Broken Daughters

Picking up the shattered glass of fundamentalism

What is feminism to me?


I recently read a rage-filled fundamentalist post on women’s right to vote (and that women should not have that right) and I secretly thanked feminism for allowing me to be an individual in this society – or any society really.

So what does feminism mean to me? Does it mean “Yay I get to wear pants”? Sure, but that’s really just a side-joke.

It means my husband cannot quit MY job when he thinks I don’t do enough housework. He does not have the ability to cage me at the home and to rob me of my means to make money both for me and for my children (and potentially for him). It means that I will not suffer from the fact that I have no job experience, resulting in the fact that I have only two life choices: Divorce and poverty, or an unhappy marriage. It gives me the security that I have abilities which people are willing to pay money for.

It also means that I can get higher education. I can study at university in order to improve my market value and in order to improve my knowledge. It gives me a chance to decide what and who I want to be. It gives me the security that when everything is lost, my education will still be there.

It means that I can vote. I can vote for the candidate with the best program, the greatest vision, who shares my opinion or, yes, the candidate I find physically attractive. That’s how it is. It means that my opinion will count even if my justification for these opinions is based on superficial issues like looks. I’m not saying this is a good call, but that’s how it is: You cannot chose whether you like an opinion or not, you’ll have to live with others having them.

It means also that I can own things, buy things, make contracts and be a liable person by law. I do not disappear in the existence of my husband once I say “I do”. I am still allowed to exist as a person of my own. This is why I despise people who say things like “Mr and Mrs John Smith”. There is no Mrs John Smith. There might be Mrs Jane Smith.

Feminism means that my body is mine and nobody else’s. Not my husband’s. Not my child’s. MINE. I can do with it as I please. I can pierce it, draw on it, take it where ever I want. I can sleep with whom I want, at any time, or not. It protects me from being raped by my husband without appropriate punishment. It protects me from being forced to do things I do not want to do.

Feminism in its core gives me individuality at the core. It makes me a person with dreams, rights and a future. Feminism makes me human. It makes me – me, just as I want myself to be.

When the patriarchs express that feminism is evil, it is not the feminism they hate. It’s not the pants and the rights they hate. It is precisely the individuality.

Fundamentalist christianity cannot survive in an environment where there is individuality. Everybody must conform to rules and values for it to work. Everybody must submit, men and women alike. Those who do not submit are those who risk the system. Kids who talk back. Women who work. Men who have feelings. Individuals outside that perfect, Pearl-esque set of rules. Conform or be damned. Conform or suffer. Conform or die. Individuality? Uncheck that box as soon as possible. Die to yourself and move the remaining empty shell by the rules of the great puppet-master. Get on the stage and play your role, and by all means, hope it’s over soon.

I am here, reading, writing, thinking. Not because of anything the patriarchs did but because of something the feminists did. They made me what I am today. Thank you for that.


8 thoughts on “What is feminism to me?

  1. oooooooh, good point about fundamentalism not surviving in an individual society. I never thought about it quite like that.

  2. I read this article yesterday, liked it a lot, but nvertheless I couldn’t stop chewing on it. And this morning, on my way to the supermarket I suddenly got what doesn’t sit right with me about this.

    I think of myself as of a feminist, burt if you’d ask me to declare what I want for woman in an “ideal society” I wouldn’t name the things you spoke about here, but things like equal chances and payment in every job and – as long as there aren’t enough women in leading positions quotas. I’d name things like easy and affordable ways to become informed and supplied with contraceptives; the opportunity to decide and to get an abortion (in the very early stages of a pregnancy) without needing to run from here to there and back again and such things. That’s feminism for me.

    The things you name – the right to vote, to work, to decide what to wear and when and with whom to have sex with aren’t for me matters of feminism, but just human rights. And yes, fundamentalism is for me going against human rights.

    Besides whenever I read about the “patriarchs” I can’t help thinking that they must be rather weak men. I compare them to my husband who’s one of the strongest and most brillant human beings I’ve ever met. He’s strong enough to deal with a strong, indepedent woman who does her own job, earns her own money and isn’t with him because she needs him to provide for her, but because she loves and respects him – and knows that she’s loved and respected by him, too. Besides my hubby works since two years “under” a boss who isn’t only a woman but around 40 years his senior and started her career as his assistant. He supported her to become his successor and he’s incredibly proud on her, as proud as he is on his two daughters who both are very successful in the jobs they do.

    • Thanks for your input! You are right, many (or most) of these are human rights and not so much women’s rights.
      I think my major train of thoughts here leads me to this conclusion because I still think of these rights as exclusively man’s rights because they are sold as such in fundamentalism.

      • In a way it’s almost funny: I was once rather critical against the German school systeme because I suffered pretty much in public schools. Hence I was a great advocate of private schools and of individual learning. However, the more I learned about fundamentalism, the glader I became about the German “allgemeine Schulpflicht” (= the law which demands that all children in Germany go into a stately acknowledged school). I think fundamentalism couldn’t thrieve as much as it obviously does if the children would have to go in “normal” schools where the girls would learn about their rights and where all children – boys and girls – would have contact with children from “normal” families, learning that a lot of the bs people like this horrible Michael Pearl are preaching just isn’t true.

  3. Agree, agree, agree!!

    I have never liked the Mr and Mrs name combination either… it felt wrong to me even as a very young girl in a strict religious mennonite family with limited exposure to the ‘outside’ world. I recall asking my mom why she would call herself Mrs (my father’s name) and she said something abou that’s how its done… and I answered, that’s not how I will do it!

    • As I heard the Mr and Mrs name combination first time, It was on my first longer visit to the USA and first I thought I’d fallen among very old-fashioned people.

      By now I’ve learned that the naming of married women says something about the society they live in. Take for example: In my homeland – Germany – couples can decide which name they use. The opportunities are: 1. The family name of the husband becomes the family names, all members of the family , man, wife, children – use it. 2. The family name of the woman becomes the family name. 3. Both, woman and man, keep their family names – then they have decide on one of their names becoming used for their children. 4. One of the couple – husband or wife – hyphenate his name by putting the other’s behind it, the children get the name which is added.
      I think the majority of German couples still decide for the husband’s name – and I even know a few men who think that very important (a cousin of mine married one of these. With her being the partner in a rather big law firm that meant that all of business papers – thousands of letter heads, cards and other stuff had to be changed. Now, eight years later, she is in the middle of a divorce from this idiot of a husband what means she’ll take up her maiden name again – with all of the stuf in her firm becoming changed again).

      I’m married to an English man – and for him it wasn’t even worth a debate that I’d kept my name. Even my predecessor whom he married in 1964 never was “Mrs Husband’s name” but kept her maiden name. And his daughter, though mother of three and very happily married, is still “Mrs maiden name” – as most English women are today. Actually I know only two English women who use their husband’s name. In one case it’s because the father of the woman is rather famous and she always hated that people asked her about him; in the other case it’s simply the lady’s maiden name being rather plain and boring while her husband’s name is prettier.

      I can’t imagine being “Mrs John Miller”. My name is part of my identity and my identity didn’t change by marriage. I’m very proud on my husband, I’m proud that he choose me to be his wife, but nevertheless I wouldn’t define myself as a “property” of his – and hat’s what this odd “Mrs John Miller” thing does for me.

  4. Interesting thoughts on the married names in the comments. I use my husband’s name and I’m proud of it but I never think of myself as his “property.” I think of us as two parts of a whole unit. Being “Mrs John Smith” just identifies me as being with him and not separate and single in the world. (Not that I think there’s anything wrong with being separate and single–just that I’m not.) I also have a very unusual given name which most people can’t seem to either spell or pronounce and his is quite common, so…it’s easier that way. As for not keeping my maiden name, honestly, I was tired of being tightly tied to my father’s family in my community and even after almost 30 years, I roll my eyes when I’m asked if I’m related to a particular one of them. Some of them, I’d just as soon not be.

  5. When I married in the early 90s here in the States, my husband suggested that I keep my last name. I was appalled! No way!! I’d been waiting for a long time to be shed of my ties to my father’s identity. It was a personal thing back then, to identify myself by a person I’d chosen rather than by a person I despised. Now, two decades later, I am still very happy not to have my father’s name: not least because that name is still widely known in Christian circles around the world and I can easily talk online even with my real identity without automatically outing my father/brother/uncles as the people I am talking about when I discuss my fundy evangelical past.

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