After reading Giovanna Bernardo’s piece, and both of the columns that responded to it, I have to ask: where did my choice go? According to Bernardo, I’m supposed to make family my first priority and according to Molly McGrath and Macon Fessenden I should be focusing on my career and education. No one asked me.
Bernardo’s assertions about how a woman’s purpose “should” be child rearing are certainly more harmful than those espoused by Fessenden and McGrath, because they reinforce historic oppression of women. However, all of these columns still tell women what they “should” be doing. Dismantling the patriarchy, which is the purpose of feminism, is all about eliminating restrictions on gender expression for everyone. (By the way, don’t scoff at the label – the definition of a feminist is a person who thinks men and women are equals, and should be treated as such).
This means women who want to dedicate their lives to raising a family should receive the same amount of scorn as women who choose to focus on their careers, which is none. This also means, as McGrath aptly points out, that society should respect stay-at-home dads just as much as male breadwinners. The patriarchy under which American society operates keeps this from happening. The patriarchy tells you what you “should” be doing based on your biological gender (for the purpose of saving space, I can’t get into the problems that people who do not fit into the gender binary face, but they are huge and deserve our attention). So, in order to get away from this destructive societal structure, we need to stop telling people that what’s in their pants means anything to who they are or what their goals should be.
While we’re on the subject of misplaced judgment, we need to talk about an issue that is unique to the oppression of women: slut-shaming. Fessenden’s comments about a “respectable” girl, versus a girl wearing a mini skirt at the Rat are unacceptable. Although he tries to save himself by saying that those could be the same girl, his first statement has dangerous implications. The way a woman dresses is never indicative of her worth. The amount of sexual partners a woman has had is never indicative of her worth. This assertion plays into the rape culture that tells women it is their job not to get sexually harassed or raped, instead of telling men that they should not sexually harass or rape women.
The bottom line is that we should all be able to set our goals independently of the gender with which we identify. We should not judge others based on how they express their gender identities. It’s your life and the purpose of college is whatever you want it to be!
History and Political Science
Class of 2014