Each week at Feminism 101 we ask our favorite feminists a general question and get a variety of responses. However, since Grok Nation readers have been busy sending in their own questions as well, I thought I’d take the opportunity to answer a handful of them at once. Thank you to everyone who has been sending in questions — and keep them coming!
— Avital Norman Nathman, Feminism 101 Curator & Professional Feminist Killjoy
Q: One of the memes I’ve seen recently on social media says, “I am a pro-life Feminist.”
I don’t think one can be both of those things at the same time. Being “pro-life for yourself” simply means you wouldn’t choose to have an abortion, and many in the pro-choice camp feel that way themselves, so that isn’t what I mean. I mean pro-life as in the movement to deny all women access to abortion. But if a woman cannot decide for herself whether or not to carry a pregnancy to term, then she is not free to be the person she wants to be, which to me violates the very essence of what Feminism is.
I am what many consider a feminist….however, I am also pro-life. I mean, totally pro-life…. anti-death penalty….pro-fostering and adoptions…pro sex education and contraception…. the list goes on and on…. but I also believe that outside of extreme circumstances outside of a women’s control (i.e. Rape, incest, life of the mother, and incompatibility with life) abortion is not a good solution to an unwanted pregnancy as the baby is a separate life. When life begins is a whole different conversation altogether so I won’t go too far into that issue. At times, I feel like being pro-choice is the defining characteristic of a “good feminist.” Is being pro-life a view to be considered as valid for a feminist? If not, what is the litmus test for “acceptable” views to be open minded to?
A: Hi Stacey and Sarah! We’ve actually had a few folks write in regarding whether or not you can be a pro-life feminist, so I thought I’d tackle the topic. I think we first need to change the way we talk about abortion access and what we mean. I don’t use the term “pro-life” when talking about those that oppose abortion. Rather, I use “anti-choice” because at the crux of it all, that is what is is. I do not believe you can be a feminist and be anti-choice. You can certainly be personally pro-life if you ever happen to face an unexpected pregnancy, but once you place those beliefs upon someone else in an entirely different life situation than you’re in, you’ve essentially stated that you don’t trust women to make the right choice for themselves. And that is in direct contradiction with the ideals of feminism.
Q: I’m a liberal Jewish woman who has recently started to wear a kippah. As a feminist and a Jew, I’m really interested to read other feminists’ and Jews’ perspectives regarding women who wear kippot. I value the opinions of women like you who enrich women’s lives and empower them.
Do you have advice for women who are beginning to wear kippot and/or other Jewish ritual items traditionally reserved for Jewish men? — Emmy
A: Hello Emmy! I’m actually Jewish and grew up in a Conservative family, attending a Schechter school until 8th grade. I wore a kippah at school occasionally, and definitely while on the bimah. Currently, my son attends a Jewish Day school where all kids, regardless of gender, wear kippot during specific times. I think that it’s wonderful that more women are eager to take on traditionally male Jewish practices like kippot, tallits, and teffilin. I know that while some of experienced pushback, there are also amazing women out there who are making headway in changing the way folks think, like the organization Women of the Wall. WoW is an excellent organization that shows how Jewish women can be progressive and spiritual all at once!
Q: I’m a single guy, trying to get into the dating world. One issue that I come across in the ‘dating world’, is the point of ‘the chase’. Basically, the guy has to initiate contact, in hopes that the woman of his ‘interest’ reciprocates the attempts. Now, this is just general conversation, not stalking or harassment. For example:
Him: ‘Hey, how’s it going?’
Her: ‘Good.’ (Conversation continues)
But, she never initiates contact, because she wants to be ‘chased.’ So, in feminism, is ‘the chase’ reasonable, or is it just giving control to the patriarchy?
A: Hi Chuck! My first question to you would be to ask why you think the woman wants to be chased? Perhaps she did not initiate contact simply because she wasn’t interested beyond your one conversation. Occasionally women might feel obligated to go through with exchanging contact info (you can chalk *that* up to the Patriarchy!), or maybe she was planning to follow up and any number of things happened to get in the way of that. I think most people of all genders enjoy being desired, but that’s not necessarily the same thing as “the chase.” Because women (and men) aren’t a prize to be caught, right? So, instead of trying to chase women, why not just treat them the way you’d like to be treated? Respect them, engage with them, try your best to read their signals, and hopefully you’ll find a partner who doesn’t play games!
Q: If men’s interest in women were entirely cerebral, would feminists reproach us for the intellectual objectivization of women?
A: Hey Jim! Objectification means to treat somebody (in this case women) as things, not as individual people with lived experiences, feelings and thoughts of their own. Objectification of any kind — whether it’s of somebody’s body or mind — is wrong. Pro tip: You can appreciate a person’s intellect, just as you can appreciate their beauty, but just remember that is a part of who they are. Women: we’re multifaceted!
Thanks for sending in your great questions! keep ’em coming! Send your question to Avital Norman Nathman at TheMamafesto@gmail.com and it might just be answered in a future Feminism 101!