Have Feminists Thrown Away Their Best Opportunity for Influence?

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Do you ever get tired of the gender wars?

It seems you can’t read headlines these days without seeing some problem over gender wage gaps, sexual harassment in the workplace, or discrimination against women for pursuing higher education, particularly in STEM fields.

All of these stories stem from women seeking to ensure their equality with men and their future security. But I have to wonder: in our feminine rush to demand our rights and compete with men, are we driving ourselves into greater unhappiness and discontentment? Has our quest for greater fame, fortune, and recognition in the corporate, political, and social world actually caused us to lose our greatest sphere of influence?

Such questions came to my mind after reading the following passage from Kathleen Thompson Norris’ classic 1911 work, Mother.

“[T]hese days, when women just serenely ignore the question of children, or at most, as a special concession, bring up one or two,—just the one or two whose expenses can be comfortably met!—there's something magnificent in a woman like your mother, who begins eight destinies instead of one! She doesn't strain and chafe to express herself through the medium of poetry or music or the stage, but she puts her whole splendid philosophy into her nursery—launches sound little bodies and minds that have their first growth cleanly and purely about her knees. Responsibility,—that's what these other women say they are afraid of! But it seems to me there's no responsibility like that of decreeing that young lives simply shall not be. Why, what good is learning, or elegance of manner, or painfully acquired fineness of speech, and taste and point of view, if you are not going to distil it into the growing plants, the only real hope we have in the world!”

It may be easy to dismiss Norris’ words as quaint or outdated, but it’s only fair to ask ourselves: has the feminist quest to control and exert influence on the future only resulted in throwing away the best opportunity for influence that any person – male or female – will ever have?

Image Credit: Jessie Wilcox Smith