So around the same time I was happily weeping at Natalie Portman’s Oscar speech and her beautiful declaration that motherhood would be her most important role, some self-proclaimed feminists were lambasting her for that same statement. For shame!
First, let me say that I consider myself (among other things) a feminist. I firmly believe women can and should do virtually anything a man can. I support women’s rights and women’s causes. I’m a full-time career woman, and I feel no shame about that fact. That being said, I have a real problem with the turn the feminist movement seems to have taken in the last decade. At the heart of the feminist ideal is that a woman can be anything she wants to be. If a woman wants to be a CEO of a Fortune 500 company, she should have that right. If a woman wants to be a stay-at-home mom, that too is her right. Women should define for themselves what they want to be; and that role — what each woman considers important for herself — should not be defined by others. After all, what is the difference between a man dictating that a woman cannot have a certain occupation and another woman saying that a woman must have some occupation other than wife/mother or that if she has another occupation, she cannot still consider her role as mother the most important thing she has ever done in her life?
Part of the reason I found Natalie Portman’s speech so beautiful is because she is such an accomplished woman. Seeing a Harvard graduate/activist/accomplished actress receiving an award considered one of the highest in her field state that motherhood would be the most important thing she has ever done absolutely moved me. I found it to be one of the most touching statements regarding motherhood I could imagine.
I graduated at the top of my class in high school, went on to graduate college summa cum laude after only three years, went to an Ivy League law school, and now I work for a large, national law firm. These accomplishments are great, indeed. But my crowning achievement spent part her day sitting at her art table, coloring and watching Dora the Explorer. My boss, too, is a very accomplished woman — certainly moreso than me — and she, too, has published biographies attached to presentations she has given to other professionals listing out every single one of these accomplishments, but stating that her greatest two accomplishments are her children. There is nothing wrong with thinking this way. We decide for ourselves what is important in our lives, and we are two women who prioritize our family, more specifically our children, above everything else.
Some of these so-called feminists who slammed Natalie Portman’s speech argued that you would never see a professional man, let alone a male actor make such a proclamation. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. I count my husband as one of many professional men who will answer in a heartbeat that the most important thing he’s ever done is fatherhood. Some of my coworkers — male partners at a major law firm — likewise make the claim that nothing they have ever done rises to the level of being a dad. Many of my friends’ husbands [including BostonsMama, who herself has written with sadness about the ugly turn the feminist movement seems to be taken], have made similar statements. One very famous actor/producer/former-model and rapper (and my secret boyfriend) has claimed that his most important role was being a dad, and if he fails at fatherhood, he “fail[s] at everything.”
Real feminists recognize that there’s more value in celebrating men like Mark Wahlberg and my husband, who relish their roles as father and set good examples for their sons and daughters, than there is in ripping apart women like Natalie Portman and myself. Real feminists recognize that a woman’s hierarchy of what’s important in her life is personal to her and her alone.