1 : the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes
2 : organized activity on behalf of women’s rights and interests
— feminist play \ˈfe-mə-nist\ noun or adjective
As I reflect on 2017, what I learned, mistakes I made and would like to not repeat (or the ones I would like to make again – depending on the situation!), in general, it’s a time of meditation and letting whatever was significant sort of rise to the surface.
I wrote, several times, about women’s issues this year, or something that tied to current events regarding feminism. I share all of my posts on my personal Facebook page and, I will say, those particular posts got a mixed bag of responses.
In general, when you talk to another woman, one-on-one, they will likely agree that there are still huge strides to be made in the pursuit of economic, social, and political equality. But many of them will go into hiding when it is mentioned publicly.
Lest they be called….the F Word.
And it might as well be THE “F” word, for all of the negative connotations it holds among certain people.
I grew up hearing it associated with extremism. Making it out to be a bad thing. Mocked.
And yet, here I am, a big ol’ “Feminazi”, trying to take over the world, castrate all men, and never make another dinner for my family ever again.
Please tell me you heard the sarcasm.
If you don’t get anything else from this blog, and reading my drivel, I hope I have made you see, as other writers have helped ME see, that many times, our preconcieved ideas are not necessarily correct.
I hope that, if you know me in person especially, when you read some of my more passionate posts about women’s issues, or depression, or religion – that the character you know me to have does not line up with the notions you may have always held about certain things, and you begin to see a different perspective. I hope it makes you think. Reconsider. And maybe even question your own position on things from time to time.
But I really don’t think I’m that good of a writer.
And I know how deeply ingrained people’s biases can be.
But I do it anyway.
Because, truth be told, I’m not a “protester”. I guess, if push comes to shove, I can be. I would be. But while I believe in public demonstration, I think the thing that changes people’s hearts and minds is a more intimate approach.
That’s how my heart and mind have transformed over the years.
It wasn’t loud voices, but quiet ones, and the deafening sound of personal experience that made me realize the definition of feminism was not something ugly or shameful.
It was working, full time, for the last 20 years, and seeing for myself that the wage and promotion gap is, in fact, quite real.
It was seeking custody of my daughter and watching other women lose their children over things that a man would have gotten a slap on the wrist for if the roles were reversed.
It was getting pregnant at 16.
It was having serious and significant reproductive health problems.
It was seeing the inequality and hypocrisy of a religious denomination that will allow women to do literally ANY AND ALL OTHER types of work within the church, but finds them unfit to preach the gospel.
It was becoming a boss this year, supervising another woman, and knowing that I had become partially responsible for another female and her livelihood.
It was working with other women for the last 20 years, hearing their stories.
It was being sexually harassed on the job.
It was having a daughter of my own.
It’s been a LOT of things that have brought me to a place where I claim the title of “feminist”.
But mostly, it was a combination of all of the aforementioned things. Personal encounters with the “system”, but more importantly, with other women, that brought me to the understanding that feminism was not a dirty word.
Quite the opposite, in fact.
It is a word that should be celebrated and imprinted onto the heart of every young girl.
I look back on this year, and I see progress, though not how many women expected or hoped it would come about. But progress is happening. If in no other way than by the unity of women (and men) rising up together and calling out abuse and harassment. Stepping out of the shadows. Finally realizing who we can trust to have our backs.
I have hope. I see a future for my daughter that includes opportunities for not just economic choices that I might not have had, but a new freedom of expression that no longer has to be so cautious, sexual harassment policies that might actually be enforced, and victim shamers being the ones forced into silence.
But there is still work to be done.
And some of that work is what I’m trying to do here, when I write about women’s issues.
I’m trying to dispel the myth of the F word.
The one that says, “Feminists are just a bunch of angry women who wish that they were men.”
Can I just say, for all of the aggravations that accompany it, being a woman is….quite amazing?
I’m proud to be one. I’m proud of the sisterhood of other women that I have forged over the years and that it continues to expand.
And I’m not angry. I can GET angry. Gender equality does light a fire under me.
But I’m not inherently angry. I, and thousands upon thousands of other women, we’re just tired. And we’re fed up.
And that’s not anger – that’s the result of hundreds of years of being treated less than.
Oh we have made so much progress, but to be content in that is to become the opposite of vigilant. And I think that’s why we have seen a surge of powerful demonstrations by women this year. When you have a man of extreme chauvinism in the highest place of power in the nation, there is a compelling force within those of us who have been dealing with that type of attitude all our lives.
That force is what propels us forward and stirs us to action. To march. To come forward and share our experiences, consequences be damned. To write. And to not let one man, one election, slow our roll.
It was a hard hit. It was a sickening blow to watch someone so disgusting and blatantly sexist take the White House. But good is coming from it. Progress is often born of adversity. Of pain. Of discomfort.
And we’ve seen women take back something for themselves this year.
We might have a long road ahead politically, economically, to gain real equality, but at the very least, there is finally, finally, some light being shed on problems that should have never been hidden in the first place.
There are finally some eyes being opened.
And some of the voices being heard were kept silent for far too long.
I applaud their bravery. My heart hurts for the pain and shame they bore. And I link arms with them.
When I think about the F word, I don’t think about Gloria Steinem or Hilary Clinton or Gloria Allred.
I think about my mom. How she did the work of 3 people in our house, when I was growing up.
I think about my sister, raising her family and making sacrifices to be a stay at home mom and follow her heart.
I think about the single moms I know, who have been screwed over and abused not only by a former spouse, but by a system that has failed them.
I think about the female coworkers I’ve had, who’ve had to work twice as hard and 3 times longer to be considered for and receive promotions that it has taken younger and more inexperienced men a fraction of the time to achieve.
I think about the women have encouraged me and helped me navigate the waters of being a working mom.
I think about both of my grandmothers, and how they defied the status quo in their own lives. Working and having a career before pursuing marriage. Going back to school and having a career AFTER marriage and 4 children.
I think about my priest, and other women of the cloth I’ve observed and gotten to know over the last couple of years. How they’ve breathed new life into my faith.
I think about all of the women I know that have experienced loss and heartache, who have picked themselves up, dusted themselves off, and forged ahead. Alone. And reinvented themselves into something stronger and more stunning than ever before.
I think about my nieces, cousins, little girls of friends. I think about what I want their future to look like.
I think about my daughter. I think about the example I set for her in my actions and attitudes.
I never want her to be complacent, but neither do I want her to be cynical.
I just want her to be hopeful.
These are the women I think of when I think of “Feminist”.
It’s not a dirty word. It’s beautiful. Underestimated. Misinterpreted. Inspired.
I claim it, and wear it proudly.
*photo credit to my cousin, Amy – one of the best feminists I know. Thanks for living by your own rules, and inspiring me to dig deep and do things that challenge me. Love you.