Millie Lawson on Feminism - One Woman's View

To the Editor of The Crown:

I write in response to Jonathan Hulick's October 24 column, "NOW out of touch with most women." I am not going to try to convince Mr. Hulick of Clarence Thomas' unfitness for the Supreme Court, even before sexual charges were brought against him; nor to defend Anita Hill in either her charging sexual harassment or her following Thomas to the EEOC; nor to argue whether Hulick is correct when he writes that the National Organization of Women does not speak for all women (in fact, NOW no more speaks for all women, or even for all feminists, than the Presbyterian church speaks for all Christians); nor even to try to defend NOW's choice of Gus Savage over Lynn Matin in a Congressional race.

I write primarily out of sorrow over the anger against and misunderstanding of feminism that Mr. Hulick presents. I write to explain feminism as I understand it after at least twenty years of studying, listening, thinking, and trying to live out my feminist beliefs. Feminism, as I know it, is a doctrine of love, not hate. And Hulick is correct when he notes that feminists seem to support a "host of causes." The primary reason feminists support many causes-even radical causes-is that we do not see the world compartmentalized, as do so many others. To put on the lens of feminism is to change forever the way one looks at the world-to see the world as a web of interconnected relationships that weave us irrevocably with the Earth and its inhabitants. We tend to want to find new ways to solve the world's problems, whether those problems are with feeding the world's hungry, or providing health care to everyone, or ending the fear of nuclear or "conventional" war. We seek equality, not in the sense of "sameness," but in the sense of partnership. We support families, but do not limit ourselves to the so-called "nuclear" family-a relative newcomer to the human ways of living together, if one consults social history. We are opposed to the patriarchal, hierarchical structure we see all around us; we support non-hierarchical structure. Many who misunderstand feminists accuse us of trying to supplant patriarchy with matriarchy. Nothing could be further from the truth. Why would we want to supplant one form of tyranny with its mirror image? Rather, we seek new ways of thinking about human relationships that are not based on superiority/inferiority models.
Feminists do not hate men, although we hate many of the things that have been done to women in the name of the male-bias of many religions, governments, legal systems, families, and other institutions. That does not mean that we think ourselves either lesser or better than men. But we do wish we could collectively snap our fingers and eradicate domination of any sort whether sexual, racial, or ethnic. A cultural feminist of my sort believes that domination of one kind or another has caused many of our problems: uncaring domination of the earth has led to our vast array of environmental problems; domination of the animals has led to extinction of many of our fellow creatures; domination of women in the home and elsewhere has led to such suffering that we pale before today's horrors as well as those of the past; domination of one nation or people over another has led to most of the wars since recorded history began; domination of one racial or ethnic group over another has led to slavery and genocide all too often. In fact, the mindset of that very Western culture Mr. Hulick sees being "demeaned" is where many of those problems listed above reside, but study of that culture is not in any danger of being thrown out of our schools. We merely want to enlarge what we study, to recognize that many people other than the few singled out as significant to Western culture also participate in the culture of our world.

Feminism, as I understand it, offers a hopeful way for our world. It offers caring for the world and its inhabitants rather than exploitation in all the meanings of that word. Feminism, as I understand it, is dedicated to being absolutely non-sexist, non-racist, and non-homophobic. It is, I confess, often impatient with its opponents. In fact, many feminists do appear angry, and they often seem to do harm to the main body of the movement, for it is the angry movements and words that attract the attention of an always-thrill-seeking press. But their fervor stems from their belief that much is wrong that cries to be righted.

I acknowledge that many women oppose feminism. While my heart weeps for them, I recognize that they believe as they do for reasons that are as strongly held as my feminist beliefs are.