Tuesday, March 08, 2011
Taking Back Feminist
Today is International Women's Day and Feminist Coming Out Day! (Thanks, Brenda, for reminding me!) Well, it's not like anyone is going to be surprised that I'm "coming out" as a feminist, I am. But this word has earned offensive, demeaning and nasty connotations over the years. Somehow we've allowed fat heads like Rush Limbaugh and others to take what should be an empowering descriptor and turn it into some kind of slur. It's not a slur. It doesn't mean home-wrecking, ball busting bitch who hates men, refuses to shave her legs and refuses to bake cookies for the children she is letting the nanny raise while she works 90 hours a week in a job she stole from a man. I like baking cookies, I love men, and I shave my legs at least once a week!
For me, feminism is about the freedom to make choices for myself and my family. It means I have the freedom to decide who I want to be and how I want to express that in the world. It means I can become a mother or opt not to without invalidating my worth as a woman. It means that if I like to bake cookies and clean my house, even though those may be historically female duties, I'm still a feminist. For me it means that my husband and I get to decide how to balance our relationship. We are equals, but that doesn't mean we don't split some household roles down traditional gender lines. That's our prerogative. It means access to education, whether that's computer science or philosophy or the culinary arts. It means I have the right to feel safe and respected in the world instead of threatened and violated based solely on my gender. It means equality politically and economically. It means that just because I'm a woman I shouldn't make less than a man doing the same job.
Feminists in the last several hundred years have braved daunting battles, fought, struggled and suffered for our rights. The right to vote, the right to be protected in the workplace from sexual harassment, the right to equal access to universities and the job market, the right to run for office, and the ongoing social battle to change perceptions of what women can accomplish. These weren't battles fought deep in the annals of our history. These are recent. These are fresh and they are continuing. The reason I support events like International Women's Day and Feminist Coming Out Day, is so we don't forget. We don't forget how far we've come and how far we have to go, and so a new, younger generation knows the stories of women like Betty Friedan, Margaret Sanger, Sojourner Truth, and Alice Paul. No one can convince me that feminism is a bad word. No one can convince me that women are not the equals of men. And if I have a daughter or a son someday, I hope to instill in them the idea that they can be anything they want to be and they have to right to find happiness and fulfillment in the choices they make. Because being fulfilled and happy doesn't depend on gender.