Within feminism, there is a lot of discourse that hinders the progression of the movement itself because typically, feminism is personal and is shaped by each individual’s personal experience with oppression and social antagonism. In regards to how traditions define feminism, the spectrum expands from accepting or defying them completely.
The issue does not lie in the fact that there is a spectrum of opinion, but rather the dichotomous way of thinking people are so susceptible to. People love to choose either “this or that,” but I think therein lies the misconception that to be a feminist, women are expected to deviate from stereotypically “feminine” lifestyles that defined womanhood in the late nineteenth century.
Women who were part of the feminist movement in the nineteenth century continue to influence the women who are part of the movement now because what connects all of us is the existing female oppression under a patriarchal society. This oppression stems from how women were and continue to be systemically treated as subordinate to men. In contemporary society, it seems as though some feel inclined to separate themselves from the imagery of weakness and are willing to be perceived as strong.
But what does this mean for women who do not want to or have the privilege of separating themselves from traditional and conservative views? Oftentimes, they’re labeled as less of a feminist, but this creates another issue of internal oppression within feminist spaces.
During the 1820s, 30s, and 40s, a nonproductive matron was symbolic of the bourgeois class hegemony. It associated the kitchen, nursery, and subservience with womanhood. A female’s autonomy was limited to roles within the house, and that was perceived as acceptable under patriarchy. Systemically, women were not offered the same resources as men to be independent until the steady movement formed in the twentieth century when women gained more traction in their autonomy.
Feminism can only progress if people are able to support each other, and strive for female respect and equity. In our current century, people have come so far in respecting the autonomy of women, and this shouldn’t be particularized to favor certain women who have made it in a male-dominant industry or have been able to express their independence. Without a doubt, that is impressive and should be applauded, but not at the expense of excluding a particular group of feminists that do not have similar successes. As long as one strives to support female equality and autonomy, then the question of “how much of a feminist are you?” becomes moot.
Tradition can be respected and can progress alongside feminism even though those traditions were built by men. Because the narrative has changed, women can be the decision-makers of what’s acceptable to them and what’s not. If she/he wants to be a housewife or househusband and still fight for equality, then so be it!