My earliest memories of the word “feminism” can be traced back to high school. I had an English teacher who shocked and awed the crowd at our conservative church when she prayed “Dear Mother.” I am a member of a protestant denomination of Christianity that doesn’t play with that our mother stuff—there’s lots to discuss there. But I digress. That was a big, big no no. And my 16-year-old self, OPENED HER EYES DURING PRAYER, to see if anyone was fainting of otherwise flipping out. Alas the gathering that day was much too pulled together to allow their indignation to surface too easily.
This teacher kept her maiden name even though she was married (still a bit of a taboo concept in the early 90s), and if I’m being honest, personified all the negatives one might associate with a feminist: angry, combative, man-abhorring (for the most part, she loved her husband and son), etc. Rumor had it she graded the boys harder than the girls. So, in my mind, if she was a feminist, I wasn’t sold.
I liked boys, I wanted to grow up and marry a man and didn’t mind taking his last name, and in my little world, I didn’t feel like males got in the way of anything I wanted to do.
So, I have since grown up. I got married to an amazing man and was happy to take his last name. But as I’ve become more and more engaged with politics and how it affects everyday life for women and men alike, I’ve thought about what it means to be a feminist.
Here’s the definition of the word “feminism”: the advocacy of women’s rights on the basis of the equality of the sexes.
Well, that’s not too scary is it? Women, as human beings and citizens have rights, and are entitled, just on the basis of their humanity, to other rights they deem in need of. Feminism advocates for that.
So, wait? Feminists aren’t a gang of angry man-haters, hell-bent on upended the world order and placing anyone identifying as male in gulags on the outskirts of town? Feminists aren’t highly educated, militant women who work outside the home and detest other women who have chosen more accepted paths from days of yore? Feminists can be straight females, married to men who bring home all the income, who stay at home and bake cookies (or not), volunteer for charities, and consider their homes the greatest career field in which they would ever consider working in?
Bear in mind, I’m working off of common stereotypes of both roles of “warring” women.
My point is this: some of us have been programmed to think feminism is a dirty word and if parts of you are more traditional in regard to feminine roles, you can’t possibly be associated with that.
Feminism to me is about women having the right to choose whatever path they feel most called to and that it is well within their rights as human beings to have those choices supported and even celebrated in society.
Feminist women do not want to rip stay-at-home moms from their lives and force them into 9-5 office jobs, so we’ll respect them. That ludicrous. Because in choosing to do what you wish for your life, much respect to you.
Feminist women want you to choose whatever the heck you want to do and know that you have the right to go for it. Do you want multiple degrees? Go to school, babe. Do you want to go to culinary school just for fun? Please invite me to your next dinner party. Are you leaning toward learning how to do hair and skin but only on a part-time level? Hit me up with your details when you’re ready. I’d happily support your business. Do you work outside the home and need support from family and friends with childcare? There is zero shame in that. Do you bring home the higher paycheck while your hubby stays home and has dinner ready when you return? Girl, you’re causing envy for many!
It doesn’t matter what your chosen lot in life is, as long as you get the right to choose it. And if you don’t, that’s where your fellow sisters are going to get ticked. We’ll likely picket in front of a pale building which houses a tantrum-prone and unprincipled misogynist in it.
Women have the right to choose their own adventures (hello 80s book reference). Just know that whatever it is, a true feminist thinks that you absolutely deserve to.