I grew up believing that feminists were a group of raging, makeup-less, childless, and braless women, protesting in the streets in hopes of sending all men to some hole in the earth.
Anyone raised in a conservative home or a conservative town, or both, will understand. It took a college professor to talk me out of that mindset. It was an English composition class. We were analyzing a magazine ad where a woman’s hands were bound with a gold necklace, and how it represented oppression. I was 22, and I said, “What are you, a feminist?” I said it very sarcastically, as if it were some crazy, outlandish thing, like a man could never be a feminist. And he responded in a very casual, matter-of-fact, tone. “Yes, I am,” he said.
That frankness had an impact on me. I really respected this guy, and after further discussion and introspection, I realized that a man could be a feminist, because being a feminist isn’t some religion or cult or crazy-ass group of raging women. Feminism isn’t a movement of hating and resenting men, rather it’s a group of like-minded and sensible humans (regardless of gender) asking for equality for women in pay, safety, and opportunity.
That’s the reality of it.
Feminism is about working to get all people, political parties, and workspaces to acknowledge value, regardless of gender. It’s about living in an egalitarian age, where abilities and passions are given free-range, and where hard work alone can, in fact, be mean difference for success. It’s about looking at women as competent, qualified, and thoughtful participants in family, work, politics, and life in general.
Because the fact is, they are.
Women are strong. They are intelligent. They are passionate and wonderful. They bring meaningful thoughts and contributions to any setting, and if you can get behind all of these ideas, then are you are, in fact, thinking like a feminist.
See…it’s not dangerous.
You can be a stay-at-home mom and be a feminist. You can wear makeup and be a feminist. You can go to work, care for children, earn a college degree, and be a feminist. You can be a father and a husband and be a feminist. If you are a woman interested in having a voice and an opinion and are passionate about being heard, then you are in line with feminist ideologies.
The reason this topic is so important right now, here, in America, is that there seems to be a rebranding of feminism. There is a lot of insistence that things are OK as they are, and we don’t need women to be asking for equality, and if women do ask for equal pay or are interested in working outside the home, then they are part of some burgeoning problem that is festering among the leftist establishment. But that really isn’t the case. Don’t buy into that hype, please.
Honestly, feminism is not something to fear.
But I’ll tell you what was scary: watching my single mother struggle after my father walked out. She was saddled with the full burden of her three children — emotionally and financially —because my father had no desire to accept responsibility, and because the standards for parenting were different for him, his actions were not viewed that critically. So she worked a shitty job as a receptionist at the local power company during the day and cleaned houses in the evenings to make ends meet.
I’ve also been scared sitting in my college office counseling young rape victims (yes, sadly, more than one) who were terrified to report the crimes against them because we’ve set up a system of victim blaming when it comes to that sort of thing.
And I get really scared when I look my daughters in the eye, realize just how special they are, and wonder if either of them will ever have the opportunity to accomplish their full potential and exit my home into a safe world.
Because ultimately, changing these kinds of scenarios is what feminism is about. It’s about changing your mindset, changing your laws, changing the way you approach life so that women don’t suffer like my mother did just to put food on the table. So that women are granted the opportunity to say “yes” and “no” to sex and have it backed up by human decency, and if that fails, have laws that enforce that decency and keep predators off the streets. And it means being able to look your daughter in the eye and know that her worth is not going to be dictated by her gender, but rather her abilities and passions.
Feminism means taking a step back and realizing that hardworking women deserve a fair shot at life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
And here’s the thing: I know someone reading this is rolling their eyes and thinking, “But I’m a woman and I don’t feel oppressed.” But you know what, you made it this far, so hear me out, because I want you to know how happy I am for your situation. Honestly and truly, I am. Ultimately, being a feminist is where the un-oppressed looks outside their situation, looks past what they have, their comfort and security, and realizes that their condition isn’t the reality for everyone.
Feminism is about empathy. It’s about looking at facts, and realizing that in America, hard work and grit will not keep women from being dragged behind a dumpster and raped by a college athlete, who will be served a pitiful punishment for his crime, while the woman is told to stop drinking and assumptions are made about her character. It’s about holding fathers and mothers to the same standard when it comes to childcare and financial support, because the reality is, parenting is a two-way street where labor and support is shared equally. And most importantly, feminism is about looking your children in the eye, boys and girls, and teaching them to value everyone and respect everyone. Period. Which isn’t extreme at all, but rather is being the kind of parents who care about developing our children into good, upstanding adults who care about the safety, security, and success of both men and women.
Honestly, feminism isn’t a nasty word. It’s not scary. It’s not dangerous. It’s not shameful. It isn’t something to shy away from. It’s about open minds and open hearts. It’s about allowing people to flourish regardless of their gender. And if you can get behind that, well, you just might be a feminist.
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