Archive for June 29th, 2008

Whenever I think of whitewash, I think of the story from Tom Sawyer where he tricks the other children into whitewashing his Aunt Polly’s fence for him. My mother taught Junior High English and Choir and I remember when she did Tom Sawyer as a play. I can still see the children on stage, paint brushes in hand, making the ugly fence pretty.

Whitewash is a thin plaster applied like paint. It was often used to pretty up walls, fences, and to create a nice finish. Whitewash covered up a multitude of cosmetic sins, and long ago (as early as the founding fathers) became a term used to describe people who needed a public relations makeover.

The term “Whitewashed Feminist” is something that we’ve pondered the meaning of at some length. Especially us here at this blog. But it wasn’t until a couple of days ago that I really began thinking about the use of the term “whitewashed” and what it really means.

If you take away the whitewash you have a feminist. Now, if a feminist was a good thing, one would have no need to cover it in whitewash to make it palatable. So, first we know that, at it’s core, this is an insult. Being a whitewashed feminist is to be something ugly, covered with a veneer to make it pleasing.

So now we have to figure out what it means to be a feminist, and if it’s really such a bad thing. As in many things, I’m fairly moderate. For example, I constantly look for ways to make my living more ecologically friendly. I don’t consider myself to be an environmentalist, but a conservationist. I see environmentalism as going to an extreme that I am not comfortable with, but I believe that we are to be stewards of the earth and wish to do my part to conserve our natural resources and protect the gift that God has given us.

The same principle of moderation can easily be applied to feminism. The early feminists in the United States were trying to correct what they saw as injustices. I can see nothing wrong with offering women equal pay for equal work, or allowing her to own property in her own name, or retain custody of her children when divorced, or a number of other things that the early feminists worked for. Feminism at it’s core was about helping women, not elevating women above men or taking away those qualities inherently feminine.

I blame extremists for taking feminism so far that men are afraid to complement a woman, hold a door open for her, or pay for dinner. It is such extremism that has pushed many who would otherwise agree with the feminist ideals, to turn their backs on it and distance themselves. But when I look at the core values, I find myself agreeing with what they wished to accomplish.

It seems to me that the pendulum swings, and one extreme is answered with another. Some feminists have taken us to the point where men no longer no how to speak to a lady. That is answered with the idea that we must turn our backs on all the feminist principles in their entirety and amuse ourselves with embroidery, tea, and housework, never aspiring to more than being glorified baby-making machines.

But as I said earlier, I am fairly moderate. If I’m wearing a pretty dress I will gladly take a compliment. I like skirts, tea, Jane Austen novels, my children, and my husband. I also like getting paid the same as my male counterparts, knowing I can be gainfully employed if I so desire or need to be, and that I have the power to provide for myself and my family. I can embrace the basic ideals of both being a feminist and being feminine. No whitewash necessary, for there is nothing ugly, no cosmetic sin to be covered up. I am but a child of God, thankful for her blessings and learning to live a life of balance.


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