Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Shiny Happy Feminists.

I've been meaning to post about Beth Palmer's Editorial piece in Mormon Times entitled "Feminism Equals Happiness" since shortly after the article was published, but I decided to let the Op-Ed's piece simmer in my brain for a few weeks before speaking out.

There are many inaccuracies in the Op-Ed, not to mention false assumptions about Feminism. In the past 20 years, The Feminist Movement has been given the straw man treatment by Limbaugh and others, so much so that Ms. Palmer bought into a commonly held falsity about feminism by stating,

"Like, for instance, its [The Feminist Movement] initial tacit implication that
in order for women to have worth they had to be just like men. "

The quote above is bull. The goal of the feminist movement was to give women equal opportunities. But be just like men? No.

The inspiration of Ms. Palmer’s article was a Time Magazine piece which analyzes (as much as you can analyze) whether or not women are happier during the past 40 years. Ms. Palmer talks about the article and makes the observation that,

"None of which, mind you, is really feminism's fault; it just comes as no
surprise to me to hear that the movement didn't end up being the key to

Okay, so she’s asserting her that the object of feminism was to make people happier. That’s an interesting perspective on feminism. Especially since the Time Magazine article she got the idea for her article stated the following:

We looked across all sectors — young vs. old, kids or no kids, married or not
married, education, no education, working or not working — and it stayed the
same," he says of the data. "But there are a few ways to look at it," he adds.
"As Susan Faludi said, the women's movement wasn't about happiness."

I wonder if Ms. Palmer even read the original article completely? Now, I don’t want to attack her, just because I don’t agree with her. She does make some valid points in her Op-Ed piece. She recognized the strides that have been made to even up the playing field for women. However, many women and men I’ve known are hesitant to call themselves feminists because the word has become dirty in today’s vernacular. I don’t fault those who believe that at all. Maybe I’m the one who is confused. Who knows?

But Ms. Palmer goes further to give us her definition of happiness. Now, there's books and books exploring how to be happy. Everyone alive probably has a little different definition of happiness, and that’s totally cool. Ms. Palmer states:

"See, as tantalizing as it may be to think that happiness comes as the product
of a social movement, or a career, or limitless opportunities, it's still not
the truth. Happiness lies a lot deeper than that, and it's very often tied up in
things that have very little to do with us. "

Not to turn a feminist rant into a philosophical debate, but to me, happiness starts with us, not things that have very little to do with us. Happiness begins with attitude, determination and aligning with what you value most with how you spend your time.

*Amelia has a great post about this article.
*MFranti discusses this article also.
Ash had a great post about feminism this week too


Jules said...

Great response. I didn't read the Mormon Times article, but I've often been irritated by a limited and erroneous definition of "feminism."

Anonymous said...

Whatever feminism is, the progress women have made in the last few decades was needed and deserved - begining with the right to vote. It is the natural result of a progressive and free society, I hope. I think it is more about equity than happiness.

caribookscoops said...

Love this post and your thoughts on it. Your right there are a lot of misconceptions about feminism. Is that a picture of Bern in your header? or whatever it's called? Either way I love it.

Steve said...

I'm clearly not a feminist, I think I may be disqualified, haha, but I've never understood this fear or condemndation feminists receive. Also, there are at least TWO schools of feminist thoughts, probably more. It's like calling someone a Christian, it doesn't really say enough about the person's beliefs to characterize them.

However, I don't think happiness can be defined by any one action, event, movement, political event, etc. It's a series of actions one makes based on goals. Clearly, what makes one person happy isn't always the case for others, so to say anything is an effort towards 'happiness' is a falacy b/c someone is NOT going to be happy with the result.

adamf said...

Feminism does seem to have a lot of unfortunate mud attached to it, but I agree, feminism is about EQUALITY.

What really gets me is when people drag feminism into the whole SAHM / working mom debate. The whole point of feminism is that women should be able to freely choose what they want, not what they ultimately choose.

Feminism = Equality. If Rush or Mormon Times Op Ed person, or anyone else doesn't want equality, then good for them. They have the choice. :)

Sparklebot said...

I just wrote a long comment, and then blogger had an error. Grr.

But, the gist of what I said is that I agree with you. The feminist movement wasn't about happiness. It was about equality. And, it's not over. Women are not equal in our American society today (not under the law, not in terms of pay for the same jobs, and not in terms of opportunity for jobs). And, women have given up because of the way men like Rush Limbaugh and others made the term "feminist" something bad.

I personally think we need a movement to reclaim the term. But, also, I am confused by statements like that of your friend Steve above who says he is disqualified from being a feminist. Why would he be? Men can be feminists. My husband certainly is one. He sent me this article this week about how men haven't yet found their role as feminists, but some are trying:

But, for a man to say he can't be a feminist is like saying a white person can't be a racial equality activist. Of course white people can want racial equality. And, of course, men can support women's equality. We all need to be in this together.

Nick said...

It's interesting to look at happiness in every person's eye. Recently I had my own shot at defining happiness, which aims to be more “scientific” and “objective” (as much as this is possible for a subjective feeling such as happiness): “A person can be considered to have experienced a “happy” moment if the person chooses to re-live it as an end in itself if offered at no cost.” For the detailed derivation of this conclusion please have a look at http://www.spreadinghappiness.org/2009/08/what-is-happiness/
What do you think about this definition? Thank you, Nick