Practicing Freedom Feminism

(Flickr / Leland Francisco)

(Flickr / Leland Francisco)

Imagine a stranger coming up to you and saying, “I’m not trying to insult you, but you’re ugly.” Wouldn’t you be upset?

The example may sound farfetched, but it’s exactly what two Baylor Lariat columnists have done over the past two weeks.

In her column (“Ring-by-spring stereotype goes both ways,”) Lariat staff writer Maleesa Johnson implores readers to “please do not read this [article] as me demeaning housewives,” but she then proceeds to do exactly that. She puts forth an unfounded generalization that “buried within most men at Baylor” is a “chauvinistic, old-fashioned expectation” that men don’t want women to have careers outside of the home. Claiming that these men “target” women for the purpose of “humble servitude,” Johnson cautions women to avoid these men “unless you enjoy making sandwiches.”

Her sentiments echoed those of Lariat arts and entertainment editor Taylor Griffin in her column (“Girls hoping for ring by spring should aim higher”) from the week before. Griffin thinks it is “utterly pathetic” that women get married before graduating, and she can’t understand how these women have any “self-worth in their professional life.” Griffin claims women who get married are “mostly airheads” anyway – yet another insult with absolutely no backing.

Beneath all this condescending language is the question begging to be asked – why can’t Johnson and Griffin let women decide what’s best for their own lives?

For some reason, these writers aim to tell all women exactly how they should live. Both of these columns essentially tell women that they are worthless if they get married before building a professional career.

A far better response would be to recognize that women are independent people, and they are fully capable of making their own decisions about their careers. If a woman (or a man for that matter) would rather work for a few years before getting married, that is a perfectly reasonable choice. But if a friend decides to get married in college, what right does Griffin have to tell her she has qualities that are “weak and degrading?”

Women are extraordinarily talented and successful in our society because of their intelligence, compassion, and work ethic. They don’t need to be told by someone else which life choices are best for them. They have the right to make such choices for themselves.

Christina Hoff Sommers, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, advocates a new kind of mindset – “freedom feminism.” Rather than declaring war between the sexes, as Johnson’s and Griffin’s columns do, Sommers recognizes that both men and women are valuable to society.

Sommers also recognizes that both women and men are capable of rational decision-making. Whether women choose to pursue a career or stay at home, Sommers feels no need to criticize those who make different choices. “Put simply, freedom feminism affirms for women what it affirms for everyone: dignity, fairness, and liberty,” she says.

It’s a concept we would do well to remember. Everyone in our society is different. We have different family backgrounds, financial constraints, dreams, goals, and talents.

This is exactly why a newspaper column is no place to tell women how dumb they are if they don’t live their life a certain way. What works for Johnson and Griffin might not be what works for their married friends.

Instead of prescribing a “one-size-fits-all” approach that attacks and belittles others with whom we disagree, perhaps we should make an effort to appreciate and understand the reasoning behind their decisions.

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25 responses to “Practicing Freedom Feminism

  1. Great critique Danny. You are right, at first she tries to play it off like she still respects housewives (and I was about to call you on it haha), but then follows it up at the end with: “Some males in search of wives at Baylor have certain expectations, and unless you enjoy making sandwiches, you may want to discuss those expectations before it’s too late.” As much as she says she respects her mom and housewives, her conclusion does not actually show she believes it. And not only did you critique, but you offered a great alternative. Well written. Also may I ad this article was another fine example of why more often than not the hastily written Lariat is worth more as kindling than as something to actually read.

    • Thanks so much for the comments. Glad you enjoyed it! My hope is that through all of my letters and responses, it at least causes them to think a little bit more before insulting people who don’t share their life plans.

  2. As a strong feminist myself I believe that these Baylor columnists were referring to the extreme amount of women who seek a Baylor education for the purpose of finding a husband within their four years here and whose primary goal is that instead of pursuing their education. We live in a society where women are to rise up and explore their education as a means to understand their freedom and liberation from the traditional oppressive nature of men. I encourage you to look into Mary Wolllstonecraft’s writing on education being a means for freedom and those columists intentions are more focused on women continuing theri education rather than discontinueing it to pursue a marriage.

    • I would recommend re-reading their columns. Rather than lauding the positives of education, they spent the majority of time criticizing and insulting those who chose to get married. If their main point was truly encouragement, they forgot to mention it.

      I would also submit to you that your premise is flawed – married people are not forsaking education! Married people are also very educated and intelligent, and are fully able to pursue fulfilling careers while married. I’ve heard from so many women who are able to graduate, pursue a career, and get married. Why force them into a box of what you supposedly deem “liberating”?

      • I would recommend re-re-re-reading their columns for accuracy Mr. Huizinga. Your out-of-context quotes represent a lack of intelligence or research your part and also hurt your credibility.

        • Also, both writers themselves looked over my column before it ran and had no serious objections about misquoting. So I would posit that they likely know their intended purpose better than you do.

          • I have refrained from saying anything about your column, but I couldn’t ignore this. Both columnists read your column before it was published. They were both mortified at how completely out of context their quotes were taken. So write what you believe is true, and interpret the columns how you wish, but to say that they had no serious objections about misquoting is completely untrue.

            • And my apologies for assuming, I was told before it ran that “they looked over it and were fine with it.” If they were truly “mortified,” I would have welcomed any opportunity for them to get in touch with me before it ran.

              My intent is not to misquote, but to inspire further thought. That’s why I’d love to dialogue further about which quotes were incorrect.

  3. This was a great article, and thanks for sharing it! As a female I would like to say that I personally don’t mind the “old fashioned” men who expect their wives to stay home instead of have their own career.

  4. I know many brilliant women (including my mother) who were married in college and also had rewarding careers. It isn’t an either/or type of thing.

  5. Awesome! I haven’t read those columns, but it does sound like there is some personal frustration or jealousy being worked out when someone dismisses others as “mostly airheads.” And I love that Hoff Sommers has such a subversive phrase, “freedom feminism.” It’s always nice to hold folks to their own ideals. I wonder if you’ll elicit a response!

    • We’ll see – and it does seem like they had some personal experience that colored their thoughts. Hopefully I was able to make them “consider again,” eh? :)

  6. Thanks for your thoughts Danny. This is well-stated and well-written. Your arguments are solid, and you exposed some shallow claims.
    I also believe that BOTH men and women are called to the nurturing and raising of a future generation in the home, and this is certainly no easy task! And one that certainly does not deserve to be belittled!
    I loved what you said: “both men and women are valuable to society.” And I know that our world is better because of the diversity and variety of gifts of others around me.
    Thanks again!

  7. Well said Danny! You are right. The root of feminism is to promote women’s rights and in theory this should include the right to be who we are and to live the way we choose. It seems as though some think that progress for women is only made by the path of diminishing the housewife sentiment and pushing for career success – but that just isn’t the case. All women can be strong, wonderful individuals whether they choose to marry early or not.

  8. Well-done! Just wondering, does the Baptist church you attend support ‘freedom feminism’ when it comes to serving in church office, especially preaching? Would the church leaders of your church support this article? Does the ‘snobbery’ opinion of Johnson come from reaction to what she perceives as lack of respect for career oriented women on campus? She appears to be lashing out in anger.

    • The church in Waco I attend certainly seems like it. We have many women as deacons for example, and we have women preach sometimes when our head pastor is gone.

      I can’t speak for whether they would support it or not, but I would say yes if I had to speculate. That being said, it is a bit of a different issue when you get into theological interpretations – not trying to bring up that point here at all.

      And I’m not sure – Johnson seems to be very angry. On the contrary, there seems to be a lack of respect for “ring by spring” girls, as evidenced by the column. Perhaps she had a personal experience that made her judge all men a certain way.

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