Angel of Distemper
You still don't get it, and expanding the definition of "feminism" in order to make more people more comfortable with it, isn't going to make people like me get on board. Yes, Wangari Maathai did great things, and the fact that I'm not a feminist won't tarnish her legacy at all! Not even a little! But I reject the idea that now anybody who wants a better world has to say they're a feminist. Because in practice, and I've seen it, it's not about letting women make their own choices, or making sure both sexes have equal status as human beings. It's about coercing people, especially women, into making the choices that powerful women want them to make, and that's very different. I also question whether feminism has been ultimately good or bad for children, especially in the US. Feminism: quo bene?
I am not expanding the definition of feminism. Feminism is a broad philosophical as well as a socio-political response to a cultural imbalance that is detrimental not only to women, but society as a whole. Wangar Maathai was practicing feminism as it was originally intended to be practiced. Feminism is not about coercion, it is about owning one's destiny, about standing on equal footing and being afforded equal opportunity. Every movement has its pitfalls and, to quote Bertrand Russel, "all movements go too far," but to dismiss feminism for its flaws is to turn one's back on a significant social revolution that is ongoing, and whose impact goes far beyond the often petty stereotypes that have evolved over the years in response to its success.
Mary Wollstonecraft wrote the following in her manifesto "On the Vindication of the Rights of Women" of 1792. It is a proto-feminist essay, but it illustrates the philosophy behind gender equality. It was written in response to the prevailing 18th century notion that women should not be educated, because they are incapable of rational thought. Although Wollstonecraft's work is marred by some of the conventions of her time, it presents a very compelling argument that the education of women would lead to a complete realignment of society and humankind as a whole. As you can see, the role of mother was neither denigrated or dismissed:
"I am aware that this argument would carry me further than it may be supposed I wish to go; but I follow truth, and, still adhering to my first position, I will allow that bodily strength seems to give man a natural superiority over woman; and this is the only solid basis on which the superiority of the sex can be built. But I still insist, that not only the virtue, but the knowledge of the two sexes should be the same in nature, if not in degree, and that women, considered not only as moral, but rational creatures, ought to endeavour to acquire human virtues (or perfections) by the same means as men, instead of being educated like a fanciful kind of half being—one of Rousseau's wild chimeras.
Women, as well as despots, have now, perhaps, more power than they would have if the world, divided and subdivided into kingdoms and families, was governed by laws deduced from the exercise of reason; but in obtaining it, to carry on the comparison, their character is degraded, and licentiousness spread through the whole aggregate of society. The many become pedestal to the few. I, therefore, will venture to assert, that till women are more rationally educated, the progress of human virtue and improvement in knowledge must receive continual checks. And if it be granted that woman was not created merely to gratify the appetite of man, nor to be the upper servant, who provides his meals and takes care of his linen, it must follow, that the first care of those mothers or fathers, who really attend to the education of females, should be, if not to strengthen the body, at least, not to destroy the constitution by mistaken notions of beauty and female excellence; nor should girls ever be allowed to imbibe the pernicious notion that a defect can, by any chemical process of reasoning, become an excellence. In this respect, I am happy to find, that the author of one of the most instructive books, that our country has produced for children, coincides with me in opinion; I shall quote his pertinent remarks to give the force of his respectable authority to reason."
I do not want to make you a feminist - if that goes against your grain, so be it. But I do want to defend feminism against all the petty tropes that have arisen out of the relative success of the movement. Agere sequitur credere: we act on what we believe to be true.