Am I a feminist? Yes. I do not live in continuous distrust of the patriarchy. So how am I feminist? I believe that in the U.S. there are no limits on any human capabilities other than those imposed upon them, by themselves. Equal pay for equal work is just logical. Pay based on reaching performance objectives is better. Have a kid, don't have a kid, marry, stay single, stay at home and cook or go out an conquer an industry, whatever you want is up to you. If the people around you want to direct your choices because you are a woman, demand your right to be your own complete human or choose to surround yourself with other people.
I grew up in an old-fashioned household where my mother stayed largely at home. My mother, later decided to go to college. She is still a bit too dependent on my father.
I chose highly technical fields that were nearly completely populated by men. Some where not certain that I belonged just because no woman had before. I changed their minds, when I was equally competent. Other women complained to me about it, but I also notice that these women did not get off of their asses and do the work to prove anyone wrong about their assumptions. They said "we will never be (blank) because they won't let us." Bullshit. There I was, cute and tiny with big blue eyes, blond hair. I succeed on intellect and willingness to work. Each and every one of the men in my classes worked hard to be where they were. They were not handed the positions in the program by a patriarchy. I was, at the time, just the only woman to apply.
This is not to say that I have not felt some measure of discrimination and I could have taken them very seriously. Once my older brother told me "You ought to go to University of Chicago! they will not know what hit them, you'll be the best looking woman there." I nearly shouted "What?! I am not going there to enter a pageant. I am a really good student." He apologized. Similarly, several men from a particular medical school made somewhat inappropriate comments when they found me sunning outside my home in a bathing suit one weekend. They were simply men, and socially inept as most young male med students are, and their perceptions of me in my bathing suit had no impact on our work in the lab. I will note that I was content to stare at some of the young men running the exercise course around the school. We are ultimately, sexual beings, too.
I built my own business. I chose to marry a aggressive, masculine, educated man that does not place limits on anyone based on gender. I rejected many men that occupied themselves with frivolous expressions of masculinity, (like an all-consuming obsession with watching but not playing sports), or regarded me as second class. Weaker men that needed to feel some control over my comings and goings were never appealing. I choose to spend some time away from work to educate my child, with the help of a couple universities, because there is no better person capable of dealing with her atypical skills and preserve her early childhood. I will not put her into day care to be taught by intellectual inferiors that are likely to be threatened by her abilities and stifle her inquisitive and confident nature. Within my household I run the finances and the inventory. My spouse shops more than I do. He cleans and cooks as much as I do. He could not, for example, breastfeed our child, but he could rock her to sleep and change the diapers. I choose the cars we buy, based on their mechanical integrity, fuel efficiency and safety. I do household construction projects. He wires us for audio/video and keeps us in technology. We both contribute financially. I do the taxes. We support each other in all aspects of our lives, as partners.
I have mixed feelings about people that spend a lot of time worrying about the patriarchy. I find I am as uncomfortable with someone that jumps into my face and screams about succumbing to men as I am about some stranger jumping up and explaining anything about their sexual preferences. The comment I usually offer at that point is "Uh, how nice of you to share, now what is your name?" My personal philosophy is be whomever you want, spend less time talking about it and more time doing it. I am not interested in initiating a matriarchy in replacement, either.
A patriarchy simply does not exist in my life. I am not a victim in my household, careers or public exposure. I succeed in business, as a parent, as a spouse and as a community leader because I roll up my sleeves and get to work. Strangers invariably appoint me to positions of authority because I do the job.
I fail to understand how anything I choose to wear from shoes to makeup becomes anything but the choices I make for myself. Society may dictate that a certian style in in fashion, but I don't have to comply. You will never, for example, catch me in low-rise jeans (you're welcome). If I occasionally choose to dress in a way that I know please my spouse, this is not succumbing to his superiority, it is because I care and I recognize that he is a man, too. I am not denying my own womanhood, or capacity as a human. I want my husband to be sexually attracted to me as much as I enjoy when he dresses to attract me.
Over the years we have encouraged some of our friends, men and women, escape violent or abusive circumstances. We have gone out of our way to try to help others, but the help was refused. As humans they are able to stand up, walk out and start a new life. None of those that did were extraordinarily strong or gifted. They just did it. If a person chooses to marry, live with or otherwise stay with an abusive person, ultimately it is their choice. Some refuse assistance when it is offered. Again, their choice. There are shelters and people standing ready to help, but until someone decides for themselves that they have the integrity to be a complete person, there is little that will change by acting socially misfit and screaming about social inequity. Social change is enacted by example, when someone well-regarded shows the way.
So, I do know women and men that have been content to take a background support role to someone else (be it spouse or parents). Personally I am not certain that these individuals really have what it takes to be out on their own, or to compete in more individualized pursuits. There are days when I know exactly why someone chooses to stay home, cook, bake and raise a child. It is fun and comfortable. No one should be forced to relinquish child-raising to a stranger. I think that perhaps rather than attacking their partners for giving them an environment in which they could play support, perhaps we should just get back to the business of living our own lives and allow no artificial barriers stop us. Not everyone has what it takes to be CEO, be they men or women, someone is always going to have to push the broom.
I recently read the blog of a person that decided that she was going to open Feminism for discussion. She created a feminist blog, so obviously felt some desire to expose the topic, but the "discussion" and "open question" time was only going to be "on this occasion." I find this as openly hostile as anything anti-feminist. If you are going to publish, in public, your views it is nothing but an exercise in self-congratulation and not furthering your cause if you will not openly discuss the topic. Her views are presented just as inequitably as her perceived patriarchy. Obviously I am not asking anyone to withstand the abuse that some would so eagerly provide. Discourse, however is a necessary element to reaching an understanding.