This post was drafted while I was doing 50+ hour weeks at work for several consecutive months. I held back from posting it then because I wanted to re-read it when I wasn't so hot-headed. It still seems worth posting, so here goes.
I know there is a sense in which I am a beneficiary of feminism -- at least in the sense that I am in the professional world and nobody thinks anything unusual about that. If that was the whole of feminism, I would be an enthusiastic admirer of their legacy. But feminism seems to come with a lot of baggage, and much of it is a mystery to me; here I hope to briefly sketch out some of the most puzzling things to me. The trigger for writing this is really the final paragraph: my job is good, but my dissatisfaction with my schedule is running high. And while I'm on the subject, I thought I'd clear out a few other things I wanted to voice.
1. I love my children
Are there any other Harry Potter fans here? Whenever I watch the fourth film (Goblet of Fire) and see Amos Diggory's reaction as he realizes that his son Cedric is dead, it brings me to tears. The film is clear in every portrayal of Amos that he loves being a father. He loves his son, and is very proud of him. Being a father is the greatest joy of his life, a bright point of enthusiasm in his own existence. Most parents are like that to some recognizable extent. I think it is part of humanity to delight in our children. I would be tempted to say that feminists are ambivalent about children; but the ones I've known are nothing of the sort. Ambivalence would be a huge improvement. Possibly because feminism has framed itself so much in terms of advocating legalized abortion, the practical emphasis has been on children as a burden or a hardship: as unwanted. Until the feminism of the streets catches up with the reality that most men and women love their children, that brand of feminism will remain a stranger to me.
2. Sociology and psychology
In school, I took a number of courses in both psychology and sociology. In both areas of study, there was a general recognition that people often define themselves and others in terms of roles and relationships. The feminists I have met are actively hostile to the idea that we might be seen in terms of relationships; they consider it a sign of something like bondage and oppression to be defined as a wife or mother. There doesn't seem to be an objection to being defined by professional relationships, or by personal relationships of other types. But the family relationships of wife and mother are viewed with some measure of suspicion, and a woman defining herself in those terms risks being viewed as in collaboration with the oppressors. The idea that those personal relationships might be supportive or fulfilling rather than oppressive is not given serious consideration. There is not a full recognition of the basic human reality that we do not live in isolation -- that being defined by our roles and relationships is not necessarily a bad thing, and that a woman might be proud to define herself as a mother.
3. One of my personal heroes
I have often heard the story about how oppressive things were until roughly the 1960's, at which point things began to improve slowly if not steadily because of the much-opposed efforts of the feminist political movement. Before then -- and certainly in centuries past -- the history of women was a history of people consigned to a sub-human status. That being the case, I can't quite figure out how Elizabeth I would have risen to the throne of England. Queen Victoria either. There are other women who were sole monarchs of powerful countries at various points in history. Have I noticed that the women monarchs tended to arise when those countries were completely out of males of a certain bloodline? Well, of course. I do not dispute that there was a marked preference for male rulers, and that it was institutional. But the idea that women were seen as sub-human, that submission to women -- or women in leadership -- was seen as unequivocally wrong, simply does not stand up to the notable exceptions to male monarchies. If women were seen that negatively, they could have found someone besides Elizabeth I to lead England. The prevailing theory is compatible with the more common occurrence of a male monarch, but that theory of sub-human status is so absolutist in its claims that it cannot explain how any exceptions were possible. We have to seek an explanation that accounts for all of the facts. If any man was always seen as better than any woman regardless of anything else, then Elizabeth I could never have ascended the throne. As it is, I suspect that this particular feminist interpretation of history paints an unrealistically bleak and harsh -- and possibly politically self-serving -- picture of the motivations of our ancestors and the realities of the past. To put it simply, that picture of the past doesn't pass the sniff test.
4. My job is not the point of my life
I enjoy my job most days. But I still think early feminism had an unrealistically rosy picture of the work world. It was where men found their fulfillment and their recognition, achieved their goals, earned their respect. Women wanted all that too. The idea that even the best jobs could be frustrating or unrewarding did not figure into the computation. And some jobs are simply jobs -- their goal is to keep bread on the table. Very few jobs, even among professional jobs, are important enough to be the goal of someone's life. The feminist overemphasis on work and professional status is almost necessary in that system, given the ambivalence or antagonism towards family life. But this stance overlooks what men have long known: nobody gets to their death bed and wishes they had spent more time at work. Some feminists even have a Marxist streak in which they recognize it is possible for an employer to be an oppressor. This might be useful to remember when calculating whether work is really a panacea in the search for recognition and freedom from oppression.