Feminism and Overcompensating

24 08 2012

When you’re driving down the road, you suddenly notice a turtle. You’re going too fast to have noticed it this late. You have to make a quick choice. Can you swerve to avoid it? Will you be forced to run over it? If you over-correct, you wind up in a ditch. Will you end up sacrificing yourself in the process of trying to save something else?

When it comes to feminism, and maybe any other fight for equality, we had to prove we were just as good as any man. What that meant in a certain time and place was sort of shedding all that was typically isolated for women. This meant getting a job, demanding equal pay. It meant burning your bra. For some of us, it meant shunning make up and heels and skirts, and saying no to beauty regimens such as shaving our underarms and legs. It meant being a free traveler of the world, not tethered to home and kitchen. We became proud of our liberation, proud of not having to cook or clean. Proud of not having kids.

The baddest bitches can kick ass AND listen to their inner goddess. This is not an either/or equation, hard or soft, dominant or submissive. We are whole people, regardless of sex. Achieving that personal balance displays great knowledge of self. Be whatever you want to be, without limits.

We wanted to be taken seriously and had to show that we were capable in all ways of filling the same roles as men.

Because we were told what being a woman was– being a submissive domestic type, having children– we had to reject that on some level to rise.

But that doesn’t mean we can’t have our cake and eat it too. It’s a new day. While we still struggle with sexism in politics and some of the world around us, we’ve made many great strides and have more privilege than before. We do have biological drives and emotional wants, and it’s okay if we heed those.

We can’t deny our biology. It calls us to certain ways. Not all of us, not all of the time, but generally speaking it is there and we shouldn’t feel embarrassment to wish to honor it. It feels good for a reason. It helps us provide a balance and keep life flowing on this Earth. It’s both universal in concept and also not one-size-fits-all. There is a harmony and a balance that we often neglect in our quest to prove ourselves and be victorious. It is that which I lament, and not the degree to which a feminist is maternal. We don’t have to fight so hard to be honest with ourselves and others about who we are, is what I’m saying. Otherwise, all our fighting may be a symptom of an identity issue we are having (as individuals or as a people).

We don’t have to overcompensate or over-correct in the same way we used to. We needed desperately to dodge something to a degree that no longer makes sense for our place and time. This time, if we over-correct in the middle of the road, it could do us in.

Instead of mocking it, we need to encourage naturalism and following one’s drives. It’s in our hearts and in our survival.

If your drive is to be at home and breastfeed and raise children, to bake bread, and to sew,  how can we shame women for that? How can we guilt them by relaying that they are not successful females because they have no career or “ambition”? What if their ambitions are much more earthy than what we have labeled “achievement”?

At the same time, if a woman genuinely has no interest in babies and home-making and frilly dresses and other stereotypically-female things, the path paved by so-called radical feminism should allow her to do that with more freedom than before, and more power to her.

If a woman wants to make money and have a family, she can balance that in any number of ways, and should do it in whichever way sits best with her soul.

Sexism, to me, is about telling a gender what they have to do. Overcompensating, to me, is taking your goal so far that you don’t recognize when you’ve hit a certain tier that allows for more relaxation… suddenly they’ve got you overgeneralizing your own sex. They’ve got you warring with your own sex. Suddenly you’ve become the thing you hate.

We see this in natural birth arguments. Some people feel that the woman-as-a-goddess archetype circulated by natural birth advocates– especially those who are male– is sexist. They think it’s to get women to take the pain, almost as if she deserves it in their eyes. That it is the male dominant point of view to deny women pain relief as some mastermind plot to keep them in their place falls short. Why?

Because the reverse happens. Most women experiencing a truly natural birth have an awakening, empowering experience. It is a fulfillment of something that perhaps cannot be explained properly in words. When they reject the drugged experience and are able to have their own birth, they realize a power unlike any other force on this planet. For some, it is transcendent. They are truly like gods or goddesses of creation, more powerful than anything, including any man. When you believe you know more than and can achieve a miracle beyond that of a man singing your praises, I think that is worlds less sexist than someone (even if they are female) telling me I can’t do it on my own. A belief in me that I have personally watched live up to its hype is unmatched, true, and full of reverence. To not have that faith in me and what resulted was condescending, patronizing, dehumanizing, and damaging. Take your pick.

The woman’s biological rite of passage is denied when we manage her birth needlessly. When we offer “mercy” as the default for every birth, when we tell her just how it’s going to be, we’ve infantilized her and taken her authority and power. When her biological process of labor is disrupted with chemicals and an unnatural environment, her body may become confused on a biological level. You can chalk it up to oxytocin reduction, but it’s probably more complex than that…

Accusing people who believe in not jumping to the epidural of sexism for lack of mercy would be like if there were a pill for stopping your period forever, and you accused people who were against that of being sexist.

What, like we can’t handle our periods (or birth)? Like we are just poor little babies that always need a big strong man to rescue us? Like we are so desperate for you to stop what our biology has been waiting for that you want us to ignore all the side effects and potential damage your “remedy” may cause?

If you stopped a woman from menstruating out of “mercy”, I can guarantee her body would feel confused. It would show signs of hormonal changes, and she may feel out of balance in a variety of ways. Suppressing a natural biological function because you are impatient or it is an inconvenience will undoubtedly have some sort of consequence which may outweigh whatever good you think your cure has attained. The connection between brain and body is undeniable. It is not feminist to hate natural birth, and the psychological impact is heavy on our society and on womankind. By denying what we are made of is not feminist, not politically correct, not scientific. It is medical male domination– the antithesis of the movement. It is overcompensating, over-correcting. There does come a time in the day when it is safe to put the torch down and reflect and ponder our next move, and that time is upon us now.

You’ll know feminism is working when we are able to come full circle and fulfill biological maternal drives while being considered just as successful and legitimate as any man going to work in an office for a paycheck.

Success should be determined by the level of personal satisfaction one feels in their life status or pursuits, regardless of gender identification. Success is to be determined by whether one is following their heart and achieving their individual purpose, not their duty or obligation by gender. It comes from a felt connection between body, mind, soul, and heart. Take one out of the equation and you have a confused person, throwing stones at reflections of themselves.

Over-correcting in feminism reminds me a lot of the overcompensation in midwifery. It’s almost the same thing. Man came in and dominated with obstetrics, called midwifery folk-stuff and charlatanism. Then midwives fought, and fought, and fought to be as professional as they could be, to be respected. In order to become more respected and prove themselves, they had to show more and more that they had medical aptitude, to be taken seriously and not viewed as witches. The next thing you know, midwives are doing the same things as doctors– same procedures, same policies, same standards and adopting the same outlooks on birth: totally clinical. Suddenly you’re not the same thing you were fighting for anymore. You fought so hard to be equal that you lost touch with the initial calling. To not heed that is no success for your kind, it’s the success of the dominant. In this case, that would be males or medicine, but it’s a system, and not you, and not your femininity. It doesn’t honor or trust your body or wisdom… it still condescends that you need them and are in essence inferior.

In our fights for freedom, we mustn’t lose ourselves. Keep tabs on it, keep in touch. You can be a radical feminist and a homemaker at the same time. You can be a real midwife without being a doctor.



4 responses

6 09 2012
yseult la freniere

Feminism has always been about *choice*. Choose to have a career, or stay home, or do both, or something else entirely is the essence of liberation.

It wasn’t right to degrade traditional skills associated with women, but I’m not sure that wasn’t more the media than any individual feminist thinker I know about (and I’ve been following feminism for a long time). Even so, I associate that with growing pains of a new movement discovering its identity. Women were really coming out of several millenniums of darkness and oppression, and it is of little wonder that it took a while for the feminist movement to gather its bearings. I agree with you that we have evolved into a new phase.

Degrading traditional skills associated with women was, unfortunately, aiding and abetting the patriarchy. It is, in Riane Eisler’s terms, dominator mentality rather than partnership mentality. In a partnership society, we value the nurturers, the caregivers, the people who–regardless of sex or gender–make a society whole and healthy and worth living in.

1 12 2012

As a feminist, I’m surprised to see other women calling themselves as such being so blatantly anti-science. The idea that there’s some mystical goddess being waiting to be released through extreme pain is pure fantasy – It’s biological essentialism and it takes some special rhetorical gymnastics to spin that as feminism. there’s nothing special or noble about labour pain.

Science is fact, whether you find it inconvenient or not. Science is not male, and implying that there’s some viable, magical alternative to it created by womym and squashed by the patriarchy is a huge insult to female scientists and feminists in general. Stop making us look like idiots – mainstream society already thinks that we are deluded and out of touch with reality.

This sort of thinking needs to be put down along with creationism, the people who think 9/11 was an inside job, and all the other conspiracy theories.

1 12 2012
♥♂►Elizabeth, ISOTP Birth◄♀♥

You can label yourself a “feminist” all you want, but when you ignore the history of the medical field and specifically maternity, specifically in America, over the last couple of centuries, you aren’t doing women any favors. To you, feminist simply means holding the same jobs and wearing the same coats. I don’t care who can play a part. That’s for puppets. My idea of what feminist is transcends that.

If you want to think that there is nothing mystical in life, or that we don’t have any “magical” qualities, that is your CHOICE. Science fact is stranger than fiction, so I don’t need to fabricate or embellish. The truth is, we don’t know everything there is to know about science. What we DO know is the beginning of how the brain and body work together. Those things aren’t “magical”, they’re science. The primal mind during labor is science. Mammalian physiology is science. 2/3 of OB/GYN guidelines are NOT based on science… and you dare to align yourself with current authority in the name of Science? That’s science “blasphemy”.

Our nature in labor is what I am interested in others acknowledging. It calls back to something in our ancestral past, which is also history. You are an animal, I am an animal. Asking us to forsake that in lieu of man-made “science”, as if technology helped us rise above our own animal needs and nature… THAT is the magical thinking. You’d rather believe some shiny pill has everything you need to escape the condition you are in, rather than finding a way to cooperate with nature. It’s about ownership.

Real feminists have open minds. Real feminists know their power is beyond 21st century habits. In 200 years no one will give a shit that you were “just like them” (men) in whatever position, if that position was wrong. What you spout is closed, final, absolute, and thinks it is advanced. And it blindly follows. It ignores the animal science behind what we are and where we come from. That’s more akin to creationism than my beliefs. It’s denial. You can have religious denial, or you can have occupational/professional denial, or societal and cultural denial… but if you are ignoring history and science for status, it’s still Denial.

Feminists concerned with status over fact are sellouts.

2 12 2012
You Might Not Be a Feminist If… « theperfectbirth

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