In the 90s, I was a feminist dabbler. Much like I watched The Craft and “dabbled” in witchcraft because Fairuza Balk looked wicked. I didn’t “call the corners,” but the message was received: I liked loud, smart, messy women who stood for things. My feminist heroine was actually on heroin and my teachers were concerned enough about my Courtney Love obsession to call my mother — a lost cause if there ever was one.
When I entered college with a newborn, that’s when I really declared myself. I sat in lecture classes listening to theories about women and work, women and motherhood, women and equality. I spent enough time thinking and writing about women while parenting a daughter that my breasts grew three cup sizes. I had more estrogen pumping through me than Whoville had shaming Christmas cheer directed at the Grinch by the time I left college with a degree in women’s studies and literature.
But as much as I love feminism, I need a break from Feminists: the knee-jerkers, the lean-Ins, the have-it-alls; the endless essayists, the shoulda sisterhood, the fine-tooth-comb reactionary readers; the twerkers, the twerk-less, the outraged oversharers, the rich white lady almost-problems — I’m giving all of you up for lent.
For the next 40 days, this non-Christian is turning Feminists off. There’s a fine line between advocacy and mothering, and I think we’re at the point of nagging mother-in-laws. If I had a shot for every time a writer worked “have it all” or “lean in” into an essay to dispel the lunacy and sexist bullshit of the two or give me tips on how to achieve both, I’d be in a 12-step program.
I like my feminism with self-deprecation instead of self-righteousness — and, whew, have Feminists belly-flopped into the community pool on that one. Trickle down feminism has made some incredible strides within the past year which I must acknowledge — we have female Ghostbusters now, amirite?!
Not every issue that affects women’s lives is sexy, this I know. If you want to put someone to sleep like a drunk Ruth Bader Ginsburg at the State of the Union address, bring up paid family leave or the percentage of elected officials who also happen to be women. If you want to end a conversation before it begins, introduce yourself and then your abortion. Mention global women’s issues like kidnapping girls on another continent or shutting off water service in Detroit and you’ll have the kind of engaged audience that snores and manspreads in your bed during the dead of night.
If the sisterhood is powerful it’s also fractured and shouty, and I just want to turn it down from an eleven to a crisp, NPR four — something you can pleasantly ignore until you’re ready to listen. I don’t need to be converted, you’ve already got me in the choir so why yell? At everything. Because it does feel like everything. Men would never dare write the bro-hood is fractured and too sticky from all their phallic posturing. Of course not, I know this too. They dance around it by pointing out “mom jeans” and telling each other to “be a man” while watching television with an endless loop of erectile dysfunction reminders that they rule the world. Men have wars, women have eating disorders. That’s just how it is, maybe one day women will have both.
Which is why I find it disingenuous to write Sheryl Sandberg’s been wrongly vilified for a book geared toward a specific audience in a way that Jack Welch, former chairman and C.E.O. of General Electric, would never be — regardless of how much I respect the woman who wrote the essay. Jack Welch writes books for men without the mommy guilt all ambitious feminists have but aren’t honest enough to acknowledge: they want to help all women, but write books for upper-middle class, white women who want to be moguls and then cloud it in self-help, everywoman marketing. If anything, Sandberg’s been rightly vilified for not being honest, nothing more or less. Jack Welch, on the other hand, makes no qualms about the construction worker driving a forklift — his books are probably not for him.
Which is the point, Lean In and most of what gets passed around the Internet as feminism isn’t for us — the women in the motherhood trenches. The kind of mother that isn’t married but partnered, the woman who works two job, rides the bus, stays at home and volunteers. The kind of mother who clips coupons because she could never afford to live anywhere but where she lives right now. The kind of mother that’s smart, but doesn’t have the time to think about leaning in when all she wants to do is lie down.
It’s this honesty distinction that’s finally broken my back. I need this Feminist lent break.
(photo: Getty Images)