When I met my husband, he seemed to be a better feminist than I was. I also thought women and men should be treated equally, but I just didn’t want to talk about it. I, like many young women, wanted people to like me. When he spoke about pay inequality and systemic sexism in the workplace, people nodded, they smiled, and they thought him to be a fantastically smart and sensitive guy (which he is!).
When I spoke about these things, I noticed people were uncomfortable, annoyed, and occasionally bored. As a society, we aren’t used to women asking for what they need, much less demanding it. Asserting I wanted something that I didn’t have (like a place to use my breast pump where others didn’t pee) made me feel uncomfortable and even greedy. But what about the oppressed women in Saudi Arabia? I would think to myself, as if someone across the world being denied a driver’s license meant I shouldn’t fight for women’s rights here in Utah.
So I stopped talking about those things for a while. I would watch my husband have feminist conversations with friends. I would stand there, feeling confused, grateful, and annoyed all at the same time. It took years for me to figure out why: I didn’t like my husband talking about women’s rights. And I didn’t like it because I was jealous. I was jealous he could say those things consequence-free.
Then, one day I looked at my three babies, two girls and a boy, and realized by keeping quiet, I was failing them. What if my son wants to be a stay-at-home dad? What if one of my girls wants to be a police officer? I realized people thinking I’m “demanding” or “angry” instead of “nice”or “pleasant” was a risk worth taking. It was worth the opportunity to speak my mind, speak up for equality, and make the world a friendlier place for men and women. I slowly started working feminism back into my identity.
Small victories emboldened me to embrace my inner feminist more. When I mentioned to co-workers that I was going to a superior to complain that our immediate boss was physically intimidating me, they thought I was too sensitive and looking for drama (though, eventually, another co-worker thanked me because when she complained about the same issue six months later, human resources believed her thanks to my complaint). I am now a full-fledged recovering feminist apologist.
In a Google search for “quotes about feminism,” I found pages and pages of quotes by women apologizing for being feminists and assuring the world they aren’t “that type” of feminist. It made me incredibly sad. Then I found this quote:
“I think every woman in our culture is a feminist. They may refuse to articulate it, but if you were to take any woman back 40 years and say, ‘Is this the world you want to live in?’ they would say ‘no’.” –Helen Mirren
I think Mirren is right. Women need to stop apologizing for wanting to be treated as equal. We need to support both women and men when they say things in support of equal pay. We need to stop shushing women who speak up about breastfeeding in public. Don’t recoil in discomfort when a woman confides in you about workplace harassment or discrimination. Women’s voices are not welcomed the same way men’s are when it comes to this type of discourse.
I realize now that when my husband makes a statement about gender equality he is applauded. I make the same statement, and I am seen as preachy. This isn’t a fault in me, him, my intelligence or delivery; this is the system we live in. This is why its important we keep talking.
You are free to disagree with someone, but take the time to examine why you disagree. If you were uncomfortable with the Women’s March on Washington, consider if you would have been offended by a Men’s March for Women’s Rights? I doubt it. Men would have been seen as progressive and compassionate.
Please keep in mind: Pro-woman isn’t anti-man, and gender equality is good for everyone. We all have to keep talking about it until it becomes a reality, for the sake of our daughters and sons.
Now go high five a feminist (man or woman), and have a great day.