I am a feminist, but before I jump into how I got there, I want to explain what that means to me. Feminist: a person who believes in the social, political, and economic equality of the sexes. In the simplest form, feminism is equality. It means that I, as a woman, will not be passed over for a job I am fully capable of because of my sex. As a woman, I will have role models who occupy leadership positions in politics and business. As a woman, I will have control over my body, my reproductive rights, and security of person. And, as a woman, my compensation will not differ from my male counterparts. These are the issues that matter most to me in my personal definition of feminism. Feminism is a broad term, and therefore, the issues that are encompassed in the term are not limited to those listed above.
How did I get to this personal definition of a feminist? It was not a simple “I’m a woman, so obviously I should be a feminist” moment. To be completely honest with you, declaring that I am a feminist was not something I would have ever done in my teen years.
As a child, the subject of inequalities between the sexes never really came up in my life. I never had a moment like Megan Markle where I saw a sexist commercial and realized, “hey, that is not right” (also, side note, if you have not seen Megan Markle’s speech about that, definitely go watch it). I wish I did, because Megan Markle’s story was so inspiring and empowering, however, growing up, I never really thought to critically assess cultural norms. As a girl, my parents put me into dance and music like all of my other girlfriends. I loved to wear pink and purple and dress up as a princess. I have three younger sisters, and they followed the same traditional girl oriented childhood that I had. Both of my parents worked full time, my mom stayed home to take care of my sisters and me when we were babies and went back to work after maternity leave. My mom did the housework and cooked dinner, while my dad did the yard work, used the barbeque and coached our sports teams. My parents’ outlined roles followed the more "traditional" family. I would like to point out that there is absolutely nothing wrong with my childhood or the roles my parents took on. What is wrong, is that the subject of inequalities between the sexes never came up, therefore, I was unequipped to deal with them.
My personal experiences did not include anything monumental like not making student council because I am a girl, or teachers grading me differently because I am a girl, or my babysitting rates being affected by the fact that I am a girl. My experiences were smaller, like being told I shouldn’t play hockey in elementary school because it’s a “boy sport”. Another example is when I was told that I was good at something “for a girl, anyways”. In school, we were encouraged to think about the career that we wanted, and as women to consider that we should choose a career that would fit with your lifestyle as a mother - if we should even have a career at all.
I remember having a conversation about feminism with a guy in high school. As I look back now, I realize how much more I needed to learn about why feminism exists. He and I were talking about something a teacher said in school relating to equality. I remember thinking how “uncool” or “weird,” he thought I would be if I told him I agreed that equality between the sexes is important. I thought to myself, “do you really want to be one of those girls, who rocks the boat?”. There was also a misconception and negative connotation in my mind that every feminist is completely radical and man-hater. Because of this idea in my mind, instead of talking about how I believed that women should be equal to men, I agreed that, yes, traditional male and female careers do make sense, and yes, it is not a bad thing that men feel entitled to be in control of the household, and are less of a man if they are not the primary breadwinners, blah, blah, blah. Man, if I could turn back time, I’d give myself a good talking to I can tell you that much.
I would start by telling myself what was wrong with the perception I had about feminists. I would tell myself that feminism does not mean that you have to hate men or believe that men are the root of all that is wrong in the world. That is not fair and not true. There is nothing threatening about being a feminist (unless you are threatened by an incredibly bad-ass, confident and empowered woman). All being a feminist means (to me) is that I stand up for my rights, and for equal opportunity and treatment. My lack of confidence was what was holding me back from realizing that fighting for myself and other women is not uncool or weird. It was not until I understood that to fully realize my worth and my potential as a person, I would need equality and the confidence to demand it.
I think it would be cool to work a traditional “man’s job” leading a company rather than being limited to a housewife (nothing wrong with being a housewife, but if that is my only option that’s not cool). I want to be inspired by a woman leading a successful political party. I want to dream of earning a wage I deserve for the job I hold. If those desires make me weird, well I will embrace that.
I join women internationally who stand up to pave their own way, to find success on their own terms and to force equality. I realize now that being a feminist does not make me uncool, but rather makes me stronger. I know my worth as a human, and can confidently say, I am proud to be a woman.
When I was thinking about what I wanted you, the fantastic reader, to take from this, I pondered over a few topics. At first, I thought to myself, “Wow, girl you are preaching to the choir about a topic that is everywhere anyway, why would your story make a difference?” Well to be honest with you, it won’t make a difference unless you help. My hope, is even if you are not currently a feminist (which I am not forcing you to be), that you can understand why others are. That you see the small and large inequalities in the world around you. My next hope is that you are inspired by the people that advocate for equality. When you watch a video about Reese Witherspoon creating a female-run production company, you don’t doubt its future success because it is run by a woman. When you hear about a woman running for office, you don’t think to yourself, “she’s great, but she’s a woman”, you think that person would be a great leader and I am inspired by the ideas brought to the table. I hope that the inspiration you draw from powerful, influential women lead you to flip the negative script that is constantly being written for what women do. Finally, I hope that you will be the author of your own definition of feminism. I hope that you will be confident in your beliefs and your opinions, and are never intimidated by others who think they know better.