I’m going to stray from my style-themed blog today and share a few thoughts about feminism. You see, the people at Fashionable Academics put out a call for submissions asking participants to provide a brief description on what feminism means to them. Here’s my submission:
Feminism is about equality, opportunity, and choice. I believe all people should have access to the same opportunities: jobs, healthcare, education. Everyone should have the choice to pursue a career, raise a family, do both, or neither. I believe that one’s gender shouldn’t preclude one from a job, and that men and women performing the same jobs deserve the same pay. I believe anyone, regardless of gender, can be a feminist. Feminism is not a four-letter word; I’m proud to call myself one.
To keep a bit of style in this post:
Turtleneck: Victoria’s Secret
Shorts: Calvin Klein
Being a feminist seems like a natural thing for me. I don’t recall a day when I became one; it just always made sense. I was raised to believe I could do anything I set my mind on. No job was off-limits, no hobby was “just for boys.” I played with cars and I had dolls. I rode skateboards and BMX bikes and I baked and sewed. So much of what makes girls different from boys is forced on us by parents, peers, educators, and the media–from a very young age. I try not to buy into it.
My brother wanted a doll when he was around five years old. My mother gave him one. And boy did she hear about it–from the neighbors. “Boys don’t play with dolls.” “He’ll be a sissy.” “He’ll be gay.” Give it a rest! My mother’s response: “What’s wrong with boys playing with dolls? Many boys grow up and become fathers.”
As an adult, I got grief from people for racing sport bikes. Was I a lesbian? Was I trying to attract a man? Why did so many people think I had ulterior motives for doing something “non-traditional”? Could I not just really enjoy motorcycles? I’m not one-dimensional.
Armored jacket: Fieldsheer
Kevlar pants: Dainese
Racing boots: Sidi
Helmet (not pictured): Arai
Bike: Kawasaki Ninja ZX6-R
Social constructs shape many of our decisions and judgments. So much of what people associate with “what boys like” and “what girls like” is artifice.
In middle school I was in a co-ed gym class. The boys and girls all learned sports together: track and field, volleyball, basketball. But for the wrestling portion of the class, only the boys could participate. The girls learned folk dances. I wanted to wrestle. I petitioned the school and got my way–so long as I found a female partner. All the girls had a choice of whether to wrestle or dance. Four of us joined the boys’ class for the session. I think the boys should have had the chance to learn folk dances too.
I wasn’t trying to make a feminist statement way back in seventh grade. But I saw discrimination–a lack of opportunity–and I spoke up.
There’s a huge need for female empowerment at a global level. I live a relatively safe and insulated life. At work, my opinions are respected. We have female leaders at all levels of the company. I am married to a progressive man. In my daily life, I don’t face the discrimination that those who came before me faced. But there are millions of women all over the world (and right here at home) who are oppressed. Many girls don’t receive the education their brothers get. Many women live in poverty, illiterate and unable to make family decision. Many can’t vote, drive a car, or get a job. Some aren’t allowed to make a simple decision such as leaving an abusive spouse.
Some people say women’s lib has served its purpose so there’s no point in the feminist label. To me, that’s like saying the Liberals got health reform passed, so I don’t need to call myself a Liberal. Or the tax cut went through so I don’t need to call myself a Conservative. People don’t retire their political labels after some progress is made. That’s how I feel about feminism and that’s why I call myself a feminist.