or not if I don't. I am attaining, rather than compromising, my feminist values, because if my partner left me tomorrow, I could survive easily. This makes our relationship more equal and makes me feel safer. 

I have found, that women who do not work, or are able to work part time, are *far* more likely to shame women who want / have to work full time. I think this is a class issue. 

My response:

Two of my previous articles detail my feelings about dependence & specifically gendered dependence shaming:

The work I've chosen to devote my life to (writing & activism) rarely pays the bills. It sometimes pays for coffee. I work side jobs when/if I can get them. I am all-but-entirely financially dependent on my partner. This might make you think I am a lazy freeloader (I hope not). But does this make me less feminist? or less likely to leave my partner? I don't think so. I don't placate my partner to gain his support, he pays for us because we are a family. It is TOUGH not to feel pressured or guilty about this. I try very hard to keep my sense of independence from being defined by my economic status. 

Sounds like you do tie your feelings of independence to your economic status. I don't agree with this but I don't think it's a bad thing. I am glad that you are able to find & maintain empowerment in this way (WOOT). But for women who are straight up denied access financial independence (like say teen/very young mothers, disabled women) other nontraditional/non-capitalist avenues to empowerment & independence are needed. It belittles their efforts to tell such women that they will never be truly powerful unless they attain financial independence. (which I don't think you're saying, but is often the implication if women are told to sacrifice their identities to "get ahead" as I see Lady Coders doing)

I don't assume that the choice that you identify as so frustrating is the choice all women must make, but I think it IS the reality for many women (& other oppressed folks). My experience is not everybody's, but I chose to accept the financial benefits my partner offers & do work I find most important, instead of working 40hrs in a shit pay job that fails to nourish my passions. It heartens me so much to hear that you didn't have to make that choice. I am, to be fully honest, actually a bit jealous of that because it was a choice I wish I didn't have to make, but based on my chosen profession, one that was necessary. Also semantics: The choice I meant to draw out & identify as false was the choice between professional success & feminism. Which I think you & I are on the same page about already. (apologies if I was unclear or insinuating otherwise)

I totally agree that many women (& others, namely male partners & churches) DO disparage women who choose to work long days outside of the home. They're shamed for being terrible mothers or not being invested enough in their families or femininity. This IS a class issue because the overarching goal of this shame is to keep women less economically powerful.

In that vein I am thrilled to hear that you (a woman & feminist!) have gained financial success (despite all the horrific shit described above). But you, one woman, earning the privilege of financial success personally does nothing to ensure that other women will find it any easier/doable than you did. Your personal success is not inherently feminist; personal success is not revolution. 

Now I bet, as a feminist, you want more women & women's ideas in your field. I bet you encourage other women in your profession. These are feminist actions/ideas; They are helping other women gain more power. Without goals framed towards furthering women as a whole, women who do find success are often easily tokenized & even disdain the kind of work & success other women attain or fail to attain. Without feminist action/ideas successes of individual women play right into misogyny's hands. (ugh, didn't mean for that so sound so spooky-scary)

This is a messy complex issue. Thanks for voicing your frustration. It inspired me to to slog through & solidify a bunch of things I was previously unclear about.

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