I never would have thought that I would label myself as a “feminist”. I grew up thinking that’s what crazy liberal bra-burning, men-hating women did. And I liked bras and men. I also liked shaving my armpits, wearing makeup and buying stylish clothing. I thought femininity and feminism were mutually exclusive.
“I’m just being myself. There is not an ounce of me that believes any of that crap that they say. We can’t be feminine and be feminists and be successful? I want to be a fucking feminist and wear a fucking Peter Pan collar. So fucking what?”
- Zooey Deschanel
Growing up, I had a father who made me believe down to my depths that all men and all women were equal in every way. I had a mother full of thoughts, opinions and passions. And my brother and I… Well, the messages we received from our parents were always consistent. We could BOTH grow up to become the person that we wanted to be. We were capable of achieving our dreams. Either of us could be the President, a CEO, a doctor, a nurse, a pastor, a stay-at-home parent, a chef, or a starving artist (Ironically, it appears that both of us are choosing the “starving artist” route. Both of us may be broke and unable to ever buy a new car, but dang we’re artsy!)
The thought NEVER crossed my mind that outside the walls of our home, I could be limited, shushed, or disadvantaged simply by being female. I honestly thought that didn’t still happen in America.
I was a teen before I experienced sexism. I realize this means I’m blessed beyond belief. There are countries where girls start experiencing sexism before they are born. Rape, trafficking, genital mutilation, and maternal mortality plague women in other countries. They aren’t allowed the opportunity of education, so typically the evil cycle is unending and without hope. (Sidenote: May I wholeheartedly suggest you read and/or watch Half the Sky- the book and the documentary are MUSTS for both men and women!)
My experience PALES in comparison to the atrocities women face around the globe.
I have been told to cover my body; a body that makes boys lust (See; Shame and Shoulder Skin) I have been chastised for speaking my mind. My husband has been asked to publicly rebuke me for my thoughts (which he didn’t, of course, because he doesn’t hate women). I have been told that I “act with too much authority”. My place was in the home, making babies and making dinner. (p.s. if you WANT to make babies and then make them dinner, I think that’s incredibly awesome!! High five for brave mommy women! But I’m not going to anytime soon, and that doesn’t make me less than.)
All of this was coming from Christians, mind you.
Take what you want steal my pride
Build me up or cut me down to size
Shut me out but I’ll just scream
I’m only one voice in a million
But you ain’t taking that from me
- Natasha Beddingfield
I would like to say I’m proud to be a woman, but I didn’t really choose it, it chose me. I like it though. I like the romance, the chick flicks, the lip-gloss, the nail polish, the ballet, and the thong underwear that theoretically should be more uncomfortable than it actually is. I could leave behind the whole monthly demon invasion thing- but you win some, you lose some.
I am proud that I have a voice, however. I’m proud that I have thoughts strong enough that some people want to shush them. I’m proud of the women who came before me fighting for the rights I enjoy today. I am proud of my mother who could not have been a better example of a strong, humble woman who loved her husband and children and respected herself in the process.
I am a feminist who loves and respects men- and demands a standard of love and respect in return. I am a feminist who believes that the sky is not even a limit to what I can do. I am a feminist who refuses to allow bitterness to be my response to sexism. I am a feminist because I can shave my legs and wear a great dress and still be strong and courageous and noisy if I want to be. I’m a feminist because I can choose to be a working mother, a stay-at-home mother, or not a mother at all. I am a feminist because I believe women are people too.
“We need to reclaim the word ‘feminism’. We need the word ‘feminism’ back real bad. When statistics come in saying that only 29% of American women would describe themselves as feminist – and only 42% of British women – I used to think, What do you think feminism IS, ladies? What part of ‘liberation for women’ is not for you? Is it freedom to vote? The right not to be owned by the man you marry? The campaign for equal pay? ‘Vogue’ by Madonna? Jeans? Did all that good shit GET ON YOUR NERVES? Or were you just DRUNK AT THE TIME OF THE SURVEY?”