Stephanie Shackelford – Secretary

I’m only now exploring that question. As I re-evaluate everything in my life, I’m confronted with the fact that I perhaps was less than intentional with my decision many years ago to reject feminism. On second thought, though, I’m more inclined to believe that I didn’t reject feminism. I lived it. Even though I did not align myself with the vocal, public voices of feminism of my day and even though I disagreed with many of their conclusions, I embraced the fundamental concept that women deserve to have autonomy over their lives.

It its essence, that is feminism. All the rest is working out the details. Important details. Details where there is huge potential for vehement disagreement. Details that need to be discussed and debated and synthesized into individual lives. Details resting on the firm foundation that the choice is each individual’s to make.

Details like . . .

  • Does autonomy mean the ability to “turn the tables” and subjugate men?
  • Does autonomy mean rejecting any and all manifestations of what has been perceived feminine?
  • Does autonomy mean pressured to become like a man, make choices a man would make, exist as a “female man” in business and society?
  • Where does autonomy end and selfishness, egotism and oppression begin?
  • How do I tell the difference?

Autonomy means the ability to choose. It is a feminist choice to wear a burka if that choice is voluntary. If anyone forces, manipulates or in any way coerces a woman to wear one, it is oppression. It is a feminist choice to choose to be an engineer, just as it is a feminist choice to choose to be a homemaker or stay-at-home mom, if that is the freely executed choice of the woman. When society or individual relationships put pressure on an individual, forcing them to choose against their own desire, it is subjugation and oppression.

The flip side of autonomy is responsibility. One cannot exist without the other. Responsibility to own the choices, to accept and live with what flows from those choices. Or make new choices designed to change results. Responsibility to guard others’ autonomy as diligently as you guard your own. Responsibility to make choices that do no damage to others, to dialogue and adapt and even compromise in order to make choices that benefit both self and others. Responsibility to contribute, not drain resources from others or society. To give as much or more than is taken.

Each adult, male or female has the right to expect that autonomy.

That is why, even though I chose a traditional life path of wife, homemaker and stay-at-home mom, I consider myself a feminist. That is why I can embrace the Christian Bible and live my life by it. My readings, studies and discussions of it reveal that it, too, rests on that concept of choice, of autonomy. That is why now, at 54, alone and forced into a far lower socio-economic status than I’d like, I don’t give up and look for someone to take care of me. That is why I can’t support abortion, even though I’m told by society that supporting abortion is part of being feminist. Abortion forces one person’s choice onto another. That is oppression. In fact, it is oppression at it’s worse. It is annihilating the most defenseless, removing their autonomy completely.

This is just a portion of what feminism means to me.  What is feminism to you?