There, I said it.
Did you gasp? Did you want to stop reading? Did your feelings about me change?
Stick with me here, if you haven’t stopped reading already. I have some good stuff to say (or at least I think it’s good stuff, I guess that’s up for debate).
I’ve been debating on writing something like this for a while, just because I’m honestly not a fan of posting my opinions/beliefs anywhere. I don’t like the online arguing, the comment threads where strangers bash each other and no one actually tries to understand another point of view. I’d rather have a one on one conversation where we can honestly try to understand each other. I’m not writing this to argue with anyone. I’m writing this because I feel like feminism has such a negative connotation to some people, and I really want to explain it better. And explain why it’s not a bad thing to be.
I first considered myself a feminist after my divorce. I never really thought about it while I was married; I spent a lot of that time wrapped up in forming my identity around my husband’s. After my divorce, I felt kind of lost. I spent more time than I’d like to admit just frozen, not knowing which way to move. I got married at 18, and trying to figure out who you are as an adult with a 1 year old after that, at 23/24, is rough. Add that on to feeling like I was more free than I had been in a long time, and it was a recipe for disaster at first. I made some bad decisions. I was more wild than I should have been. I was lucky enough to have family who loved me anyway during that time. Ultimately, things started blowing up in my face. Some of my bad decisions ended up affecting me in my workplace, and resulted in me losing a friend. A close family member told me I was starting to leave my daughter too much. It’s not a time in my life that I’m proud of for those reasons – I’ve had to work on forgiving myself and reminding myself that I don’t have to feel bad forever for dealing with things the way that I did. This combination of things finally got me to a point where I decided that it was up to me to get my shit together and take care of myself and my daughter. In deciding to straighten up and be the best role model for my daughter that I could, I decided to be a feminist. By this, I mean deciding that I could be enough on my own, and I didn’t need a man in my life to provide for me. To me, feminism then meant working my ass off to show my daughter that women can be and do anything.
My definition of feminism has changed since then. It means something different to me all the time. It changed when my daughter decided she wanted to be a corpse bride for Halloween at 4 when all the other girls in dance class were princesses:
Feminism means you can be any type of girl you want, and whatever you decide is awesome. It means being proud of your choice and confident in it – and if this picture doesn’t show that, I don’t know what does. She was proud and confident because I was proud of her and supported her totally.
The definition of feminism changed for me when I realized the games my daughter happens to love (Minecraft & Five Nights at Freddy’s) are mainly marketed towards boys. The “girl” products you do find are sure to be made pink, because somehow that makes the game…girly? I don’t want my daughter to ever feel like she’s out of place because she likes things that are marketed for boys. Being a feminist means letting my daughter know that games and toys are gender neutral in our home – and trying to fight for others to see it neutrally too so she doesn’t get treated differently. This isn’t just for situations with my daughter either – it’s for situations where boys like something that’s considered a “girl” thing, so there are not a lot of “boy” products. Feminism to me is about it being equal across the board – not just special things for girls.
The definition of feminism changed for me when our president stepped into office. Even if you support him, hear me out – is he the kind of person you’d want your daughter alone in a room with? For me, he isn’t. He has a history of predatory behavior. Being a feminist is trying to do better for the future so we do have leaders we’d trust with our own kids. The women’s march changed what feminism means to me. I felt so proud of women coming together to let other women know they weren’t alone. There are women who think it was stupid, that we didn’t need it – and that’s totally your prerogative. But feminism means I will still fight for you and your place in the world, no matter what. Women don’t have to agree with each other. We don’t even have to like each other. But as women, I absolutely love when we can come together and support each other and lift each other up. For me, feminism means just that: putting aside our differences and supporting each other, and supporting equality between men and women.
I saw a video earlier where a woman said “feminists have a deep seated problem with men” and we “want men to be feminized lapdogs”. For me, and all the feminists I know, nothing could be farther than the truth. I don’t have a problem with men. I love men – I love them so much I’m always trying to get involved with ones who need me to fix/save them. Those statements are probably by someone who has never actually spoken to a feminist and just uses the “crazy” ones as a generalization for all. My problem is with women being treated as less than, by men or women. My problem is men or women trying to make women fit into one nice box, when women aren’t meant to just be one thing. I want men and women both to forget the stereotypes or ideals for women (and men too). Anyone who wants a man to be a “feminized lapdog” probably just has a fetish for that type of thing – you do you, boo.
So, do me a favor – the next time you hear the f-word and start to have a bad taste in your mouth about it, try thinking “believer in equality for women and men” instead. It just may change your perspective on who you’re talking to.