I am a woman. Shouldn’t I be a feminist? Why can’t I just be a humanist? Is it demanded that I be a feminist? Why have I always felt angry just answering this question?
I needed to examine this and discover why this feeling was sitting wrong with me, so I decided to look up the definition of “feminist” and see what this was all about. I was pretty sure the definition and my perceived definition were different.
Here’s what I found:
Noun 1. A person who supports feminism.”
Now I had to look up the exact definition of feminism to see whether I actually supported it.
“Feminism (noun): The advocacy of women’s rights on the basis of the equality of the sexes.”
By this definition, then yes, I am a feminist. Over the years, radical versions of this definition have made me, as a woman, shy away from this title. I am 55 years old and I have seen the evolution of women in the workforce. I have been a part of this evolution. I know it has been hard fought for, and many people have dedicated their lives to the cause.
I, however, have not. I have not opposed the movement, but nor did I participate in it.
I was raised mostly by a single mom who, when I was a kids, worked three traditionally female jobs (waitress, cosmetologist and bartender). All at the same time. I never had a “stay-at-home” mom. I only ever saw a hustler, a survivor, and a kick-ass provider.
When I was 12, I moved in with my Dad. He had totally different ideas of what a woman should do and how she should behave.
It was a cosmic mind explosion.
My stepmom worked. She had a traditional female job as a bank clerk. But she also had to cook and clean and do her “chores” before she was allowed to do anything that she wanted.
I remember one time when some friends had stopped by our house for coffee. I was in 8th grade, and my stepmom was in the bedroom getting dressed. She popped her head out and was about to join everyone for coffee. My dad turned and very sweetly asked her if she was done with her chores. She replied that she hadn’t made the bed yet, but she would do it in a bit. He informed her that she could join them for coffee once her chores were actually done.
My stepmom returned to the bedroom and finished her chores. Once she came back to the dining room, he gave her a nod and called her the love of his life. And she lit up like a blushing bride.
So, you can see that I had totally different examples of what women should be like.
I also had the following conversation with my Dad when I was 15:
Me, looking at a car magazine: “Holy crap did you see this Gullwing?”
Dad: “That is a sweet car!”
Me: “Someday, some guy will buy me one of those.”
Dad: “WHAT ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT? You never need a man to buy you anything. Buy your own Gullwing!”
I had apparently crossed some weird line. His wife had to act one way, but I was expected to have a mind of my own and accomplish anything I wanted.
Imagine me confused. Because I was!
But I took my Dad’s words to heart, and for most of my adult life I have out-earned most of my partners. This is not to brag, as if I am some big damn deal. But it has never crossed my mind to even consider what others were earning. I only knew what I deserved based on the level of effort I was delivering.
I remember having to hide a portion of my pay because my ex-husband was tortured that I earned more than him. It was silly, because we were in totally different fields. He was in manufacturing and never wanted a foreman position. Even when he was offered one, he would turn it down. I, on the other hand, was a manager from the moment I popped out of the womb. At that time in my career I was in retail management, and the pay structure was based on results.
Once I discovered that I could make as much as I wanted just by being in any version of commissioned sales, I was hooked.
This was in the ’80’s, and I never considered for a second that I was a trailblazer. Because I wasn’t. My mom, as I said earlier, was a single parent and worked three jobs for as long as I can remember.
She waited tables at a truck stop in the mornings. She was a cosmetologist in the afternoons, and a bartender at night. We really kind of raised ourselves. But her hustle was all I knew for a good number of years. I had no point of reference for anything different.
As I said, I had never met a “stay-at-home” mom, so I didn’t know that was an option.
I think my mom would have considered herself a feminist. Everyone in those days seemed to be one.
It was natural for me when I became an adult to work my ass off. When I became a single parent, I was prepared for the financial responsibility, because my feminist mom had showed me the way.
But really, the independence of being able to provide for yourself and your family is a great feeling. I never had an ex-husband who paid child support. It was all on my back, as I didn’t have the time or the patience to drag him to court.
Back to my feminist roots and the hustle I was raised on.
My kids grew up watching me build a successful career with no limits, and I’m sure this is because of the matriarchs who blazed the trail before me.
I have four sons and one daughter. They all have an amazing work ethic and are working in careers they love.
In fact, my daughter has led such a sheltered life that she never knew what it felt like to be considered “less” because she was a female. Until recently.
She is bold and strong, sassy and empowered. So, one day I received a call from her. She was in tears because some “man” had made her feel less than him. She wasn’t in tears because she was a girl – it was because she had NEVER experienced this feeling. Never had she been subjected to this kind of masculine-versus-feminine inequality, and she seriously had no coping skills to deal with it.
We’ve come a long way, baby!
But there’s still room for improvement.
So, am I an effing feminist? Hell, I still don’t know. But I do know that the world is a better place because mighty women and men fought for our rights and still fight for them today.
I am grateful that my daughter made it to 25 before experiencing this dinosaur of a man.
And I am thrilled that my boys will never be like him.